Strategies for the “R” Word

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

I know I’m a little late for this, and that’s because I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t like the word Resolutions. It seems very hard, concrete, with no room for error. Like if you don’t keep your resolution, you’ve somehow failed, and who needs that kind of pressure? I like Intentions. Intentions are much softer, more squishy. Maybe a little too squishy for this purpose, so I’m going to go with Goals. It’s somewhere in between, sort of pliable, but not too much.

You may have heard the saying, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” The planning is part of what separates goals from resolutions and intentions. The planning gives you tools to help you succeed.

Recently, we spent some long hours on the road and, as usual, we used this time to listen to podcasts. One of our favorites is “Ten Percent Happier” with Dan Harris. Dan speaks to the science nerd in me and, to be honest, the skeptic. On the list of episodes we had not yet heard was “The Science of Making – and Keeping – New Year’s Resolutions” with Hal Herschfield, a professor of marketing, behavioral decision-making and psychology at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

The science part of it grabbed me, even if the title included that dreaded word resolutions, so I gave it a listen. It was one of the best podcasts I’ve heard in terms of practical steps to achieving goals, so I listened to it again and took copious notes in order that I could share with you. If you are not familiar with the Ten Percent Happier app, I highly recommend it. Here are the highlights:

      • January 1 is a good starting point for resolutions because of the “fresh start effect” of the new year, an opportunity to start doing things we want to do. “This will be the time I succeed.” However, most resolutions are broken by February. Everyday life just takes over and we are sucked back in to the present (like that’s a bad thing?).
      • Behavior change is hard but do-able with the right strategies.
      • Try different strategies to see which works for you. Keep two or three that you can use on the regular.
      • Don’t change everything all at once. One successful change can lead to others, so try small changes first. Those small successes will encourage you.
      • When making goals, you are making commitments to your future self. If you dial down the pain/sacrifice to your present self, you are more likely to do something that benefits the future self.

Specific, effective strategies, or what Hal Herschfield calls “Commitment Devices” include:

      • Emergency Goal Reserves – Every year I commit to doing Yoga with Adrienne’s 30 Day Yoga Journey. Every year I make it to about day 15. Emergency goal reserves allows me to commit to seven days a week of yoga, with two reserve days. So if I miss one day, I just dip in to my reserves and I don’t feel like I failed. I love this idea and will definitely be using it.
      • Write a letter to your future self – This one seems a little hokey to me, but I figure it won’t hurt to try. Start with your future self 5 years down the road. And then write a letter back from your future self to your present self. If you’re struggling with this one, think about what you’d right to your past self, and that should help.
      • Find an accountability partner – This is what I do with the yoga journey. We each send each other a quick text, something like YWA Day 2 done.
      • Up the accountability partner anti with an app like This app provides an incentive and accountability tool to meet your goals. You actually put money on the line to turn the goal into reality, and to really make it “stickk” you’re contributing to an “anti-charity,” an organization you are at odds with. YIKES! I have mixed feelings about this approach. It seems like punishment and I’m just not into that.
      • Make the present easier – Find ways to reduce the sacrifice to your present self. For instance listen to an engaging audio book ONLY when you are using the treadmill. Another good one that I will be trying.

While I don’t necessarily agree with all the suggestions stated above, I’m presenting a summary of the program and you get to decide what works and what doesn’t work for you. And as Dan Harris and Hal Herschfield both shared in their closing remarks, there is a danger of doing too much for the future, while missing out on the present. Don’t sacrifice now for a brighter future.

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