Why is it for most of us that New Year Resolutions fail?
Article by Jackie Hill http://www.fastforwardtherapies.co.uk
Do you realize that most people, have just as much chance of winning the lottery as succeeding with their New Year resolutions?
Yet despite suffering repeated emotional self-judgments such as feelings of guilt, blame and failure, every year like some perverse magnet many people are drawn to do it again and again.
Research has shown that 80% of New Year Resolutions are broken by the end of January, and if they are to do with health, even earlier – by the 2nd week of the year! Remarkably around only 5% manage to persevere to the end of the year.
If you are one of the 95%, what stops you from achieving success? After all, you are doing it because you want to. Aren’t you? What do YOU really want?
Taken at face value, this question may be easy to answer, for example you may want to stop smoking, lose weight, be successful in business, be more active etc. Yet unless you stop to think about it and ask yourself the reasons why you want those things and in what ways will your life change if you succeed, are you really in a position to decide what it is you really want?
I have found that often when I ask people I work with what it is that they really want and reasons why they want it, a common answer is usually a list of things that they don’t want – for example, a person wanting to stop smoking might say “because I don’t want lung cancer” or “because I can’t afford to smoke anymore”. Rarely does someone say “because I want to breathe fresh air and feel fit and healthy” or “because I want to save up and travel”. Furthermore, some people might say the reason why they want to stop is “because my family is worried about my health”. Which is more about what other people want for them than what they want for themselves.
So why do people usually compose negative lists of “don’t wants” when asked what it is they want? Why is it they do not usually answer with the positive things they are seeking? Unfortunately, this is because most people have learnt to think in the negative sense most of the time.
So here’s what happens for a lot of people when making New Year resolutions (or any resolutions for that matter!). They choose their goal without really flushing out what it is exactly what they want; in other words they have an idea of a goal built up from a series of “don’t wants”. This poses a problem regarding results which is why most resolutions fizzle out. This is because a law of the mind is that it is impossible for your brain to process negatives.
Let me explain. If I say to you now “don’t think of a pink elephant walking across the room” what did you think of? You had to think of a pink elephant walking across the room, which is precisely what I asked you not to think of. This is because before the brain can negate something it has to think of it first.
Here’s another one “don’t think of a castle”. It’s impossible not to think of a castle. Get the picture? The key word that triggers this process is the negative phrase “don’t ” which is in actual fact two words “do not”. Notice how our language considers the positive “do” followed by the negative .
As an exercise just think about the following “has” and “hasn’t” “have” and “haven’t”; “did” and “didn’t” “is” and “isn’t” and so on. So here you can in these examples how our minds process in the positive naturally: and we as humans have learnt to add the negative. So when making new year resolutions, it is important to decide what goal we want and what we want from it, and to avoid the list of don’t wants.
The good news is that you can just as easily learn how to process your thoughts positively using language by coaching in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), thereby un-learning negative thought processes.
Emotions too are key to success. Likewise if you feel you MUST change because of what someone else expects from you, consider for a moment how the subconscious mind interprets “must”. The word “must” implies an element of force, thereby associating negative emotions to the resolution. This compromises your commitment and intention to change, plus has the sense that you are being deprived of something pleasurable, therefore the whole thing lacks fun and excitement. Hardly a recipe for longevity, but more likely for disaster!
Just by spending some time looking at what you want a little deeper, you can ascertain your level of intention and motivation. These are key players as to whether your resolution will be a success. For example, you may uncover a hidden benefit from not changing. After all, the behaviour many people want to stop/change could be meeting some of their needs – if it wasn’t they might not be doing it in the first place. So when thinking about what you want, in order to succeed it is important to know what it is that you want, and to always state your goal (desired outcome) in the positive, and be aware of the reasons why you want it.
