Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.

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Resolutions: What to Give Yourself for Success

Here we are two weeks into the New Year – no-fooling, jumped-in-with-both-feet, no-turning-back, 2011. Which means you’ve likely broken your resolution by now. You could get morose and throw in the towel, but that’s useless and makes you grumpy to be around besides. So is there a better way?

A couple of Psychology Today articles – “The If-Then Solution” by Heidi Grant Halvorson and “Wanna Piece of Chocolate?” by Christine L. Carter – give me hope.

If you’re an old-school nerd, you thought of BASIC when you heard “if-then”, and it’s the same thing. You tell a computer exactly what to do if it’s confronted with a precise setting, and that’s what you need to do with yourself to be two to three times more successful with your resolution.

The top resolutions are: spend time with loved ones, eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking or drinking, get out of debt, or get organized. But blanket statements like “I’m never again going to drink/smoke/charge/eat junk” or “Every day I’m going to work out/catch up with my loved ones/clear off my desk/make my bed” are not only overwhelming, they don’t stick in your memory. Ineffective AND de-motivational!

Instead, plan exactly what you’ll do in a likely situation. When this happens, I’ll do this. After dinner I’ll have a cup of tea instead of a cigarette (dessert) (drink). When my alarm goes off I’ll do 50 sit-ups. If I’m in in this situation, I’ll act in this new way instead of the old way. It’s manageable, it’s practical, and it works: it gives you a concrete plan that neurologically locks in your brain.

Then, stop rewarding yourself when you do do it right. Counter-intuitive, right? – but it makes sense. When you appreciate an activity for itself, you’ll like it more than if you only do it to get a reward. If at the gym you pay attention to people-watching, appreciating your health, and how nice it feels to be pleasantly exhausted, you’ll enjoy it more than if you spend a mindless hour counting seconds till the chai you’ll get afterward.

So whatever you’ve resolved, even if it’s not shaking out so well in these first weeks, let’s keep going – giving ourselves plans, not bribes.


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