Happy New Year Lake Travis! I love the energy burst you get on January 1st, even more-so when when I wake up well-rested and hydrated. It’s easy to make the pledges and resolutions on December 31st, but it’s the next day when the rubber meets the road and your plans are set to get off the ground.
I know a growing collection of friends who are avid New Years Resolution Makers, but fewer New Years Resolution Keepers. You can say you’re going to the gym five times a week today, but when the weekend calls are you lacing up or going out for a margarita? (depends on the time of the year). My resolutions are always vague, and I like them that way for a reason, but I am intrigued by the goals people set for themselves. So I was ready to hear about what top experts had to say about the whole phenomena.
My interest started after reading an interview with psychologist Walter Mischel, author of “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control”, which tackles many questions relating to self-control and the delaying of rewards. His study focused on children, who were placed in a room with a marshmallow and told not to eat it. If they abstained for 10 minutes, when the researcher came back, they would receive another marshmallow.
Roughly a third of the kids were able to wait — giving psychologists a new way to study the motivation behind the delayed self-gratifiers. By studying the video footage, they were able to see that many of these children employed a simple strategy — to turn around, or simply move further from the sweets. It was quite literally, “out of sight, out of mind”.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind – In the same sense, we can find ways to distract us from wanting an immediate pleasure — say, a cigarette for those planning on quitting or a fancy dessert for people looking to eat healthier this 2015. It’s a method we have to work at and practice, and if you can substitute the activity with another and make it a new habit, it has been shown that many bad patterns can be reversed or stopped altogether.
Put Your Money Where Your Goal Is – In another study, it was found that those who put a financial incentive toward their goal were found to be more successful at achieving that goal by the end of the year. This is like saying you will give your friend $1,000 if you don’t meet your weight loss goal. It is, quite literally, putting your money where your mouth is, but it seems to work, or at least motivate you in the right direction. The key to is making the amount large enough so that it hurts to write that check — but for some of us, that extra productivity is worth it.
10 Minutes a Day – Another way to focus on our yearlong goals is to break it down into smaller pieces, instead of staring at the whole, complicated goal in its entirety. Send an e-mail here, do a few push ups there, it all adds up! The trick is to stay habitual with it and make these goal-oriented moments a part of your day.
Join a Group – Let’s face it, sometimes we need a little help to get over the hump. That’s why joining a social group dedicated to the same goal is sometimes more effective than going it alone. Just ask weekly work out groups and you’ll see — they all hold each other to the grindstone and make sure everyone is putting their best foot forward. Again, make it a regular thing and it will soon become a habit.
Do Something Fun! – Why do all New Years resolutions have to be so dreaded? Why not choose a fun goal, like perfecting your art of cartooning or choosing to spend at least 15 minutes in the sun every day? You can pick anything, and even fun tasks can be rewarding and productive. If there is anything to motivate you to work harder, it will be a fun goal. Get creative with it!
Photo courstesy of Rosipaw’s Photostream on Flickr