Sticking to Your Goals
The new year often triggers revised plans, new goals, change. Maybe this is the year you quit smoking, start saving for retirement, commit to regular exercise, drink more water, or dare I say it- deliver ALL your performance reviews on time?! We all want to get better at something- decide what that something is for you this year. But first, ask yourself 2 questions:
1) Do you REALLY want to do better? Is this desire intrinsically or extrinsically motivated- in other words, is it something YOU want to improve, or is it something someone else wants you to grow? Lasting change only takes place when we are genuinely committed to change internally. When it comes to changing habits, trying is lying to yourself. In the eternal words of Yoda, “There is no ‘try’- do or do not.” Decide, commit, execute- don’t allow room for excuses. When your brain resists change, Brene Brown, a research professor in social work at the University of Houston, suggests counting backward from 5..4..3..2..1… – It requires just enough thought to rewire your brain and prevent it from making excuses as to why not to get out of bed 15 minutes earlier or… reasons to avoid starting and finishing that performance review that is due this week.
2) Are you REALLY willing to feel the discomfort of trying something new, or that might not work as well as you had hoped right away? Are you ready to experience momentary failure for a short time while you practice a new skill? Our instant gratification societal norms sometimes create unrealistic expectations in our brains. Be realistic with yourself- is a goal worth achieving? Then expect some initial discomfort or awkwardness while you practice establishing this new habit. Don’t let lack of progress discourage you from continuing to pursue your goal. It takes our brain a MINIMUM of 21 days to establish a new habit, so don’t allow lack of progress hijack your mind into surrender. Remember when you were a kid learning to swim or to ride a bike- it took practice. Adulthood does not exempt us from a learning curve; allow yourself time to practice, experiment, and learn. Just because you don’t conquer that new habit or goal by January 31st is no excuse to give up February through December. Expect and accept discomfort- you can’t learn without it. Those performance reviews will be waiting patiently while you practice.
(Concepts adapted from an article by Peter Bregman, Nov. 9, 2018, Harvard Business review)