Knowing when you have got what you want? This is an important step in goal setting. To be successful in achieving your desired goal, you will need to ask yourself “what do I want?” in relation to every aspect of your life for example; health, career, relationships, financial etc. and secondly how will you know when you've got it? So maybe your goal is to be slim? The question now to ask is “How will you know when you are slim? “ your answer may be – “when I can wear my size 12 jeans”. This is an objective logical conscious thought and has no emotion attached to it. But it is a start.
Now you need to get your unconscious mind involved, using your imagination create an image of yourself wearing your size 12 jeans. When you have the image, step into the image and ask yourself what you see, hear and feel. Feel the response of others towards you. Remember the more vividly a goal is imagined the more your unconscious mind can help you achieve it.
If the emotions you are experiencing are exciting, pleasant and desirable, then you can start to persuade your subconscious mind to accept a slimmer you. Now you will know what you will feel like when you succeed. This is how you will know when you’ve got what you want.
The Power of Emotions – the key to the desires of your heart
Modern brain imaging technology can see activity in the brain, and scientists can now show that there is proven link between the number and strength of neural pathways that are associated with a thought and behaviour. Through this technology we can now know that when a person is in a highly emotional state the neural connections are stronger and longer lasting than when they are in a calm state.
One of the reasons most people fail in achieving their new year resolutions is because the decision to change is done casually, with little or no emotion whatsoever, and with no strong emotional reasons as to why. Goal setting should not be taken lightly. It is a vitally important and serious matter, after all, this is your life and it is not a rehearsal!
Beliefs and Expectations determine the outcome What you believe about yourself and the world around you will determine your success or failure. If you are confident about your ability, you can do something, even when you’ve never done it before, your attitude and approach to the task will be positive, and your actions will produce a positive result.
Furthermore, if you believe in your ability, you are more likely to see problems that come up as challenges and not as obstacles, you will be more open to find solutions, and to seek out other people who can help you and learn from them. This tenacity and attitude will not go unnoticed by others and people will become to know you as someone who is focused and can achieve and work things out, thereby re-inforcing and validating your belief in yourself and your own capabilities.
Likewise, on the other hand, if you don’t believe you are capable in achieving the task, because you don’t see the point, or you don’t know how, then your attitude, enthusiasm and thinking will be limited, and your actions will be half-hearted. As a result you will give up before very long, that’s if you even start in the first place. Other people will not take you seriously and decline from supporting you in your efforts.
All this is likely to put you off from attempting anything else in the future. Your expectations are a dominant force in determining the outcome, in short, if you expect to fail – you will! Do you value yourself? When making promises to yourself do you let yourself down?
Hypnotherapy and NLP coaching can help you understand where these limiting beliefs come from and help you let go of them and install new empowering ones. Through this process you can let go of the past and adopt new ways of living. Many people that are serious about their goals and achievements have taken this route to success. The process of change Goal Setting – the importance of visualization.
What does being successful feel like? Another law of the mind is that the unconscious cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy. The use of visualization and imagery helps us to “programme” our minds to accept something that we would like to become, and work with us in turning that into a reality. By incorporating our emotions through our imagination and visualization we are enabling our mind to accept our desired outcome. The more we do this, the more powerful this becomes, and strengthens the belief that attaining this desired outcome (goal) is achievable.
Do not underestimate the power of visualization. Once our mind has accepted the desired outcome as a reality, then it will work towards manifesting that reality in our lives. Goal setting – the importance of repeated positive affirmations. Goal setting is not a one-time event. Our brains are naturally programmed so that certain behaviours keep repeating themselves.
Scientists can now tell us that new neural patterns begin to form only after they have been repeated enough times. Most people make their resolutions on 1st January and never repeat or reinforce their desire for change. As a result their resolutions wither and die. Forcing new behaviours through conscious effort (ie. Willpower) quickly fizzle out as no new habits are formed and the person slips back to their old ways – often feeling worse than before, feeling useless, weak, guilty, and a failure.
