Make a Resolution Not to Make a Resolution This Time

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So my salonist was telling me about how they’re not allowed to take a holiday in Dec because it’s their peak time of the year. Apparently, some of their customers believe that cutting your hair before the new year is a way of leaving your troubles behind (because naturally, your troubles happen to reside in your hair).

But we’re approaching that time of the year when people will go to sleep on Dec. 31 and wake up as totally new people on January 1, resolving to eat healthy, lose weight, wake up early, drink kale smoothies, lift weights, go running, change the world…
Until January 12, that is.

I’m not a big fan of the virtual switch that people pretend to turn on at the beginning of every year, simply because I think it gives people yet another excuse not to start on a Personal Development program (oh, it didn’t work out this year…maybe next year).
If you think about it, setting up New Year’s Resolutions are one of the most effective procrastination techniques ever invented.

So if you want to join the anti-NYR group, here a few other things you might want to try;
– Do a 30 day challenge (statistically speaking you’re more likely to finish a 30 day challenge than a 365 day one). Matt Cutts made those famous in his TED talk.
– List a 100 things you’re grateful for. Basically, put your Attitude of Gratitude on steroids.
– Audit your life, don’t overhaul it. Most people try to do so much so fast and fail miserably. So instead of all that, just take a 30,000 ft view of your life and see which areas would need improvements, and which ones seem to be okay.
– Get to know your future self. One of the biggest weaknesses of resolutions is that it’s a promise your today self makes to your future self. “I resolve to lose 50 lbs by next year make yourself.” But the thing with promises — and I’ve written this over and over again — is that they’re hard to keep because the mentality with which the promise is made is usually different from the mentality with which it has to be kept. That’s why, instead of promising your future self something, get to know them. How do you want them to feel? How do you want them to look like? What do you want them to have?
Once you’re clear on how your future self is, start taking actions. Small, consistent, action.

And that my friends, are the first steps to being great without the whole resolve-shame-disappointment cycle that plagues people every year.
What are your opinions on this? I’d like to hear from you on twitter @ahechoes #antiNYR
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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, Mine Your Inner Resources.

Already failed your year’s resolutions? Here are other alternatives…

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There’s a whole industry out there trying to convince you that the new year is the year of a new you. As they try to shove yearly planners down your throat and sign you up for a whole year of gym membership at a 50 % discount, it’s very easy to be carried by the wave. If you really think about it, they should verify the famous slogan to, “New Year New You with a More Famished Wallet.” Despite all that hype, only 8 % of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions – statistics which make one wonder why the 92 % even bother.

Making NY resolutions tends to be more of a procrastination strategy than a personal development one. The idea that you’re supposed to wait for a certain time or date to begin something makes it easy to procrastinate on important life decisions. Decisions you know would make you slightly uncomfortable.

“I want to eat healthy, but maybe next year I’ll add it to my New Year’s Resolution list.”

“I want to read more, but maybe next year…”

So the obvious solution to that is to implement a good idea the day you hear it, regardless of whether it’s New Year’s Day or Mid-April or the end of November.

A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself. The main reason promises find themselves broken like new toys in the hands of a toddler, is because the mindset breaking it is different from the mindset making it.

On January 1, it’s very easy to be pumped up and excited about our resolutions because many people are talking about it. You write your resolutions about losing weight, eating healthy, spending less on a large sheet of paper. Come Day 30 and that paper acts as a coaster for your ice cream tub. So an alternative to making this promise to yourself and then disappointing yourself continuously is to take stock of your life right now, and work on fixing it one small habit at a time. It’s known that drastic changes are hard to make because of our habits. We can say that we want to lose weight but as long as the cue-routine-reward cycle exists in our brain (as explained in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit), it’s going to be tough.

So this is an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Know thyself. Identify your habit cycles and start breaking them down. The Power of Habit is a highly recommended read for this particular step.
  • Think in terms of forming habits instead of making individual goals. For instance, let’s say we want to lose 5 lbs this year; that’s a goal. We’ll always be in a state of disappointment until we reach that goal – that’s if we reach it. And as millennials we’re not so into long-term gratification. We want results like…yesterday! So instead of setting a goal that way, we can focus on making it a habit to take a thirty minute walk everyday or hit the gym three times a week. Taking that first step will help provide us with instant gratification, build our success spiral and all in all, make us feel good.
  • Link habits together to build integrated systems. This needs some thinking and tinkering but basically the secret is to link new habits with long-established habits. So if you’re used to taking a nap in the afternoon, and you want to start doing sit-ups for instance, link the afternoon nap with the sit-up to maintain consistency. The moment you pile habits together and build a system, it becomes this behemoth giant that’s hard to slow down once started.
  • Work from your personal values. I’ve written about this previously. A lot of times we just want to incorporate things into our lives because other people think it’s a good idea. But if it’s not a good idea for us on some deep personal level, then we’d lose traction faster than tires on black ice.
  • Reduce the inertia. We’re not big fans of change so the hardest part of starting anything is overcoming that initial inertia. Sometimes one needs to think of ways to reduce the inertia, for instance in the gym case, some people keep their gym clothes ready the night before so they can launch into their workout routine as soon as they wake up.
  • Experiment. Everybody’s system is going to be different and there’s no way of knowing what works for you until you experiment. Some people get stuck in the idea collection stage without executing anything but until we try we never know what’d work. The secret is to work on your own personal project and have fun doing so.
  • Last but not least, just start! Today. Not tomorrow. Not January 1. Not May 25. Just start today.

