Monday, December 30, 2013

Four Proven Tips on Keeping New Year's Resolutions

We are starting January with a Sermon Series on regaining our spiritual momentum. It is for every person who wants to "Get Back" to a place they have been before. At the same time, lots of people are thinking and talking about new resolutions. Of course, the research on resolutions is discouraging: A study of 3,000 people from the University of Hertfordshire found that 88% broke their resolutions - even people who resolved merely to “enjoy life more” failed 68% of the time. I wanted to pass along some great ideas I read earlier from two brothers who are brilliant writers and researchers in the area of motivation, momentum, and productivity. These four research-based tips to improve your chances of keeping your resolutions were first shared by Chip and Dan Heath. 

1. Look for your bright spots. Psychologists tell us that we are wired to look at the negative. One famous study concluded that, when it comes to the way we think, “bad is stronger than good.” So when it comes to changing our lives, we’ll tend to ask ourselves, “What’s the problem and how do I fix it?” But often we can benefit more by asking a different question: “What’s working and how can I do more of it?” In other words, we can learn from our own “bright spots.” 

2. Make one change at a time. Over the last 15 years, a series of studies in psychology has confirmed a sobering result: Our self-control is exhaustible. The research shows that we burn self-control in many different situations: when controlling our spending; holding in our emotions; managing the impression we’re making on others; resisting temptations; coping with fears; and many, many others. Why is this important? Because any life change will require careful self-monitoring and self-regulation—in other words, self-control. Self-control is the fuel that allows change to succeed, but it is limited. For that reason, you will have a better chance of success if you can focus on one change at a time. If you try to change jobs and exercise routines and relationship habits all at once, you are more likely to stall, because you’ve run out of “fuel.”

3. Turn that one change into a habit. Steve Gladdis of London found that he was constantly falling behind on his personal “to do” list. “Looking at the list on my phone now,” he said, “I need to hang those pictures, phone a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, extract that box from the back of the shed, investigate child-friendly mousetraps, the list really does go on and on.” He resolved to create a daily routine: Every morning, like clockwork, he’d finish one task. “Once I’m on a roll, it seems easy to carry on. I remember to look at my list for today’s task because I’m used to doing it, and I almost look forward to ticking off that day’s chore,” he said. Habits are effective because, once established, they no longer burn self-control. You’ll be more likely to keep your resolution if you can turn it into a habitual behavior—something that happens in the same time and place on a regular cycle.

4. Set an “action trigger” to start your habit ASAP. What’s the best way to start a habit? It is by using a mental plan an “action trigger.” Action triggers (I will do something at this place or following a regular event) can be surprisingly effective in motivating action. One study found that Physical Therapy patients who used action triggers recovered more than twice as fast as others. Psychologists have compared action triggers to “instant habits” because what they do, in essence, is make our behavior automatic when the trigger moment comes. Seize that power for yourself: Jump-start a new habit by setting an action trigger.

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