9 Psychological Truths that prevent you from achieving those New Year Resolutions year after year (Part 1 — The First 4)
Each year we set New Year Resolutions and each year one or two or all of them will fail to materialize. It makes us feel sad and disappointed. So we decide to avoid setting any goals at all. However research has shown that the actual writing down and setting of goals is in itself one of the key pieces of getting the goal done. Instead of avoiding setting goals this 2015, why don’t we spend some time understanding where the resistance to achieving the goals is coming from?
This self-awareness and understanding of the psychology of motivation and being human will make you more compassionate to yourself and others when what they say they or you will do in the new year, starts off well and fizzles off.
1) We have an innate human Negativity Bias
We are prone to think negative thoughts more than positive thoughts. So when we say we want to exercise more, immediately, our logical brain will come up with all the reasons why that will not happen. So instead of starting believing in the achievement, we have already talked ourselves into the impossibility of the goal.
Learning to be optimistic is the first skill of getting things done. Especially when things do not get done. Ironically. No matter how many times, we avoid or do not do what we say we will, we have to believe and be optimistic that tomorrow or the next moment, that situation can actually change.
More times than not, once we actually go to the gym. We will go ahead. Once we are optimistic about going to the gym at the beginning of a the day that seems impossible to find a time to fit anything in. We actually look for that opportunity.
So don’t fall into the negativity bias. Know it exists and persist despite those nay-sayers in your own head.
Exercise you can do to help you assess your level of optimism
(look for the Optimism test on this free site)
2) We have a values conflict. We say we want it but really we don’t.
Basically we get almost everything we want in life because if we really wanted it, we would make it happen. If we don’t have it happen, it is because there is a values conflict between what we say we want and what we do have.
For example, many people tell me they want more money. Yet they are unwilling to spend extra time or effort to learn about investments and wealth creation. This is not because they are lazy. They have spent a lot of time at work, with their families and other such commitments. So this time comes from one of those other commitments and so they cannot give up their current values and lifestyle choices for the new ones they espouse to desire.
So a good exercise to reveal your own values conflict to you is by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey
3) We don’t think we deserve it. So we can get it and we will lose the ability to sustain it soon after
When I ask a room of my participants, who believes they will be a millionaire, less than 2 people out of 25 or more will raise their hands. Always. So I probe a little further and then they say it’s not possible because they don’t have the right background or skill-sets. Or they say they don’t want to work so hard for that goal. It is a goal that comes at a cost.
Basically you say it like a wish more than a goal, this is because you do not believe you can get it. So you put it on your goals list every year and then every year you don’t get it and you almost happy to prove yourself right. It cannot be done. Only a select few can get it and will get it. Not for me.
Then there are those who do get what they want. A promotion. A new relationship and they are second-guessing how could they ever be that lucky to have that. They don’t believe they deserve it and so they unconsciously look for ways to self-sabotage the goal they achieved. They want their boss and their new partner to give up on them rather than do it themselves. Illogical? Yes and that is why it is a psychological issue. That is why we need to use mindfulness to self-regulate and be self-aware of when we may be falling into this pattern of self-sabotage.
This goes often for weight loss goals. Many start well and then when they begin to lose the weight, there will be comments from friends and family. Comments often trigger self-doubt and so it is simply easier to fall back to the old weight and not be embarrassed should our attempt not reach its desired outcome.
4) We visualize and fixate rather than envision and create
While both are very similar, like fine art it is in the brushwork that makes one outstanding and the other the lesser cousin.
Visualization is to have a mental image. Many people follow popular personal development industry and they learn to write down their goals as concretely as possible and then visualize the future they want. They are told to be as specific as possible and see the exact house, the exact job, the gender of the 2 kids and the exact amount of money in the bank. This is supposed to make them believe it so they can do it. To activate their brain to look for ways to get these so-called desired goods. I have done this myself and it has been very helpful but only to a certain extent.
Envision means to imagine and to picture in the mind. This allows more for more possibilities and also more flexibility. Also it is much more fun as we co-create with what reality turns up not just force our version of the perfect life onto our day to day existence.
Too many people want their success to come in a certain form. They want a certain job in a certain company and so they visualize that and only that. When things are not going the way they visualize they get discouraged.
When we envision, we allow for possibilities to emerge that we usually cannot see it using our normal day-to-day mindsets.
For example, Nancy envisions wealth and we may think it will come from her job or promotion rather than her online part-time business. However it could be that year, a trend makes her online business a high growth opportunity. If Nancy was only visualizing she may only focus on her promotion and cannot see the online business as where her real wealth would come from.