Key Point: My new… New Year’s resolution is to FOCUS on creating and building in 2014 versus just “fixing,” and to better leverage some current research on what we’ve learned about goal achievement to help do this.
The idea of focusing on creating versus just fixing or “making a list,” is more than semantics. The mindset of building/creating is different, in that the intent of our actions is less “what’s wrong with us” and more “building and creating” on top of what we already are.
In his great book on personal leadership, Grounded, Bob Rosen points out that neuroscientists and cognitive researchers have determined much of our action comes from our unconscious; being on autopilot and acting by default. So, creating and building something more of ourselves requires us to deeply think about what would REALLY ADD to our well-being so we can be more conscious and intentional about what we want. This means taking some real quiet personal time to reflect. In that scenario we will be more thoughtful than just “going on a diet” or ” drinking less,” etc. We need to ask AND answer “why?” at least five times. What is the deeper underlying value in ourselves we are creating? Describe how that value will meaningfully improve our well-being. What “good” will it bring us?
Character Moves: Research based steps that work, as published in a recent NYTimes blog post.
- (After determining the WHY and specifying WHAT we REALLY want to achieve). Make and write down a concrete plan. When you do so, you both embed your intentions firmly in memory (which reduces forgetting) and make it harder to postpone good behavior, since doing so requires breaking an explicit commitment to yourself. In an experiment reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers contacted thousands of individuals who needed flu shots. Those individuals who were prompted to privately write down a plan specifying the date and time they would visit a clinic got shots at a 13 percent higher rate than members of a control group, who were also reminded about clinics but were not prompted to form a plan.
- Put something you value on the line. In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers reported that over the course of a 16-week study, individuals who were given the opportunity to set aside money for forfeiture if they failed to lose weight lost 14 pounds more than those in a control group. Similarly, an experiment in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics found that smokers hoping to quit were more likely to succeed if offered an opportunity to deposit funds in an account for six months that they would lose if they failed a urine test for nicotine and cotinine. You can arrange to forfeit money if you don’t achieve your goals at stickK.com, a website founded by behavioral economists. But putting money on the line isn’t your only option: Making an appointment to exercise with a friend may be effective, too, because you are much less likely to cancel on a friend than on yourself.
- Bundle your temptations. This is one of our favorite strategies for tackling health goals, which we tested in an experiment described in a forthcoming paper in Management Science. The idea is best illustrated with a scenario: Imagine you want to exercise more but struggle to drag yourself to the gym. Imagine you also have a fondness for trashy novels but feel guilty wasting your time reading them. The solution is simple: Allow yourself to read those novels only while exercising at the gym. Our research demonstrates that when you leave your copy of “The Hunger Games” (or such) at the gym, you exercise 56 percent more often (and 61 percent of people will even pay the gym to hold their book so it is only available when exercising).
- Hang with people that will support, guide and energize you. A study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with poorly controlled diabetes were paired with patients who previously had poorly controlled diabetes but had since achieved mastery over their disease. The improvements in glycemic control achieved by those mentored in this study were larger than those produced by many leading drugs.
- Do one through four as you FOCUS on one really meaningful goal that will compel you to act with the specific intent to create a more complete and self valued you. You will also, as I have noted in previous writing, be building a positive habit system.
OR consciously don’t bother and torture yourself with the idea of achieving a new year’s resolution, hoping that things will somehow be better. Buy a lottery ticket instead… The odds are the about the same :).
New… New Year in The Triangle,
P.S. consider StickK.com… It might be a helpful tool.