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Motivate Yourself 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?

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Those of you who have been listening to my podcasts or reading my newsletters for a good length of time will know that I often talk about what a bad idea new years resolutions are. But what if i'm wrong?
It's always good to look at things from another perspective and if you have some new years resolutions then let's look at how to make them work for you. Because there is a psychological advantage to doing something because of a brand new year. If you've drawn a line in the sand and said that last year you were unhappy with an area of your life and January 1st marks you stepping over the line then you create an expectation of change and that can either be exciting or scary whichever way you want to look at it.

Bear something on mind though in a study a few years ago only 52% of people who had made new years resolutions were confident of their success, and only 12% actually achieved their goal. For you to be in that 12% there are some things you've got to do.

Firstly, make it known what you're doing, by telling someone it gives you a slightly uncomfortable feeling if you don't get started. Time after time studies have shown us that sharing your goals helps motivate you, so stick it on my Facebook wall and tell someone that's important to you what you want to achieve and ask them for support.

Don't take on too much, willpower is a finite resource, it will run out and leave you struggling.
Research has shown that if you restrict yourself in one task then it has a knock on effect on the next task of making it harder.
It's called Ego Depletion and you can read about some rather interesting research here which involved cookies, radishes and geometric puzzles!

This is why its important to prioritise and tackle one thing at a time.

Be OK with setbacks. New habits take practise, there will failures and thats fine, it's alright to move the goal posts sometimes and it doesn't mean you have to chuck the towel in because you didn't go jogging for a week, have some patience and respect for yourself.
In psychology there is a process called 'Extinction Burst' which is our brain's last ditch attempt to get back to an old habit just before a new one becomes ingrained.
If you're a yo-yo dieter you may already be familiar with this. You eat healthy all month, and although it's new and different you begin to feel that you could get used to it, and after about 5 weeks suddenly the urge to pig out becomes so strong that you order a 12 inch pizza, eat a huge chocolate brownie and spend all night feeling sorry for yourself and you give up on the idea of losing weight for another 12 months.
It's usually because of this strange oddity of the human brain which has been labelled the extinction burst.
It exists because we're basically an animal that responds to stimuli and reward and, after a certain amount of time, if the reward doesn't come our brain kicks off like a kid having a tantrum. We need to know that our brain does this, without this knowledge the extinction burst kicks in and we feel as if we've gone back to square one, when actually its the exact opposite, it means that the old conditioning is about to die off for good, and that new behaviour is becoming second nature.

Also, keep things positive in every sense. Try not to view any changes as negative, if you set goals like "I'm going to eat less chocolate" you're likely to see your goal as a denial. Whereas "I'm going to eat more fruit" is a lot easier to think about.

One of the important things in setting big goals is to sub divide them up. Don't just look at the end goal, look at the steps in-between. if you want to go down 5 dress sizes the only successful way to achieve that is to lose an inch at a time.
But don't get too hung up on ignoring the big goal, we know from research that only thinking about the end result isn't enough to get you motivated but you can still think about it as something to look forward to and don't be afraid to think of it as unrealistic, pretty much everything is unrealistic at first. We didn't accidentally put a man on the moon! It took a group of people battling with unrealistic expectations 7 years to develop the technology to make it happen.

So if they can achieve something as impossible as landing on the moon. I'm sure we can get fitter, get better at playing guitar or make a website or whatever you want to see happen because maybe I need to look at new years resolutions with a different perspective, maybe it is a good time to start making changes.
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