According to research, almost 60 percent of New Year’s resolutions will fail by the third week of January, with this number going up to 80 percent by February.
Nobody sets a goal with the view to fail. All of our New Year’s resolutions are set with the intention, commitment, drive, and determination to succeed.
So where does it go wrong?
Here is the science behind success and three key tips that can help us maximise our success.
When we set a new goal, we have to change our actions, how we think, and how we behave in order to achieve this new goal. Our brain has to learn a new way of doing something. The way our brain learns new behaviours, habits, or activities is by creating neural pathways. These pathways are how our nervous system communicates with our body. It is basically an instruction the brain sends to our body through the nervous system.
It takes us a minimum of 21 days of repeatedly doing the new behaviour before a neural pathway is made. The more we repeat the new behaviour, the stronger the neural pathway becomes. The stronger this neural pathway, the more normal the new behaviour feels for our brain and body, increasing our chances of being able to stick to it.
The brain is a creature of habit, and it doesn’t like to take on extra tasks or activities or learn new things, because this takes energy. The brain is so busy with all the other tasks it has to do that it tries to conserve and reserve energy. The first three weeks, the brain will try and flip back to the old behaviour because it is easier to do what you already know and do rather than having to learn something new.
Our brain will provide excuses, reasons, justifications, arguments, and in some cases even phantom symptoms convincing us that we can’t engage, pursue, or carry out the new behaviour.
We can find ourselves carrying out an internal battle saying:
>> “I’m too tired.”
>> “I don’t have time.”
>> “I need to go out my way.”
>> “It’ll be too much rushing around.”
>> “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
>> “I’ll start again next week.”
>> “I’ve ruined it now, so I might as well start afresh on Monday.”
>> “I’m never going to stick to it, so I might as well give up now.”
>> “I know I won’t be able to stick to it.”
For times like these, it is important to remember these few tips which can help us stick to achieving our goals successfully.
The key to successfully achieving a goal is by repeatedly doing it for the first 21 days. If you can do that, then you dramatically increase your chances of sticking to your new goal. The more you do something, the stronger the neural pathway, and the more normal, natural, and easier the new activity/behaviour begins to feel. The phrase “it takes 21 days to make or break a habit” doesn’t just come from thin air; it obviously stems from the way our brains are wired.
2. Be stronger than your strongest excuse
For every excuse the brain gives, find three good reasons to convince yourself why you should be doing it. By doing this, you are changing your mindset to focus on the end result, creating momentum and motivation for you to get going rather than debating or getting caught up with reasons as to why you shouldn’t be doing it.
3. Plan, prepare, and be proactive
Don’t just set a goal and hope for the best. Whatever your goal is, whether that is weight loss, finding a healthy relationship, changing jobs, or improving your health, you must make a plan by breaking down all the steps that are required in order to achieve that goal. Ask yourself what, where, when, why, and how you will make it happen.
By making a plan, you can make the necessary changes to your schedule and put measures into place to ensure that you can’t back out. For example, if the plan is to change jobs, break down all the steps that are required for that to happen and give yourself timescales by which to achieve these steps.
Who can help you? Where will you go for this help? When will you achieve these steps by?
The clearer you are about your plan, the clearer your vision and the more motivated you will begin to feel to work toward it.
By understanding the way our brain is wired and following these three tips, we can increase our chances of sticking to our goals. Furthermore, we can keep bringing our attention to the fact that we just have to get through January. The shorter timeframe seems manageable, realistic, achievable, and less overwhelming.