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The one phrase resolution

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I know I haven’t been keeping this blog updated recently. It’s not that I’m out of ideas. My head is usually full of half-baked ideas that if you tip it over, many of them will spill onto the floor and make my room look like a child’s nursery with toys all around. I don’t usually know where to start, but I’ve got to start somewhere. So here it goes; the one word (or one phrase) resolution. You know how productive people tend to make resolutions at the beginning of every year. Well lazy people like myself tend to enjoy a new spin to this whole resolution business. We make a one-phrase resolution. As mentioned earlier, a resolution is like a promise you make to yourself. In the footsteps of those who made the 2 in 1 hair shampoos, many people mix their goals and resolutions in fancy phrasing and add them to a list – that eventually gets lost somewhere. To emphasize, goals are targets that you are supposed to reach. While resolutions are decisions you resolve to make. So losing 5 kg would be a goal, while exercising frequently would be a resolution.

But the one-phrase resolution is a brilliant idea. It’s just a motto that you decide to live by for that entire year. Or month. My friend’s motto last year was ‘healthy lifestyle’. Sticking to it made her eat more proteins, and less carbs. It made her exercise more and eventually lose weight. What it did not do is put walls and confine her. And since it was made of two words only, and was as generic as it could be, it was easy to remember, and more importantly, to live by.

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin had a motto for each month, and while she did have a list of resolutions to achieve under each motto, lazy people like myself could just skip that part. So for instance, some of Gretchen Rubin’s motto were:

-January: Boost Energy

-February: Remember Love

-May: Be Serious About Play

Possible one-phrase resolutions to live by could be: “Take more risks”, “Do it scared”, “Journal More” and “Build Self-Esteem”. And while it is true that self-help experts would emphasize on setting up more SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based) goals, but if that has never worked with you, you could give the one-phrase resolution a try and start from there. The ultimate goal is to look back a few months from now and realize you’ve grown and become better (smarter, braver, healthier, kinder)….

That’s all folks!

Keep Your Resolutions This Time

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It’s pretty clear that I love journals. At some point I wrote in my journal about how I need to be more organized. I made a resolution to have a color code when it comes to my journals. The code suggested might have been;

1) ‘black’ for bloggable ideas

2)’blue’ for ranting about something that happened during the day

3)’red’ for works of fiction

Or maybe that was not the color code. Since that resolution was not written in a different color, naturally I could not find it again. It got lost among the words. The idea was great but the problem was obviously in its implementation. Which makes me think of ‘Resolutions’; great idea, but poorly implemented.

A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s as if they needed January 1 to be reminded that maybe they need to eat healthier and exercise more. But if you really think about it, New Year’s Resolutions are a major procrastination technique where you’re supposed to wait for the time or date to be right to begin something. It’s like when you break your resolution by Day 30, it’s easy to tell yourself, “Maybe next year.”

A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself, and as mentioned in “Broken Promises” the reason many promises find themselves broken is because they are made with a mindset that is different from the mindset with which the’re broken. So come January 1, you’re pumped up and excited about your resolutions because the market is selling you the slogan ‘A new year, a new you,’ and that’s the mindset with which you write your resolutions. Come Day 30 and you just left work feeling weary and subdued, and you know you’ve promised yourself to stay away from Baskin Robbins but it was on your way home, and it might as well have jumped right in front of you because there you are standing at the counter selecting flavors, mentally doing this, ‘I resolve to stop eating sugary snacks‘.

So what’s the solution to this vicious cycle of making resolutions and then breaking them? Many people delineate solutions and sell them as a self-help book or something, but the most intuitive response involves:

1) Don’t make resolutions that are not important to you. Sometimes you might find yourself making a resolution just because everybody is putting it on their list and it really adds no value to your life. It’s the simple rule of ‘Don’t make a promise you can’t (or don’t want to) keep’.

2) Write down your resolutions. The idea is to take the idea out of your mind and keep it somewhere you can review it occasionally. Some people hang it on their boards, others save it on their phone notes. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.

3) Baby steps. When you write down a list of 25 resolutions that will turn your life upside down, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed and give up a a few days later. The easiest way to go around it is to make a few promises to yourself, let’s say four, and work on a concrete plan on how you’re planning to stick to these four resolutions then update your list on a monthly basis.

4) Integrate your resolutions within your life’s auto-pilot system. A system in this context is a collection of habits that you acquire over the years. If you think you don’t have an auto-pilot system, think again. Everyday we do things more out of habit than out of conscious effort. Developing your system requires more than knowing your habits exist. You would need to understand where your habits come from, what the payoffs are (because all habits, whether good or bad have payoffs), and finally, how to change them. But changing a habit is easier said than done. Some habits are so difficult to change, you might want to consider not changing them because the effort is not worth the result. When done properly, having an effective auto-pilot system would help you keep your resolutions even on the days you ‘don’t feel like it’ and are more likely to break your resolutions.

Let’s take an example; come January 2014, you resolve to spend more time with your family. If your auto-pilot system has you work everyday until 8 pm then you go home and sit in front of the TV until midnight, how will you keep that promise? Your system does not support it. But if you force yourself to leave work at 5 pm, and you get rid of your TV, then maybe this particular resolution has a chance of surviving. Think of it in another way, even if you don’t feel like spending more time with your family, just the fact that you habitually make it home by five and have no TV to distract you might force you to do it.

So if I want to keep that color-code resolution when it comes to my journal, I need to get one of those four-colored pens and keep it with the journal at all time and have a post-it note at the back of the front cover with a clear legend, and in that way, the ‘system’ would support the resolution.

So what about you? Do you make resolutions every January or every month or every day? Do you stick to them? How?

Leave your comment below.