It’s that time again!
If you’re anything like most folks, January 1st always brings big aspirations about what’s possible the coming year.
- Hit the gym and lose 15 pounds?
- Quit smoking, TV, or carbs?
- Spend less time on your phone or Facebook?
- Write the next great American novel?
- Get your business massively into the black?
Whatever fresh start you’ve got in your sights, I’ve got some sobering news…
New Year’s resolutions are a complete waste of time!
You’ve probably observed the annual pattern of short-lived good intentions over the years, but here are the stats…
According to a recent study from the University of Scranton, only 8% of all people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
The other 92%?
Well, not to sound harsh, but if you could ask each of them personally, they’d surely tell you they couldn’t drop those stubborn 15 pounds because “the gym was always too crowded”; or they’d come up with clever rationalizations to explain how they were always “too busy to read for 30 minutes before bed every night.”
And hey, we’ve all found ourselves making resolutions every year just to see them fade away as time goes by (I’m as guilty as anyone else!)
In fact, most of us are unable to keep up with our resolutions past the first few days of the year…
Studies have shown that close to 70% of people who’ve made New Year’s resolutions will have abandoned them within the first two weeks!
So what’s the difference between those who actually achieve their goals, and those who keep making excuses?
What keeps pushing us off course whenever we THINK we’re on the right track to reaching our goals?
What separates the doers from the dreamers?
You might want to sit down for this one, because…
Your brain is getting in the way of your success!
More specifically, a part of our brain called the “basal ganglia,” which is in charge of certain motor functions, pattern recognition, procedural learning, and, most importantly:
Humans are hardwired to resist changes to our behavior; it’s simply part of our nature.
“Between the great things we cannot do, and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.”
Now, don’t get me wrong…
This doesn’t mean all your resolutions are doomed from the start.
It just means you’ll have to tackle them from a different angle, one that’s more in-tune with your biochemistry.
Lasting change can only be achieved through the power of HABITS
Those who fail have their minds completely set on these “specific goals,” but they are not aware of the small changes that need to take place in order to actually succeed.
And what’s even worse, this failure to achieve goals plagues every aspect of our lives, from our relationships with friends and family, to our day jobs, and our online businesses!
This might sound cliché, but humans are creatures of habit!
Successful people are simply those with successful habits.
In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg tells the story of “Eugene”—a man whose brain was so damaged by a viral infection that he survived with only his short-term memory, and the memories of his life prior to the infection.
That’s a pretty tough situation, but something interesting happened in the final decades of Eugene’s life, when he and his wife moved to be closer to their children.
If asked to draw a simple map of his new home or neighborhood, he couldn’t do it, since he had absolutely no memory of this new location.
However, he was able to successfully navigate his way around their home, find items in the cupboards with ease, and even take a stroll around the neighborhood…as long as NOTHING changed along his route.
So how was he able to do this with absolutely no memory?
The short answer is: the virus didn’t damage his basal ganglia!
Eugene was basically living day to day on “autopilot.”
…much like when you can’t remember if you locked the door—you did, of course, you just can’t remember because you were “sleepwalking” through a well-established routine!
By studying Eugene’s unique condition, researchers came to this conclusion:
You are literally little more than the repetition of your behaviors.
In fact, research shows that over 40% of all our daily activities are simply routines that require little conscious thought.
Thus, if you’re truly motivated to create different results in your life, it’s imperative that you break bad habits and replace them with good ones.
But how do we get rid of those age-old habits?
The process starts with an audit
Dreamers fantasize about the rewards while doers must first understand where they currently are to figure out where they want to go, and how to get there.
We are all susceptible to our bad habits.
It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.
I’ll give you a personal example: a couple of years ago I catalogued my routine and found that I was falling far short of what I deemed acceptable…
You might ask yourself similar questions:
- How much am I exercising?
- How well am I eating?
- How much am I reading?
- How often am I creating content for my business?
- How often am I using social media for network marketing (instead of personal entertainment)?
During my audit, I found that…
- I wasn’t exercising regularly
- I was eating out far too much
- I’d not read nearly enough books in the past 12 months
- And I wasn’t creating an acceptable output of content
Does this sound familiar?
Audit your own routine and identify the habits you’d like to replace.
“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”
Once you’ve got a clear picture of where you’re at and where you want to go, it’s time to take a look at…
The science of habit formation
In The Power of Habit, Duhigg describes the three-step neurological process that forms habit: the cue, the routine, and the reward.
What Duhigg calls the “Habit Loop” starts with the…
- Cue, an event that triggers your brain to react on autopilot through one of your habits; then, an emotional, physical or mental…
- Routine follows; and finally, the…
- Reward is presented, which helps the brain decide whether a particular “Habit Loop” is worth remembering or not.
STEP ONE: CHOOSE AN EFFECTIVE CUE
The first step toward replacing harmful habits is choosing a cue that will trigger an effective response.
It could be anything from a simple note on your refrigerator to something more complicated like setting a radio alarm clock to a specific station that will get you on board a particular train of thought that will ultimately lead to you take action.
Let’s say your goal is to get into the habit of jogging 30 minutes every morning.
What would remind you to go jogging?
- Setting an alarm on your cell phone?
- Hanging a poster of a professional athlete on your wall?
- Leaving your running shoes on the floor, next to your bed, so you literally stumble over them every morning?
