In one (y)ear and out the other.
Why do our New Year’s resolutions usually end up being more like a new start on old habits than the complete recalibration we intended?
Research shows that most resolutions last about 2 weeks. By February, the backsliding starts, and by the end of the year, most of us are back where we started or even further behind.
The reason for this is more complicated than just lack of will power. We make resolutions to motivate ourselves, but don’t realize what’s really needed to make the changes stick. For a resolution to work we have to change a behavior, and that requires “re-wiring” our brains.
Through the study of brain MRIs, researchers have determined that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns embedded in our neural networks. This is why old habits are so hard to change. These become our default behaviors.
Instead of trying to change old thinking, we have to create new thinking, which in turn creates new neural pathways in our brains that bypass the old ones. This is best accomplished by focusing on one resolution at a time. Set realistic and specific goals. For example, losing weight is not specific enough; instead work on losing 10 pounds within 3 months.
Most of us fall short because we set unmanageable goals, then don’t know where to start to achieve them. It’s critical to maintain focus on the one thing we can do right now toward our goal. Holding ourselves accountable is important too. We can do this by reporting to a friend or signing up for daily reminders at habitforge.com, a new, free web site that tracks all the resolutions you list with them.
Celebrate milestones and don’t take the inevitable slip up too seriously. The road to re-invention is paved with good intentions as long as we’re not derailed by the occasional pot hole.