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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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Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change