You can try different cues, and experiment with any combination of them.
The goal is to figure out what works for you!
STEP TWO: PICK A REWARD
The reward within your particular Habit Loop needs to provide immediate and undeniable motivation so that you’ll immediately start to yearn for it the second you come in contact with your cue.
Think about what motivates you.
- Whether it’s a fine piece of chocolate waiting for you when you get home from jogging…
- An episode of your favorite sitcom just waiting on your DVR for you to press play…
- Or that collection of funny cat videos you’ve watched over and over, but still manages to crack you up every single time.
This step can be a bit tricky, especially since a time may come when you are no longer properly motivated by such a reward, which might lead you astray.
After a few days of executing your Habit Loop, you should ask yourself if you still crave the reward you’ve chosen.
If not, then it’s time to choose a new reward in order to continue building a powerful habit.
STEP THREE: EXECUTE YOUR PLAN
With your cue and reward in place, it’s time for action!
Execute your routine as part of your Habit Loop, and truly commit to your plan.
You could even put your plan in writing in order to really hammer it into your brain. It could be something like:
“Whenever I see [insert CUE here], I will [insert ROUTINE here], to get [insert reward here]”
Specifically, if we go back to the example of jogging…
“Whenever I see my running shoes next to my bed, I will go jogging, to get that delicious piece of chocolate.”
You get the idea…
You can adopt any new habit whenever you want…you just have to set your mind to it.
Now, in order to “stay with the program,” and continue to build favorable habits, it’s always a good idea to…
Set actionable, quantifiable goals
Dreamers imagine themselves reaching their goals with one giant leap, while doers realize the road to success is comprised of smaller, gradual steps.
One of the concepts of goal-setting that has become increasingly popular over the past few years is the SMART acronym, which basically states that in order to successfully reach objectives, your goals should be…
There’s just one problem with this popular methodology, however.
“There is no greater mistake than to try to leap an abyss in two jumps.”
—David Lloyd George
You see, while certain aspects of SMART goals are spot-on—such as setting specific, measurable, and time-based objectives—it fails when you ask if your goals are achievable and realistic, because those questions will cause you to look at your past experiences and inevitably limit your possibilities.
Think about it: if you’ve got a “moonshot” goal, how are you to determine whether it’s actually achievable and realistic for you?
After all, who’s more qualified to set, say, your fitness goals and timelines, you or a personal trainer?
This is the primary benefit of having a coach to work with you to achieve your goals: you could easily be the worst judge of your own potential.
So be aware of the biases you have based on your past, and don’t limit your possibilities based on them.
Now, another important consideration to be mindful of is this…
Staying motivated can be tricky
Staying motivated is extremely important, particularly when building new habits.
Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, discovered the primary forces of motivation after studying hundreds of employees at over half a dozen major companies.
Her recommendation for the most effective motivational tool?
Keeping a daily journal.
Doing meaningful work is one of the biggest drivers of motivation.
“Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.”
It’s been proven to be more important than any monetary reward, shockingly enough.
And the trick to creating meaning in even the most mundane is progress.
You deal with setbacks and negativity as part of your daily life.
However, by keeping a daily chronicle of progress towards your goals, you’ll be able to reflect on the positives, however small, which will elicit feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Here’s an idea…
Why not think of these feelings as the reward within a new Habit Loop in order to become a more productive person?
To stay motivated, record your progress consistently.
“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”
The most effective mode of journaling is to recollect and capture what you achieved over the course of your day.
These are your trophies.
Hang ‘em up to admire!
To sum things up…
I’d like to recap some of the key points we’ve covered here today:
- Humans are creatures of habit, and therefore hardwired to resist change.
- To defeat our human nature and achieve our goals, we need to replace harmful habits with good ones.
- New habits are formed through the “Habit Loop”: the cue, the reward, and the routine.
- The changes you wish to make to your behavior should be specific, measurable, and time-based.
- Tracking your progress through a journal will help you stay motivated.
We all have dreams and aspirations, and making them a reality is just a matter of plotting a specific course and using every available resource to stay on it.
Turn yourself into a “doer,” or your dreams will end up in the sewer
Doers and dreamers are not that different from each other; they are both driven by a genuine desire to make a change.
Hey, the world is your oyster!
YOU must decide if you’re a dreamer—perfectly content with fantasizing about the treasures hidden all over the globe, but never actually setting sail to find them…
Or a doer—looking to get more out of life, and willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means venturing into unknown territories and facing seemingly unbeatable odds.
Here’s the thing…
A dreamer’s ship will end up dead in the water, while a doer will harness the power of the wind to sail smoothly towards success..
The clock is ticking!
In a few more days, this week will be over.
Then, before you know it, this month will be done with.
And next thing you know, this year will zip by even faster than last year.
You’ll be either celebrating some big accomplishments, or looking back at another year of mediocre results, without a whole lot to brag about, still hoping next year will be better.
Unfortunately, most people will be in the latter camp.
Because as the old adage goes…
If ya keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’ll keep gettin’ the same results.
So, the big question is…
What are you going to DO differently this year, starting RIGHT NOW that will make this year bigger, better, and much more profitable than ever before?
Your answer will dictate what you do…and how today, this week, this month and the rest of the year will turn out for you.
Allow me to make a suggestion…
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