Are you promising to make a change for the new year? Are you among the nearly 50% of Americans to make New Years Resolutions?
What did you promise yourself?
The most common resolutions are: Eating healthier, Getting more exercise, Saving more money, Focusing on yourself, Reading more, Etc.
Want to know a secret?
You are going to fail.
Stings a bit to hear, doesn’t it?
Most people only “stick” with their resolution for 11 days. Yes, 11 days. January 12th is the day people give up on the promise they made to themselves. Why does this happen? Why do we give up on our promise to ourselves so quickly?
This is the first article in our Habits and Productivity series. Over the next several articles we will be discussing ways to supercharge your self discipline and help you crush all of your goals!!
Making and Breaking Habits
As it turns out we like homeostasis. That’s just a big word for wanting things to stay the same. Not only are we creatures of habit but our bodies too are creatures of habit. Ever tried to gain more muscle? Lose weight? Stop drinking?
All new habits we try to make or break involve a change. Let me also give you a tip: Unwanted change is painful. No matter how much you want the change, you have opposing forces inside you resisting every step of the way. Just take a look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. You’ll notice that many stressful events are actually positive ones. Positive change is still change and it taxes your system.
Let’s take a look at how you can give yourself the best chance for success based on Science™.
Three Steps Towards Making a Habit
We have a whole article on this but the TL;DR: version is your goal/resolution MUST be:
2 – Must get immediate gain
This one is absolutely critical and if you miss it you will find yourself losing momentum. Unless this change is being forced on you, you MUST be selfish. Research states that if you do not have immediate benefits to your fledgling habit you won’t stay with it. Come up with an immediate benefit to reward yourself for following through. Depending on your goal this may need to be a daily or weekly reward. Hopefully this goes without saying but your reward can’t go against your goal. For example, if your goal is to stop smoking, you can’t “reward” yourself with an occasional cigarette.
We all understand the power and benefit for our goal that we set to lose weight, get healthy, etc. But our brains are so comfortable with what we know and what we are used to that everything else seems uncomfortable. We must learn to gain comfort from being uncomfortable.
3 – Fear of loss
The last part of making a habit stick is harnessing the powerful part of our brain that hates to lose. There are many ways you can engage this and perhaps you have tried one before. The most common is a friendly competition, say a “biggest loser” style weight loss competition at work. Or sign up for a mud run with a group of people where you need to train in order to be able to finish. Those are both great for a goal you have to share with other people but what if you have a solo goal? One of my favorites is from the website Stickk.com. They encourage you to make a contract with yourself and if you fail you “donate” money to an Anti-Charity, Charity, Friend, Foe, or back to Stickk.com. Their list of anti-charities is awesome.
For obvious reasons this can be hugely motivating in sticking to, and ultimately achieving, your goal.
A Couple Habits I’ve Made
One of my favorite habits I’ve made is tracking the food I put in my head hole via the My Fitness Pal app (Jay has an article here about it). As I’m writing this article, I’m at 542 days in a row logging in. Since this is such a strong habit, I find myself doing it even while on vacation, etc. I started this as a friendly competition with Jay and low and behold it’s stuck. Even though in the past month I’ve found an app I like to track with better, I still find myself logging into MFP.
Read More Books
I guess I should phrase this as “listen to more books.” I didn’t discover reading for pleasure until my 20’s and didn’t make a habit of it until my mid 30’s. On average I consume 2-3 books a month on a variety of topics. From fiction to non-fiction. Here is a list of some of my favorite books I’ve read recently. Since I travel quite often for work, I have ample opportunity to listen to books while moving about the country.
The Science Behind Habits
A “New Years Resolution” is a promise to either “Make” or “Break” a habit. However, to your brain breaking a habit is the same as making a new one. So the process of creating a new habit also involves breaking something pre-existing. For example:
The “simple” habit of going to the gym 3 days a week is at least two separate habits.
- Breaking the old routine of the 3 days a week sitting down after work and watching ESPN
- Creating a new habit of going to the gym after work
In order to be successful you must take some time and create a SMART goal. You then need to create mini rewards as an incentive. Lastly, you need to give yourself a fear of loss to keep yourself in the game. If you use these three steps you will achieve all of your goals and be wealthy beyond your wildest imagination, Guaranteed.*
Jay and I also talk about this topic in Episode 12 of the Superior Men Podcast
*”If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster” – Clint Eastwood