Bob Denny: Say no to resolutions
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.
It's February. How's that New Year's resolution working out for you? Statistically, 50 percent of us make resolutions, but four out of five of us who make resolutions fail in the first month. There must be a better way! How about trying something different?
Why do so many of our efforts fail? What does common sense, folk wisdom, and psychological principles agree on? If you ask the right question, your brain starts working to find the answer! How about asking yourself, “What can I do to help make 2013 the best year of my life?” Instead of focusing on past bad habits, failures, or characteristics we don't appreciate in ourselves, it aims at seeing a better life, and a better way. When we word our thoughts as a question, our active minds automatically go to work to find answers.
Don't word your goals in negative terms, like “I won't bite my nails.” If I say, “Don't think of a pink elephant,” that's the one image that jumps into your imagination and sticks with you. Ever try to get a song out of your head? Instead, think of what you do want, instead of what you don't want. Also, don't set yourself up with unrealistic standards.
Psychologists who study behavior tell us that we do what we do because of the consequences that behavior earns. No reward, no behavior. How long would you work an unpleasant job if you didn't even get paid for it? Unless our behavior gets reinforcement, we won't be motivated to carry through with the behaviors we pledge in our best intentions. Our resolutions will fade away, until next New Year's Day.
Allow yourself to dream. How much better will you feel if you take a step towards your dream? Research in psychology finds that thinking about your dreams can make you feel better, as if you are already there.
Want to stop a bad habit? If you bite your nails, instead of using will power to punish yourself, find some other behavior that could replace nail biting, yet still satisfy the need, and be more desirable. It could be finding something to do with your hands--sketch, write, make something, do a hobby, play a game, play music. Or, if you need something to chew, try chewing gum instead.
What can you do right now that will take you closer to your dreams? How you can get started right now, today? Action is motivating. Take a brisk walk on a pretty day. Play the sport you used to enjoy. Go to the shed and pull out your gardening tools. Call your old golfing buddy.
Getting started is usually the hardest part. However you want to make 2013 the best year, it begins with the first step. Put it on your calendar. When the clock says it's time, just get up and get started. It's easier to keep going once you've got the momentum. Chart your progress. Challenge yourself. Celebrate each small success. Share your plans with a friend or someone close to you, who would like you to succeed, and won't judge your efforts. Failure is just a step on the way to success. You can always do more than you think you can do.
Make 2013 the year you reach for your dreams. It'll be the best year of your life.
Bob Denny teaches psychology at Florida Gateway College.
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