If you want to make this year a great year and have basically been setting the same resolutions each year, perhaps it's time to do something a bit different. Instead of focusing on a resolution, focus on developing the right habits.
One of the reasons why many people give up on their goals is because of disappointments, they don't get the results they were expecting fast enough. This could be due to a lot of things such as an unrealistic timeline or circumstances not within their control. If you instead focus on developing habits that will lead to the accomplishment of your goals, the results will be completely under your control. You'll either follow through or you won't. The beauty of it all is that once the habits are developed, it'll just be matter of time before you reach your goals.
For example, instead of setting the goal of losing 50 pounds, focus on developing the habits of exercise and proper diet. When those habits are a part of your everyday life, not only will it become easier as time goes by, you'll also keep the weight off as well. This is the power of habits, whether good or bad, the actions are near automatic.
If you can align those habitual actions towards an outcome that you want, slowly but surely, your life will change.
So drop the resolutions and pick up some good habits.
“Control yourself!” People say it to you and you say it to other people. More important, you say it to yourself. Sometimes, most of the time in fact, you control yourself. Other times it’s difficult, if not impossible, to reign yourself in. You find it hard to stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing. You might be talking too much, eating too much, or watching too much Doctor Who—though that might not be possible. Why is that? Why can you sometimes control yourself and sometimes not? Why can’t you control yourself all the time?
Your Will-Power is Limited
Your will-power is limited. You only have so much of it and, when you’ve used most of it up, controlling yourself gets hard. When your will-power is low, you’re like a hungry dog let loose in a gourmet kibble shop.
How do we know this? Picture yourself in a psychology study:
Radishes and Cookies
You are a student at a mid-Western university. One evening, you are phoned by an experimenter. She is studying people’s preferences for various foods. You’ll be taste-testing. “Wow,” you think to yourself, “extra credit and taste-testing? I love psychology!”
The next morning, the friendly experimenter escorts you into her laboratory. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies overwhelms you. The experimenter seats you at a table. In front of you are a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Your stomach is growling. There is also a plate of radishes.
The experimenter asks you to taste-test the radishes. You are not to taste the cookies. In fact, don’t even touch them! No cookies for you! She leaves you alone in the room. You dutifully taste the radishes and resist the urge to grab a handful of cookies. In fact, you go through the entire session without touching a single cookie. Good for you!
Upon her return, the experimenter says, “I wonder if I can ask you a favour. A friend of mine is having trouble recruiting subjects for his study on solving puzzles. Could you help him out?” “Sure, why not?” you say agreeably. She introduces you to the second experimenter. He takes you to his lab and gives you your instructions: You are to trace a complex figure without lifting your pen off of the paper or doubling back on yourself. If you do either of those things, you have to start over. You are to continue until you solve the puzzle or give up. He starts a stopwatch as you begin.
You are having trouble solving the puzzle. Undeterred, you press on.
More time passes…
You still can’t solve the puzzle! You sometimes get close, but then you either lift your pen or double-back. You are frustrated. You try twice more and give up. The experimenter clicks his stopwatch and writes down the time. The two of you chat about the experiment. You say that the puzzle was hard and very frustrating. He nods his head, “Yes, the puzzle is unsolvable.”
He says, “All will become clear in a moment. First, though…” To your surprise, the experimenter from the taste-test study enters the lab. You learn that the two studies were, in fact, one study. Those sneaky psychologists!
The experimenters think that exercising self-control—by resisting the urge to eat chocolate chip cookies—depletes will-power. The experimenters expect that subjects who resist eating chocolate chip cookies won’t have much will-power left. You learn that other subjects were told to eat the chocolate chip cookies, but no radishes. Poor them! Those subjects probably didn’t need to restrain themselves from eating the radishes. They should have more will-power left after the taste-test. They had cookies.
So, what was with the puzzle? Trying to solve a difficult puzzle—especially an unsolvable one—is extremely frustrating. It takes will-power to control that frustration and continue on in the face of adversity. So, subjects who ate the cookies should have persisted longer at the unsolvable puzzle than did subjects who ate the radishes. And that’s what the experimenters found.
That study, and dozens of others like it, show that people only have so much will-power. When you have to control yourself, there is less will-power available to you. This fact is a good one to know because people who lose their will-power often do things that they would rather not. They become aggressive, sexually impulsive, or start thinking that the later seasons of Star Trek: Voyager weren’t as bad as everybody says.
Will-Power is Like a Muscle
But here’s the good news: You can increase your will-power. How? Simple: Exert some will-power. It’s just like building a muscle. The more you use your will-power muscle, the stronger it becomes. Of course, after a will-power ‘workout’ you will be vulnerable. In the long run, though, you are best served by exercising your will-power as much as you can. But how can you exercise your will-power? Eating radishes in a bakery doesn’t seem all that practical. What to do? It’s time to wait for my next post. I hope that you can control yourself …
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