Set the Resolution but Get a Plan Together (Vita. Consilio. 01.04.17)

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The start of a new year brings a jolt of reality and reflection for many people. After all, it is the perfect time to turn the page on bad habits, negative behaviors, and less-than-great relationships.

However, our track record on resolutions is pretty sorry. In a study of 3000 individuals, The University of Hertfordshire’s Richard Wiseman found that 88% of those studied broke their resolutions. And surprisingly, “Even people who resolved merely to “enjoy life more” failed 68% of the time.”

In an attempt to turn the page, we set out to develop resolutions. Lose weight. Write a book. Read x-number of books. Start a business. Go to college. Travel. Learn a language. Reduce debt. Get over fear and worry. Enjoy life.

Of course, these are all worthwhile pursuits. But if we’re honest, we’ll admit that many times our success rate is pretty close to failure. The first two weeks are beautiful. By mid-January we’re hanging on to the horse for dear life. In walks February, and we’ve fallen into the mud and been sitting there for the past two weeks.

Are we weak? No.

Are we lazy? No.

Do we not have any strength and will to keep up a routine? No.

Are we just procrastinating? Maybe.

What explains our failure rate?

Carleton University psychology professor, Timothy Pychyl, believes new year’s resolutions are a form of “culturally prescribed procrastination”. Nice term for it. This basically means we condition ourselves to do something at a future date instead of committing to do it immediately. Turns out, good intentions don’t help our psyches very much.

Clinical psychologist, Joseph J. Luciani, reminds us that “As the saying goes, it’s not the horse that draws the cart, it’s the oats. It’s not the gym, Pilates class or diet that will change you – it’s your mind.”

Pychyl goes on to explain the difference between having “resolve” and setting “resolutions”. When we have resolve, it means we’ve decided steadfastly on a solution to a problem or a course of action that should be taken. At its root, it means we’ve made up our minds. Resolutions, however, have no real making up of the mind attached to it. Thus, it doesn’t get done.

So if the key to being successful at our resolutions is making up our minds and putting a little thrust of resolve behind it, what will help us do that?

A plan.

What do we say about people who are always talking but never follow through on what they say? “All talk, no action.” Based on our terrible track record of keeping resolutions, the same could be said about us — “All talk, no action.”

Resolutions are just dreams until you create a plan to achieve them. That plan starts with writing it down on paper or on your computer or on your phone. It doesn’t matter. Get your resolutions out of your head and somewhere tangible where you can see them regularly. Seeing what you’re trying to do on paper or on a screen makes it more of reality and less of a dream.

Where will you this time next year? What do you want to accomplish this time next year? How will you look, think, or behave this time next year?

Imagine your answers to these questions and then get that imagination out somewhere where you can see it. Then take extra time to attach legs to your initial plan on how you’re going to actually keep your resolutions.

For example, let’s say you want to lose weight. Losing weight is your initial plan. The “legs” are something like this: Walk for 1 mile; Jog for 1 mile; Cardio for 30 minutes; Drink water 30 minutes before meals; Stick to a diet; Lay off fast foods.

The “legs” part of your plan can contain any combination of things so long as it is realistic for you. With a little thought, this plan can be put together quickly. But remember, don’t let the process of planning hinder you from getting started.

All things at once doesn’t get the job done in the long run. If you attempt to make changes in drastic measures all up-front, you will fail. Psychologist Lynn Bufka said, “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”

So if you’re serious about your resolutions, put some resolve behind it and create a plan to get it done.

Until next time, Vita. Consilio.
(Life. Intentionally.)

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