Stop sabotaging your New Year’s resolutions.
Start thinking about your thinking.
Happy New Year! Did you make any resolutions for 2018? And crucially, have you already ditched them? Year after year, many of us pledge to get fit, eat healthily, spend more time with family and friends, or switch off from our online devices, all with the best of intentions. So, why do we abandon our resolutions? Why do we give up so early after finding our motivation to change?
The research and the reality
We could tell you all about the (somewhat conflicting) research about the role of willpower, or different types of motivation and how to foster them, but it comes down to these two key factors:
1. The way our brains are biologically wired.
2. The ‘thinking’ (or mental models) behind our motivation to change.
Now, there isn’t much we can do about our biological wiring. And while our thinking (mental models) can be analysed and even altered over time, change can be difficult.
Making resolutions without considering mental models
Here’s how your mental models can derail your New Year’s resolutions.
· You make a resolution to go to the gym to boost your physical fitness.
· Your fitness and gym resolution is achievable because it is SMART:
– It is Specific: ‘I will go for 30 mins on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30pm.’
– It is Measurable: ‘Did I go to the gym three times this week?’
– It is Attainable: ‘I have the time available, gym membership, and a fitness plan.’
– It is Realistic: ‘I always finish work at 5:00pm and my parents love looking after the kids.’
– It is Time specific: I have scheduled time in my calendar and set specific review dates.’
You think you’ve set a good, achievable resolution. You’ve focused on the specific behaviours required to get the results that you want. In theory, you should be set to go and ready for success.
How you sabotage yourself
In reality, you manage to sustain your new routine for a few days, weeks, or even a whole month, but then you stop going to the gym. Why? Because you have not considered your thinking – the mental models that ultimately drive your behaviours.
These powerful, implicit assumptions your brain makes to guide your actions and behaviours can either interrupt or support your new behaviours. So, your mental model about going to the gym might be:
“I hate going to the gym. It smells funny, there are always people standing around staring at me, and I get bored using the same equipment.”
This mental model is so powerful that, eventually, your commitment to go to the gym is outweighed by the mental model, even if you know it’s good for you. You believe you will hate the experience you have at the gym, therefore you stop going to the gym.
How this knowledge can help you
By focusing on and investigating our mental models, we can tweak our behaviours to ensure we attain the results we desire. For instance, you can still achieve your goal (getting fitter) without going to the gym – the trick is finding a behaviour that is supported by your mental models.
The end of the year marks a clear opportunity to put our past behind us, look forward to the future and make some positive changes. The key to success lies in asking yourself some important questions:
· What are the mental models behind your motivation for change?
· Do they have enough power to drive the behaviour and results you want to achieve?
· If not, consider rethinking your goals and plans with a view to aligning behaviours with your mental models.