Most of us end up wanting to improve some area of our lives, and thus we set goals. However, if we look at history, we find that many of us are notoriously poor at reaching our goals. We try new behavior patterns here and there but then abandon the efforts.
But let’s be real: Change is hard…and here’s why! Familiar patterns of thought or action represent well-worn neural pathways in the brain, similar to a 10-lane highway taking us directly from one location to another.
To set a new habit pattern, we now must forge our way with a path through a jungle. And for the first several weeks, we wake up each day and that jungle path has covered itself over with new growth – as if we had not been there yesterday. Thus, it’s just easier to take the familiar expressway, and abandon the effort to get through that jungle!
But let’s not give up. Instead, there are clear strategies that will help you stay on your new path.
1. Wish, Want, Dream, Desire … or RESOLVE.
Listen to your internal voice, and also listen to the conversation most of us are having about our lives. We wish, want, dream, and desire.
There is no problem there if you want to keep wishing, wanting, and dreaming. Rarely will these change reality, as there is no serious, action-oriented intent.
It’s tough to change, and this article could be waste of time if we skip over the issue of your resolve. Resolve is the shift, the decision made in advance of the action, which assures that action will occur.
Here’s the key: I want to lose weight is a joke. Resolve to walk two miles a day is a decision, especially once I have found my walking partner who will be knocking on my door every morning.
The simple test for resolve? Are you ready to take action right now? If you say to yourself, “I have to remember that so I can think about it tomorrow”…then nothing is really going to happen. There is no resolve, and no real change will likely happen.
On a personal level, a REAL decision to change will translate into immediate action. This is critical to know you are resolved to get to your goal. Never forget this, and you will not deceive yourself.
2. Willpower is Unreliable. Trust Leverage To Keep You Going.
For most of us, we take on a goal and hope that a decision made in a moment of strength will prevail during a moment of weakness. It doesn’t work that way.
We need a decision that will compel us to honor our intentions, even in a moment of weakness. Weakness, low energy, a tough day, or a crisis will always make us weak in the face of keeping our commitments. Willpower is weak in these moments, and it will fail us…quite predictably.
This is where we turn to leverage. If you are serious about your resolve to reach a goal, consider this: write out six checks to someone or some organization that you really despise or find a menace to your values. Give them to a trusted friend or someone will not let you down. Their job is to mail these checks to your nemesis anytime you do no honor your new resolution.
Here’s another approach: if your resolution is to walk three miles a day, then your friend is to check in with you daily. Best that your friend meets at the same spot at 6 am, to join you for the walk. If you fail to walk, agree to have him/her post your failure on Facebook and tweet the world about it. Of course, you also want their positive support when you are succeeding. The key here is that you institute something that represents a ‘cost’ to you when you fail to show up. The research suggests that this is remarkably helpful in keeping us on track.
3. Set Up Life So That It Is Almost Impossible To Fail
We do this by thinking ahead. For example, if you are resolved to a new diet, get rid of the old junk food that tempts you. Throw it out, or give it away. Instead, fill your pantry and frig ONLY with the food that supports your goal. Have your husband, wife or partner agree in advance to refuse the dessert menu when dining out. You can also plan out a menu weekly, and prepare meals in advance (when possible) to ensure no last-minute decisions, as these wrecks a healthy diet.
If resolved to better spending habits, make it impossible to buy something not already on your list. Do this by refusing to make more money than you need. Or set up a debit card where you transfer only an allocated budget each week that you have to jump over hurdles to violate your goal. Put the other credit cards in a small safe, bundled up only for emergencies.
If resolved to a better-organized home, find an expert or friend (who might be tilted in the obsessive direction) and hire them to show up next week. Give them permission to help you throw the stuff you don’t need or use.
Notice the central them here: Give power to the environment around you, so that your resolve (made in moments of strength) has predetermined your choice in a moment of weakness. You set up the environment to support you so that you don’t have to keep deciding to do the right thing. The environment holds the decision you made in a moment of strength…in order to support you in moments of weakness.
If you do this immediately, you will be a goal-getter- Not a goal setter!