Terry Lancaster shares one magic word that will make your 2016 New Year’s resolutions last longer than your holiday leftovers.
Almost half of the population makes New Year’s resolution every year.
Forty some odd percent of everyone you know wants to lose weight, get in shape, save more money, make more money, quit smoking, be nicer to animals and small children.
Unfortunately, less than one out of ten of us are successful in reaching our New Year’s goals. Only eight percent of all New Year’s resolutions stick around until the end of the year.
We start the year with the best of intentions.
On January 2nd, we’re as pumped up as we’re ever going to be. We are highly motivated.
On January 2nd, we’re energetic and enthusiastic.
On January 2nd, we get up at the crack of dawn, hit the gym, and drink our protein smoothies.
On January 3rd, maybe we do it all again, only without quite as much energy and enthusiasm. The motivation is waning.
By the end of that first week though, most New Year’s resolution are relegated to the ashbin of history. Shipped off to the dump with all the wrinkled up Christmas wrapping paper and the 8 foot tall Spruce Pine that has now lost all its needles.
Most New Year’s resolutions drift away within a matter of days because we’re counting on motivation to push us through and keep us going.
And motivation is a fickle friend.
It’s great for the rah rahs on January 2nd. It’s great for getting us out of the starting gates.
But motivation is almost completely worthless for creating long term changes in our life because motivation is a depletable asset. The more we rely on it, the less of it we have to rely on.
Motivation will always fail you at the exact moment you need it most, the moment you run out of it.
And then what?
Mostly we go back to the couch and check the TV schedule. All the new shows should be returning by this point. There’s always next year. At least we got in a couple of decent workouts. That counts for something, right?
Today I’m going to teach you the one magic word for making your New Year’s resolution last longer than than your Christmas Spruce Pine.
The word is AUTOMATICITY
I have a degree in English, but I still had to go look this word up the first time I heard it to make sure it was a real word. It is.
AUTOMATICITY (noun): the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.
We all like to think we’re in charge of our day to day activities. That we’re going through life making this decision and making that decision.
We like to think that the life we lead is a product of the decisions we make.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Research shows that we spend as much as half our waking life on autopilot. Lost in our own thoughts, multitasking, checking our notifications on our phones, doing anything and everything except the thing that we’re actually doing.
Because most of the things we do are habits and routines. They don’t require our conscious thought. You arrive at home after your daily commute from work with almost no recollection of the drive. You don’t need to recall it because today’s commute is quite similar to yesterday’s and to the day before. You can’t recall it because you didn’t consciously drive home. You were on autopilot
Over the holidays, when you walked past the break room counter with all the holiday cakes and candies out, you didn’t DECIDE to take a piece of Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Bark and shove it in your mouth. You walked past the goody aisle, noticed all the goodies and your brain remembered that chocolate and sugar make it sparkle. The pleasure receptors in your brain were lighting up, enjoying the Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Bark, before your hand ever reached out to pick it up.
The truth is that the life we lead is not a product of the decisions we make.
The life we lead is a product of the habits we create.
And we can create better habits in order to build better lives if we can just learn to put the amazing super power of automaticity to work for good instead of evil.
Here are three strategies that you can use to build automaticity into your resolutions for the new year.
Choose an action so small that you almost can’t NOT do it.
Set a goal so achievable that it’s impossible to fail.
I’m talking about doing one push up.
Walking to the mailbox.
I had a friend email me the other night that she has started marching in place for one minute several times a day.
I’ve read of people who set their goal to get out of bed every morning and put their running shoes on. Not to run, just to put the gear on. Eventually after putting the running shoes on every day became a habit, they figured they might as well run.
Doing a pushup doesn’t deplete your motivation reserve. It doesn’t require any willpower to walk to the mailbox. Your brain knows how easy those tasks are; it’s not going to put a fight to talk you out of it. You can do those things. Easy Peasy.
Instead of of using up our motivation, these little tasks build up our confidence.
Quixotic goals do nothing but set set us up for failure and disappointment.
Expectations are the enemy of happiness.
But itty, bitty, teenie weenie, tiny little actions make it easy for you to check them off on your to do list. And there is nothing more satisfying on God’s Green Earth than a check mark on a To Do list.
Give yourself a literal check mark. Go borrow some Gold Star/Smiley Face stickers from your kid’s kindergarten teacher. Do your happy dance. Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care and shout to the universe:
“Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!”
Don’t be afraid to celebrate even your tiniest of victories, because your brain is always watching. If it notices that doing one pushup or walking to the mailbox or making one more sales call causes you to celebrate. It will start looking for more opportunities to make that happen. And just like with the Christmas Bark, the centers will light up before you even thinking about dropping to the floor doing another push up.
That’s how automaticity works
It says so right in the definition that automaticity is usually the result of learning, practice and repetition so pick a small action and repeat daily.
We’ve all heard that it take 21 days to create a new habit. But that’s actually a point of debate among habit researchers and psychologists.
I’m not sure if it takes 21 days or 31 days or 365 days to create a new habit, but I do know that once you build it into your routine, your new activity starts to take on a life of its own that’s really beyond your control.
A few years ago I decided to take a 31 day break from drinking. I never intended to quit drinking. I liked drinking, but after one month, I felt so good I decided to give it another month and then another. Drinking had been my habit and my routine for over three decades. Now I haven’t had a drink in over three years.
Last year, I set a New Year’s resolution to run every day, not very far and not very fast, but every damn day, rain or shine. As of today, I’ve ran at least a mile every day for the last 387 days. A couple of years ago I couldn’t run to the mailbox without stopping to catch my breath and earlier this year, I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge.
So this year, instead of making another WISH list of thing that would be nice to have or accomplish, make a TO DO list of what you’re going to do to make that shit happen.
And then think of ways to build automaticity into those actions to turn them into habits that you can turn into a lifestyle and make 2016 your best year ever … Automatically.