Feeling pumped and ready to take on the New Year, full of resolve that 2015 will be your year? Or maybe still just slumped on the couch with a hangover, some hasty resolving planned for 11.50pm on December 31? Most people plan some kind of life change for the new year. And almost all of those people will fail. So why bother? Because change is achievable, particularly if you know the tips and tricks that give you a fighting chance.
This is going to be a three part series on creating change. This post will focus on making a goal/ resolution, the second will cover implementing change and the third will be about how to salvage and reinvent your goal if you get seriously derailed.
Part I – Getting to know your goal
So you have a goal/ resolution in mind. This is all the stuff to know and do before you even begin to attempt to make that change. New Year is only two days away. Better get cracking!
Know that it’s not all about the love
At the start of a new project, we’re full of enthusiasm and excitement. It’s easy to begin. But then the high wears off. We feel ‘unmotivated’ and perhaps ‘uninspired’. That was the wrong goal, we think, or more self depreciatingly, ‘I don’t have the willpower/ motivation.’ But the truth is: No One Does. Like maintaining a romantic relationship, you can’t rely on those early feelings to always be there. You need to be able to stick it out through the tough times because you know that in the end, it’s worth it (and if you don’t think your goal is worth putting up with the tough times, pick a new goal).
The essential thing to know about increasing motivation is that you can’t reliably do so. Instead of focussing on feeling motivated, you need to develop a detailed plan and then stick to that plan. Despite popular wisdom and its general unsexiness, discipline, not motivation or inspiration, is how the most creative, successful, fit, prolific people do it and how goals are reached.
Create a Detailed Plan
It’s no good setting a resolution as general as ‘exercise more’ and saying ‘when I feel motivated, I’ll exercise’. If you haven’t got motivation now, it won’t just appear. You must be very specific. Saying ‘I’ll go for a run every day’ isn’t specific enough either. It’s too easy to put it off until later and later in the day until it doesn’t happen. And what is enough running to count as ‘a run’?
A detailed plan is something like ‘I will run every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 7am. I will run for 30 minutes. If it is raining, I will complete one 30 minute session of my boxing workout DVD. If I sleep in, I will run at 7pm after work. If I get injured, I will see a doctor/ physio within one week and then follow their guidance on continued exercising.’ f you’re giving up a habit, the plan tells you specifically what to do instead of what you’re giving up. E.g. When it’s time for smoke break, I will make a cup of tea and sip it slowly, so it lasts the whole break. When I go to a party, I will… Make a plan for all the events when you’ll need to implement your change. It’s tedious now, but it will increase your success rate. You take all the motivation out of the equation. You write the plan, and when the plan says it’s time to do what needs to be done, you do it. Make it detailed enough that if you were giving it to someone else, they’d know exactly what needed to be done.
Write Down Your Plan
I don’t see how you could have avoided this with a truly detailed plan. But if you haven’t already, write it down. Write it down so you remember all the details. Write it down because it increases a sense of commitment. Write it down so you can stick it somewhere prominent and be reminded. Write it down so you can…
If other people know your goal, they’ll ask you about it. This social pressure makes you feel ‘motivated’. Be sure to tell them your detailed plan, so they can call you out on any slip ups as soon as possible. And if you can, commit to reaching your goal with someone else. If you know your friend is waiting for you to show up for your commitment, it provides extra incentive.
Do a trial run
Get started on your resolution early. Research when the classes are on, have a healthy breakfast, skip a few cigarettes. This gives you a chance to discover any glaring obstacles to your success and work out ways around them before you begin. And like doing a practice test before the real thing, doing a trial run gives you a boost of confidence that you can stick to your resolution when the time comes.
Time to get writing...
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.