Monday, February 28, 2011

More Ideas about Resolutions and Goals

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? Are you finding it difficult to change, despite resolving to make it finally happen this year?

When reading Psychology Today, this month, I came across a very interesting article about training your brain to help you reach your goals without having to use sheer willpower.

The crux of this article was social psychologist and author, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. remarks that using the ‘if-then’ technique can be incredibly useful (and 2-3 times more powerful) for “resisting temptation and building good habits”. The technique basically entails making a specific if-then statement about your goal. So, if your goal is to stop eating after 8pm, the revised goal would be: IF it is after 8pm, THEN I will not eat any more food. Or, if your goal is to stop leaving dishes in the sink, your revised goal would be: If I see dishes in the sink, THEN I will wash them immediately before leaving the kitchen.

The reason this technique is so useful is because your brain is biologically programmed to determine behavior from your surroundings. Your brain is always automatically scanning your surroundings for “if” situations, in order to help you know what to do next. So, using an if-then statement creates a link or a bond between the cue (seeing dishes) and the behavior (washing the dishes). This link can become automatic, so you will unconsciously have already told your body what to do in the given situation, which means you will use less conscious will power to go ahead and do the activity. In other words, the dishes will get done and you will decrease your eating after 8pm.

As I mentioned last month, it is important to be gentle with yourself and know that it takes time to get used to any new habit. No one is perfect and making changes often happens incrementally. There will be ups and downs. If you make your goals into if-then statements, your brain can do some of the hard work for you.

This is one more trick in your tool bag of living the life you want. In turn, you will find you can make the changes you want to make for 2011 and for many years to come.

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