Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolutions?

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

On my way out of the office last Friday, the day before New Year's Eve, someone asked me if I had any New Year's resolutions. I replied trying to sound clever, "I don't make New Year's resolutions. I aim to improve myself every day!". While at that moment I was being flippant I started thinking about that comment and resolutions in general.

I am not a believer in New Year's resolutions and really have never made any. I know that January 1st can act as a powerful symbol and trigger for many folks out there. That's great. But we all know a high percentage of New Year's resolutions don't stick. Why is that?

Via Dan Pink's blog I came across this short interview witKelly McGonigal dealing with making personal changes, resolutions and willpower:
Most people make a fundamental mistake when thinking about their future choices. We wrongly but persistently expect to make different decisions tomorrow than we do today.
I’ll skip the gym today, but I’m sure I’ll go tomorrow. I’ll put this on my credit card today, but no more shopping for a month. I don’t want to get started on the project now, but I’ll tackle it first thing in the morning. The more people have faith in their futures selves, the more likely they are to indulge today. In fact, just knowing you’ll have the chance to choose again tomorrow increases the chance you’ll choose habit or vice today.
When mentees discuss with me things they'd like to change about themselves I guide them towards making that desired change into a new habit. Many planned big changes are successfully actualized over many small incremental changes and then hitting a 'tipping point'. Each of those incremental steps is its own resolution, its own decision, its own mini-goal. Let's break up our big goals into smaller, achievable goals that occur over many days and not just all of a sudden on one day - New Year's.

Kelly's point in part is to imagine your current bad habit as never ending and picturing your current behavior as propagating itself into eternity for you. If your choices today (go to the gym or stay home, eat too many cookies or an apple instead, etc.) lock you in forever it leaves you less "cheating wiggle room". I've not tried this form of behavior changing technique but it sounds very interesting to me.

Back to the initial comment. Individuals who seek out mentors are doing so to improve themselves at some level. My belief is that each day we all get the opportunity to choose to do better than we did the previous day. Each day we all get to choose conversation over confrontation, partnership over prejudice, exercise over immobility, etc.

For those of us wanting to change every single day is New Year's Day! Each day we're alive is worthy of a resolution!

PS: I do make one exception to this "no resolutions" post: if you have resolved to become a mentor or seek out a mentor this year then GO FOR IT! :)