December 31, 2014

Using Science & Soul to make Commitments instead of Resolutions.

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Whether we like it or not, most of us are having conversations about New Years resolutions.

And even if we’re not, we often can’t help but wonder how next year can be different, better somehow. Approximately half of us will take the plunge and make a resolution. Then we’ll feel fabulously energized, exhilarated, hopeful—and a little frightened. But we’ll probably also be dreadfully underprepared to actually succeed.

Each year, about 48 percent of people (about 151.7 million people in the U.S. alone) make a resolution. Yet January finds almost all of them failing. That’s why only eight percent will succeed. I think we can improve our odds by staying mindful about the nature of commitment and leveraging the power of our nervous system.

The moment of commitment is easy. Anyone can succeed at making a promise. But as we all know, the hard part is keeping it. If we want to keep our promises, we need to redefine “commitment” as the process of “recommitment.” Recommitment is the day-to-day, moment-by-moment decision to act on behalf of your promise or goal.

Over time, this process is highly beneficial because it allows us to become intrepid explorers of our what truly motivates us. But it’s also an incredibly difficult and monotonous experience.

Thankfully, we all possess a hidden superpower that will supercharge our chances of success because it transforms the grueling recommitment process into something that’s not only easy—but fun and blissful. This superpower is our nervous system and it controls one of the largest pharmacies on planet earth: the human body. There are ways to tap its tremendous power so its chemicals are working for us and not against us.

I created this list of science and soul tips to leverage the power of the nervous system. Using them will make the recommitment process more rich, pleasurable, and rewarding on a day-to-day basis.

Choose A Delicious Word

Even if we have a 10 on the commitment level, we probably don’t really care about losing weight, de-cluttering the garage, writing that long-lost book or meditating more. These are merely actions on a to-do or bucket list. We want to do them because accomplishing them makes us feel a certain way.

Bring that feeling into the process so you don’t have to wait until you’re successful to experience it. What’s that sexy feeling you’re really looking for? Is it electric, playful, magnificent, peaceful, free, brave, divine, inspired, limitless? Naming the pulse of desire is the key to tapping the power of the nervous system.

Create A DIY Affirmation

Affirmations aren’t just things we tell ourselves to feel good. They’re answers to prayers we didn’t know we had. But this is only true if you access personal affirmations—the ones that rise up from your consciousness in moments of presence.

Create a truly potent one by using this method: pause, recall, scan and allow. You’ll pause, focus on your word, do a quick body scan and allow your affirmation to rise up. This usually takes about 30 seconds to a minute. Use your affirmation often, and especially when things feel challenging. This is an incredibly powerful and motivating technique that both soothes the nervous system and puts you in direct communication with your subconscious.

Make a Mixtape

After we locate a word and an affirmation, we need an anthem. Pick a song that makes you feel like the irresistible, powerful, magical, invincible being you are. I like Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Billy Idol’s “Dancin’ With Myself,” and Madonna’s “Give It 2 Me.” The emotional power of music instantly changes and influences our emotions and motivation.

Anticipate the Top Three Obstacles

Make a list of your top three obstacles. What are the patterns, relationships or situations that will prevent success? Then, write down three things you can do to overcome them. This list is a back-up when new habits are threatened by resistance.

Rock A Rewards Program

The nervous system needs constant care and feeding. When we do this, it creates a reward feedback loop that cascades through our system. Neuroscientists call this “positive cascading.” Make a list of 10 to 15 rewards you can gift yourself. Make sure they represent a range of experiences, from super-quick to spectacular. Use them as often as possible. Do not, under any circumstances, put them off until you’re satisfied with your success. Schedule the big ones in now.

Down A Pleasure Shot

Pleasure shots bump happy chemicals up and make the nervous system buzz. They’re the little things that make us smile (no matter what’s going on) and require virtually no effort on our part to enjoy. When you make a conscious decision to support your nervous system, it rewards you by cascading even more happy chemicals than it would otherwise.

Examples of my pleasure shots are hanging out with my animals or making an outrageously perfect hot chocolate. Make a list of at least five and do a shot immediately before, during, or after you work on your goal.

Re-define Satisfaction

For many of us, the magical ability to be satisfied has atrophied. Take back control by defining the conditions that will make you feel satisfied and stick to them. Make the conditions small, easy, and attainable.

So instead of I will feel satisfied when I lose 20 pounds, your condition becomes I will feel satisfied each time I eat in a healthy, affirming way. Or, I will feel satisfied every time I drink a green juice. Here’s another example: I will feel satisfied when I finish the rough draft of my book becomes I will feel satisfied each day I show up for a writing session. You’ll decrease your stress response by allowing yourself to feel satisfied.

Learn From Failure

Scientists often say that we’re risk-averse because we don’t like failure. But sometimes I take on challenges that I know I’ll fail. I’m never really aware of this at the time, but after the failure I allow the suspicion to rise to the surface. I wanted a chance to practice tolerating failure with grace and dignity. Turn daily failures into lessons and hop back on the resolution highway the next day.

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Author: Cynthia Lindeman

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Jennifer/Flickr

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