By repeating positive affirmations to ourselves over and over each day, the possibility gradually takes root in the subconscious mind. This means thinking in positive terms, mental pictures, affirming your goals out loud to yourself, every day repeatedly many times, until the new habit is formed by your subconscious mind switching it to think the new behaviours/thoughts to “automatic”.
You may even like to write them down, or put positive images around to constantly remind you. Willpower alone often fails us and may only cause to exacerbate the problem as each repeated failure pours down more self-judgment of shame, guilt, and blame. By trying to force new behaviours using willpower while continuing with your old ways of thinking, failure is inevitable. This is because willpower is a conscious activity. Now imagine your mind is like an iceberg. The smaller part is visible and above the surface of the ocean (this is the conscious mind) and the larger part is hidden under the surface (the sub-conscious). Most of our automatic behaviour (habits or learned behaviour) is under sub-conscious control, hidden with little no effort involved often manifested without us even having to think. If we don’t change negative learning and thought patterns that our subconscious minds have absorbed during our formative years and the past our minds may be like that larger part of the ice-berg that sunk the Titanic by sabotaging our good intentions.
The good news is we can deal with this inner conflict by learning new thought processes, responses and behaviours by harnessing the larger power of the subconscious mind to work for us and not against us. Goal setting – Putting them into context. This is an important process as it narrows each goal down to be specific, and in a time line. Change is not one big leap, but a series of steps along the way towards the desired outcome. Each step has to become attainable, measurable and realistic. You will need to ask yourself when – defining timescales, where – place and with whom. To change you need to be able to visualize the benefits of that change to help your mind understand why you want to change.
Goal setting – the importance of reviews
Earlier in this article I said that goal setting was not a one-off event. Another reason why a lot of resolutions fail is because each step towards the goal and even the desired outcome itself are not regularly reviewed. So get into the habit of periodically re-evaluating your progress at each different stage. By doing this you can learn what is working for you and understand how the changes that are taking place within you and your environment are impacting. Using this information you can make the appropriate changes as when necessary.
Check out your attitude, keep track and modify. Allow for slip-ups. In making your action plan for change you are embarking on a new journey of discovery. From each “slip-up” you will learn something new about yourself if you look for the positive. If you allow yourself to feel negative judgments then you are living in the past, and not in the present moment.
Some emotions can have a negative effect attached to their goals, and in doing so results in negative behaviour. For example; a person may become more stressed and anxious the closer he/she gets to their goal. Typically this person might become irritable, short-tempered and/or display aggressive and desperate behaviour. When this happens their conscious mind cannot make sense of it – after all why should they become more anxious when they are near to their desired outcome. What can sometimes happen is two things; one a fear of failure and secondly a fear of success. Both these fears have their roots in the subconscious mind.
It is helpful to examine this more closely in a life-coaching, therapeutic or counseling situation, as the belief that they could fail, in fact may attract that failure to themselves by exhibiting the negative behavior changes.
Hypnotherapy and NLP (Neural Linguistic Programming) are excellent ways of achieving a "spring clear out". These approaches help you get rid of any negative emotions, and let go of limiting beliefs, replacing them with empowering thoughts that attract the results you want. No such thing as failure – Just lessons towards success!
Failure shows us what does not work and points us towards another direction. As individuals it is up to us to make a decision whether we are going to repeat ideas and ways that have shown us not to work, or whether, if we are serious about wanting to change, to take a new path in a different direction. If you are focused on your desired outcome, you can use any “slip-backs” as lessons and learn from them, in order to proceed forward.
And remember; change takes time – accept that and be focused. New year resolutions can have a positive theme, in that that the annual ritual can be used as an effective tool that offers us an opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate our progress, assess our lives and to identify areas of change and/or modification. They can be pivotal in inspiring us for new experiences that lay ahead.
Best Wishes and every success
Jackie Hill BSc (Hons); Adv.Dip.SACH.Hyp.; MBHA; GHSE
Fast Forward Therapies If you wish to know how I can help you achieve your goals please contact me on 0033 470679426 or http://www.fastforwardtherapies.co.uk
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