Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Your Brain Struggles With Your New Year's Resolutions

As the year quickly comes to an end, millions upon millions of people begin thinking about their New Year's Resolution. Finding their motivation, their inspiration for making these changes, they mark the day on the calendar, January 1st, to begin anew.

Although it is well intended, over 88% of them fail. Not because they aren't motivated, but because haven't trained their brain. Willpower is like a muscle, it has to be trained before it can operate at it highest potential. Your pre-frontal cortex is a part of the brain that is responsible for will power. Instead of a broad goal like losing weight, a person needs to break it down into specifics, like exchanging a high fat food, to a healthier choice. Otherwise, it's the equivalent of asking your brain to lift 200 lbs!! Your brain isn't ready for that heavy load yet.

I know people who have decided to start jogging, even though they haven't exercised in years. Their intentions are admirable, but they haven't trained their muscles, mentally or physically. They buy the new shoes, the clothes, put their ear buds in, and head out for their first run. Within a very short time, they have either given up, or hurt themselves by pushing their bodies past their limit, resolving that running isn't for them. Soon they are reverting back to their old habits. The better option would be to start a walking program, and work up to jogging after their body was better conditioned. Any muscle needs to be trained, and this includes your brain!

 B J. Fogg of Stanford University said: “What a mistake – the whole idea around New Year’s resolutions. People aren't picking specific behaviors, they’re picking abstractions.”

Choosing an abstract goal is nearly impossible to achieve. Your brain needs to focus on a specific
behavior in order to be successful. What this means is instead of taking one huge bite, take small
nibbles, which trains the brain to a new behavioral pattern, a new habit pattern.

So if you decide to make a New Year's Resolution, here are a three suggestions.

1.  Make only one and don't forget to take baby steps in training your brain to make the necessary habitual        changes.

2.  Write it down as a daily reminder. Also, psychologically, it holds you accountable for the
     decision you made and can keep you motivated.

3.  Focus on the positive aspects, and not small setbacks that you might experience. Just because you had
     a piece of cheesecake, doesn't mean you have to give up on creating a new eating lifestyle. Remember
     willpower takes time to build, so don't beat yourself up. Just start again. Albert Einstein said " You never
     fail, unless you stop trying".

I wish you all a wonderful end to 2013, and a blessed, happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!!

Until next time....