Why The 1% Achieve Their Resolutions
With the new year rolling around, most of us are planning ways to improve our health, set some big goals, and finally achieve things we have been putting off for a while.
But when you look at the statistics, almost 80% of people will fail by the springtime, and after a year, only a smaller percentage of people are still involved with their goals at all.
So here’s how to be that tiny percentage of people that are still going strong a year later.
#1 Follow intrinsic motivation… rather than forcing yourself.
Let me ask you this: do you think the typical person who just begins working out during the new year will still be exercising if:
- They’re intrinsically motivated (they like it)
- They’re forcing themselves to do it by using rewards (money/food), punishments, etc.
Can you guess which one?
The first! Not only are intrinsically motivated people more likely to be persistent (no kidding, they actually like it), they’re also more likely to be successful in the long run.
Although your friend may be slimming down quicker than you after spending 5 hours a week pounding it out in the gym, see if they’re still exercising in 1-2 years when it really matters. Many people that rely on extrinsic motivation won’t still be there!
Tip #1: Follow your intrinsic motivation. If it’s something you really don’t like (e.g. exercise) find something that is somewhat related (that you like) and go with that. You’re much more likely to do it long-term.
#2 Create positive snowballs.
Think back to when you were a kid.
Did you do sports? Did you hate sports?
So much of what we become in life is related to what we experienced as a first impression – for some people, joining the sports team meant embarrassment, or going to history class meant being bored, or math class was associated with misery and pain.
Sometimes it’s the first impression that determines the future impressions in life.
So if you had a horrible first impression, you’re unlikely to want to keep following through with whatever it is.
It’s like dating – did the first date go well? Yeah? Then you’re likely to go on a second, right?
Did it not go well? Then you’re not likely to go on a second.
Here’s where this matters for you: If you create new habits, and make them so insanely easy that you accomplish them every time (and leave in a good mood), you’re creating what’s called a “positive snowball” in your brain.
All this means is that you’re keeping a positive mental impression of this habit. So rather than exercising for an hour on day one, exercise for five minutes. Make it so easy you laugh afterwards, like it was a joke. Make it so easy that you’re in a crazy good mood after.
The secret is to set goals so tiny that you easily reach them, and you maintain a positive mood after. That is what will continue powering you all year.
Think about the opposite now. What happens to those people who start exercising seven hours a week on week one in the new year?
They usually burn out and quit, right? Baby steps are the key to maintaining motivation and the positive snowball effect.
Tip #2: Create a positive snowball effect by taking the tiniest steps possible with your new habits – so that every time you “complete” your habit, you are in a good mood and maintain a favorable attitude towards it.
#3 Program habits… not effort
Okay, so now you know how to get a positive snowball going. You’re going to stay motivated much more easy.
But there’s another problem: using effort and discipline to keep yourself going.
Effort and discipline vary based on the person, the day, and even the time of the month, so they really aren’t reliable strategies to rely on for success.
Instead, focus on changing your habits.
Here’s an example:
Say you want to start meditating in the new year. You realize how good it is for you, and maybe you’ve been to a yoga class and you really could use some de-stressing throughout the day.
Rather than forcing yourself to meditate every day, go with the science of habit change.
Each habit first needs a trigger.
So your trigger could be a number of things: A. Walking in the door right when you get home, B. Going on your lunch break, C. Brushing your teeth, or something else.
Say you want to use brushing your teeth as a trigger.
For 10 days, every time you brush your teeth, you then go sit down on the edge of your bed for three minutes. Just three minutes! You’re not forcing yourself to stay there a long time, and you’re not forcing the habit.
After a while, once you brush your teeth, you will begin craving the meditation. You have programmed your brain. You will anticipate what’s coming next – three minutes of sitting quietly on your brain. Now your body and brain have linked the two behaviors together as a habit.
Tip #3: Create new habits, rather than forcing yourself to rely on discipline, willpower, and effort.
#4 Automatic accountability.
We all know accountability is the secret to success, right?
It’s much easier to go to the gym with a close friend, than it is to go alone and rely on yourself to get out of bed early in the morning (or late at night, if that’s all you’ve got).
But the science tells us there’s another way.
In one study, researchers found that by reminding people every two weeks about their goals, people could double the time they regularly exercised over the course of 12 months.
So just by sending a quick reminder, they would go from exercising an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes a week, to almost 3 hours a week.
Here’s the kicker: it didn’t matter if the correspondence was by a real person or an automated message.
Use a free service like memotome to send automated emails to yourself in the future as reminders.
So the very act of sending brief reminders (accountability) is almost just as effective as actually talking to a person.
Tip #4: Either make an accountability circle with a friend, or program an automated message to email you every two weeks. It will double, triple or quadruple your ability to stick with your goals.
#5 Be happy, first… not later.
In the west, we have this notion that once we achieve our goals, we will then be happy.
But research suggests the opposite – that happier people tend to be more motivated, more resilient to stress, and more likely to achieve their goals.
So although you may be putting a ton of pressure on yourself to achieve your goals, and thinking you’ll be happy “when,” fight the urge and do whatever it takes to be happy now. You will be much more likely to achieve your goals, and even if you don’t, you’ll be happy in the process.
The key is to stay happy regardless of whether or not you reach your health goals – because if you fail, you can pick yourself up again and get started once more. But if you’ve told yourself you won’t be happy unless you achieve your goal… and you didn’t reach your goal, now you’re stuck with a massive mental setback.
Be happy first, and you will be more likely to reach those New Year’s goals.
Tip #5 Be happy first… and stay happy regardless of what stage you are in achieving your goals, and whether or not you reach them. Being happy makes you more likely to get “there” and also makes you more resilient in the face of stress and setbacks.
What about you?
Tell me what you think below. Do you have anything else you’d add to this list?
Alexander runs Modern Health Monk, a site that shows you how to reverse health problems caused by our 21st century life lifestyle. Check out his free weight loss crash course, or his free guides on fixing lower back pain and chronic health problems.