Welcome to 2023! The time of year where our professional inboxes are saturated with stat 9-11 requests and fire drills while our personal lives are supposed to embrace affirming mantras like:
“New Year. New You.”
“Fresh Year. Fresh start.”
And, “This year will be different”.
Many of us will be raptured into believing the lofty goals we couldn’t achieve last year (or maybe even the year before), are possible this year. We will ride the emotional high of encouragement that motivates us to start, not recognizing the skills required to get us started are not the same ones needed to keep us going.
So, why can’t we “Just Do It?” Why can’t we keep the commitments we resolve to keep in January by the time we enter December?
The answer comes down to Science.
While cute slogans make for great commercials, they are not the answer to long-term, sustainable change.
There is a science to making change.
And it’s hard to leapfrog over the steps and cheat science.
This is the reason 92% of us who set a New Year’s Resolution or goal this year will not achieve them.
While willpower, motivation, and discipline tend to take the blame, research tells us that none of those characteristics alone can sustain long-term change.
A new year using old processes is almost guaranteed to give you more of the same ole’ results.
So if you’re ready to stop settling for starting strong and instead plan to finish strong this year, here are 5 ways to increase your chances:
Be more afraid of your Brain-emy than your frenemies. I know most of us are always looking out for our haters, but the biggest hater of change is our brains. Biologically our brain wants to stick in the safe, stable, and predictable lanes. So instead of supporting change, our brains can unconsciously sabotage them. Habit stacking is a great way to align your new change with your brain’s old ways. Attach your new habit with an old habit you already have. For me, I attach working out with a shower. I’m always going to take a shower. So, I earn a shower AFTER I work out.
Embrace 15>0. If you are an overachiever, 15 will never feel like enough. Most of us ambitious people tend to set our goals based on where we want to end up instead of building up to it. Become consistent with a 15-20 minute or a smaller change first. If you ultimately want to drink 90 oz of water per day, get consistent with drinking 8oz first. Get consistent with that small change and build on it. If you can’t stay consistent with an easy goal, it will be hard to stay consistent with a harder one.
1>0. If your brain hates 1 change, think about how much resistance it’s going to give you to 5 changes at one time. Most of us don’t realize that many goals are multilayered. If you want to lose weight, there are likely multiple changes required. Start with one specific change like eating a healthy salad for lunch on Monday and Wednesday. Consistently achieving one goal is better than not achieving 5. Start with 1, then add.
Sports bras for the win. I run 4 times per week. One morning during my run, I realized I made a tragic mistake. I wore the wrong bra. The discomfort of my bouncing tatas made it hard for me to finish the run. I needed more support, and so do you. The research says you can increase your probability of success by simply being accountable to 1 or more people. Scientifically and biblically, two are better than one.
Everyone loves a party. The brain loves rewards. It’s a great reinforcement for good changes. Track your small changes and reward them. Maybe take yourself to the movies or the nail salon or your favorite spot to celebrate and reinforce your good behavior. "Reward" is the last stage in the habit loop, so rewarding yourself gets you closer to creating a habit. Your good efforts deserve a reward!
The year is new, but if your mindset, processes, and barriers are the same, you will likely continue sabotaging your own change. This year, let’s not just get the party of change started, let’s keep it going.
Najah Drakes is a Work-Life Balance Strategist, Personal Development Coach, and Self Care Expert at Spark Her Blaze. She helps successful women to purposefully achieve as much success in their personal lives as they do in their professional lives. After over 20 years of working with multi-million dollar companies, Najah now uses her strategic and data analysis skills to help women harness the data of their lives to empower them to live more purposefully physically, mentally, and spiritually.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn: Najah (Ade) Drakes