I saw this little clip recently and thought it was fascinating; the information included as well as the illustrations as they were being drawn. It is mind-boggling to me that someone can think in an outline form like that, which is not the way I think at all! If you take a minute (okay, 5 minutes) to watch this, then we can discuss it!
New Year’s Resolutions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqbAsr6wN_I
So do you think the New Year’s resolutions work so much better than at other times of the year because there is a camaraderie between/amongst people who are out to make changes in their lives?
Or what do you think it is?
Do you have any resolutions in mind for 2014?
Here is some of what I’ve learned about change from two of my teachers, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar (Positive Psychology) and Dr. Richard Boyatzis (Emotional Intelligence):
1. Change is difficult. It’s not impossible… AND it’s difficult. And it takes about 21-30 days to make change stick.
2. Because change is not impossible yet difficult, it’s best to focus on one or two things at a time. A person is more likely to have success when focusing on only one or two things at a time. I’m not saying you can’t focus on more than this – you can – I’m just saying that the likelihood of being successful increases if you focus on only one or two things.
3. Make sure the change is something that YOU want, as opposed to something that others want you to do. The latter never works. Not with kids, not with spouses, not with siblings, not with friends, not with colleagues, not with…. well, you get the idea.
4. Negative Emotional Attractors help us survive, while Positive Emotional Attractors help us thrive. We need both, and yet to initiate lasting change, we need to be in the PEA. This is why so many people fail at losing weight, because if you think about it, when do we decide we need to lose weight? When we’re so disgusted with ourselves that we can’t stand to look in a mirror or try on new clothes or whatever. NO WONDER IT DOESN’T WORK!! So if you get excited about something, and can’t wait to get started… isn’t it more likely that that is going to work for you?
5. I found this whole PEA/NEA thing fascinating. Being in NEA doesn’t even make it 50-50% of being successful… if you’re in NEA, the likelihood of being successful at making a change dips to 5-10%… 5-10%! That’s low. And unless you are a change superhero (which most of us are not), the likelihood of succeeding with those odds is… well, not likely.
6. You must believe in yourself. This one is important so let me say it again: you must believe in yourself. Those past assumptions, those times it didn’t work before… you have to change those neural pathways into a different story. When have you been successful in the past? What did it feel like? Now envision your future self exactly as you want to be. This one is tough for skeptics like me. I might say I believe in myself, and I might even believe it for a while… but then it gets hard, and I think I can’t do it… and I spiral right back to where I was when it didn’t work.
I asked another of my teachers, Dr. Maria Sirois, about this very thing: “So here is a question I have, Maria… you know the saying by Henry Ford, whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right? So what advice do you have to help us skeptics believe – TRULY believe – that we can do something? Not just give it lip service and then be taken over by the skeptic inside? I know it has worked for me in the past in certain areas of my life… just not this one. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!”
Her response, and I love this, was: “Lori – belief is really not the most important part of the equation. It helps to believe that you can make the change, but what helps even more is to notice what you are believing or not believing and take the action anyway. Progress is made through daily practice, not through daily belief. So that’s why it’s important to focus on small change every day and let your mind trash talk itself through the day if it must AND do the action of change anyway. Hope that helps. Also, you could invite into your practice a gentle restructuring of skeptical thinking – each time you notice that voice you could say, thank you very much, and I’m going to practice anyway and soften the impact of that thinking. Go Girl Go!”
7. AA got it right. Focus on one day at a time. I can do anything for one day! And if one day is too long, focus on one hour or one minute at a time. It will get easier; it will.
8. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. They especially help for those times when you don’t fully believe in yourself, or when your critical self is louder than your natural being self (this is according to Timothy Gallwey in The Inner Game of Tennis). You might not trust yourself… but you trust them.
9. Give yourself permission to be human. You are not going to be excited all the time by this change that you’re making. Sometimes it will stink. Sometimes it will feel easy. Then it will stink again. Realize that there will be ups and downs like this, and that it’s okay.
10. Talk to a friend – or hire a coach – to help motivate you to make the changes you want to make. It’s easier to be held accountable when others know what you’re up to. And besides, it’s fun to have people on your side, cheering you on!
11. Don’t get discouraged. I know this is easier said than done, yet it’s so true. Remember the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Yeah. Do that. This goes back to the practice that Maria talked about in her response to me.
So my husband and I were talking about this just the other day. You know how when you see a workplace with a sign “_____ days without an accident”? Or this is the premise for AA as well: sober for ____ days? Mark commented that he doesn’t agree with the idea of having to go back to 0 if someone falls off the wagon. “You mean, if someone has 102 days of being sober and they take a drink, they have to go back to 0? Shouldn’t they acknowledge that they made it 102 days without a drink?” To which I replied, “And on the other hand, it might be just the incentive someone needs to NOT go off the wagon. Someone who says, ‘I’ve been sober for 102 days and I’m not going to drink because I don’t want to have to go back to 0.’” Which way do you look at it?
For me, I am all about eating healthy this year. No sugar or processed foods. I started the no sugar 10 days before Christmas… I know, I know, you’re thinking, “10 days before Christmas? WHAT could you have been thinking?!” But the truth of the matter is I was successful for 10 days! It wasn’t that I planned ahead to go off sugar at that time; it was more like, “I’ve eaten way too many sweets these last couple of days… I’m going to not have sugar today.” And I didn’t. And then the next day I thought, “Well, that wasn’t so bad. I’m not going to have sugar today, either.” And I didn’t. And this went on like this for 10 days!
… and then there was Christmas. And you might say that I binged. For that day… and then I tapered… and then I got back onto the no sugar. That is, until our drive home from the holidays. Mark and I stopped at an oasis on the New York thruway on the way home, and there, on New Year’s Day, was a Cinnabon. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled fresh Cinnabons, but YUM. There is no smell like it! And the “I gotta have one” thing kicked in. So I asked Mark to split a small one with me. First he said no. Then he’s like, “If we’re gonna have one, let’s split a large one!” and being in the state I was in with the smell wafting into my nostrils I didn’t have the will-power to say no, I want to split a small one. (BTW, my mom used to call that “won’t power”!) So we split a Cinnabon. A large one. With a big glass of milk. And while part of me says YUM, part of me was like, “This doesn’t taste as good as it smells.” That same part of me was like, “This may very well be the last time I eat a Cinnabon; it’s not doing it for me.” And then there was the disgusted part of me that was like, “Here it is, January 1, 2014, my year without sugar! And I’m eating a Cinnabon. Well, so much for 2014! Guess I’ll just have to wait till 2015!” This is where the one-day-at-a-time thing comes in. How ridiculous is that?! It’s 10:30am on January 1, 2014, and because I’m eating something with sugar I have to wait another YEAR to go without sugar?! Now, although it didn’t stop me from eating the sugar, that doesn’t mean I have to wait ANOTHER YEAR to kick sugar! Do you see where I’m coming from?
Which brings me back to Christmas. Some people might look at that as a failure because I didn’t stay off sugar. But the thing is, I was off sugar for 10 days! It’s 10 days I went without sugar! During the holidays!
… and it brings me back to why I want to go off sugar and processed foods to begin with. I want to get healthy, not mostly healthy, not pretty healthy, but healthy. I already exercise most days. I already eat pretty well. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. We make our own salad dressing. Mark makes his own soup broth. I eat mostly fresh foods, but if I do eat processed foods, it’s sweets. And I want to kick that craving. I know I’ve said it before; you’ve even heard me say it here before! Change is hard, remember? And I’ve done it for a bit in the past… now I want to do it again. And again. And again. Until new neural pathways are created and I no longer crave sugar.
It’s called a practice for a reason.