*this was originally published at Planswell.com
It’s 2019! You’ve popped the champagne, counted down, and kissed the person next to you. And just as likely, you’ve sworn off alcohol for the next six weeks, committed to losing 20 lbs, and vowed to find the relationship you’ve been dreaming of, or take the one you’re in to the next level.
This is a pretty common theme for the new year: set yourself up to give your “best year yet” by setting goals and resolutions. We start out strong, committed, and intent on riding out the energy of a new year / new you…so why the heck is it that 80% of resolutions are broken by the second week of February?
Because behaviour change is hard.
Our brains dictate our thoughts, and our thoughts dictate our behavior; so when we want to change a behaviour (get fit / stop eating chicken nuggets / save our money / find love), we have to change our thinking first. The tiny baby hiccup of a problem here is that when we want to make a change in our lives, our brains will always choose the path of least resistance, and will all but have a tantrum when we break from the norm. So changing our behaviour finds us fighting against ourselves, and everything we’ve known to be true, which is some pretty intense competition.
So if you want to stay on track for the whole year with the vision you’re mapping out on January 1, the trick is to forget about goals and resolutions, and instead set intentions. Here’s a top three list on how to do exactly this, in a way that feels good for you, your lifestyle, and that pesky subconscious thinking that will try to keep you eating Cheetos on the couch watching Drag Race, relentlessly swiping right, and ordering up yet another jacket for your dog on Amazon Prime.
- Determine how you want to feel: more than anything, when we want to make a positive change in our lives, it’s because we want to feel something other than how we feel now. Want to lose weight? You probably want to feel lighter and more secure in your own body. Want to save your money, and build up a little wealth? You probably want the feeling of freedom that comes with financial stability, and the ease of saying “heck yes!” to a vacation or weekend getaway, without stressing over how you’re going to pay it off later. Get clear with yourself by asking how is it you really want to feel, and start setting your intentions for the year from that place.
- Act as if: you’ve probably already heard the “dress for the job you want, not the one you have” ism; the idea is that when you start showing up in a particular way, you inherently change your behaviour by “acting as if” you already have it. It’s a life truth, and is fascinating to watch every single time it happens. So if you want to find an amazing relationship, ask “how would a person act if they were already in an amazing relationship?” Suddenly you’re saying “no” to the people who just don’t align with your vision of yourself, and saying “yes” to real possibilities who share the same values as you – or holding out for the one who’s worth the wait. If you want to make more money this year, ask yourself “how would a person who makes that kind of money act?” and almost by magic, that morning latte / lunch out / fear of asking for what you’re worth takes a back seat to showing up for yourself in a financially meaningful way.
- Go slow: it cannot be understated that each and every change you makes requires a lot of mental effort. So while it’s tempting to go cold turkey and trade nuggets for hemp hearts and resolve to get yourself to the gym 5 times a week to get fit, if you hit it too hard too fast, you’re almost guaranteed to fail. Your brain and lifestyle are primed reject that level of change in such a short timeframe. Instead, go slow. Go month my month to set mini intentions, as you adopt small and subtle changes to become your new reality. If “feeling healthy” is your goal, maybe January is the month you commit to getting an hour of exercise 3 times weekly. Perhaps February is when you commit to packing your lunch at home 4 days a week instead of buying it on site every day. By March you’ll be ready to set your alarm a little early twice a week and start your day with a short run or yoga practice. Slow and steady is the key to making the kind of lasting change you’re looking for.
You are already awesome; being an even you-er you makes you even more awesome. So if you’re ready to invest in yourself and make the changes you want to make, determine how you want to feel and set the intentions that will get you there, act as if you’re already there, and go slow along the path to putting your intentions into action.
I can tell you firsthand that a huge intention of mine in 2018 was learning to speak – understand – the language of finance, and really start to get open and comfortable talking about more and personal finance. I’d been terrified of this in the past, but my friends at Planswell helped turn that intention into a joyful reality, and it feels so good to experience that success! I opened a TFSA, invested in insurance to act as a safety net, and started reading their finance blog, and having actual conversations with friends and family based on what I’d read.
You are your own key to success, and as soon as you are ready, you can really do this. Happy new year!