5 Strategies to Make Your New Year’s Resolution(s) Stick

Guest Author: Henry Lescault

As a FranklinCovey Consultant and Facilitator, I have the honor and privilege of working at the best Leadership and Behavioral Change company in the world. Our mission is simply this: We Enable Greatness in People and Organizations Everywhere. When working with the thousands of clients I encounter as a FranklinCovey behavioral change expert, a question I frequently encounter from clients is; how do I change a behavior, and make it stick? The answer I give them is to start by accessing their current paradigms.

A paradigm is defined as the way we see the world. In other words, the lens through which we perceive the world around us, or how we process our environment on a second to second basis. It’s our mental map for interpreting all of the events that take place in our lives.

Paradigms can serve us well and help us lead productive and truly effective lives, or they can work against our ability to be effective and hold us back from achieving our wildest dreams, sabotaging our every attempt at getting better. It’s up to each of us to continually access our paradigms and decide if they are in fact positive or negative forces in our lives. It’s important for us all to know that we, as human beings, have the ability re-script and change the current direction of our lives, in order to set ourselves on a path to happiness and fulfillment personally and professionally.

To help us understand the process of altering our paradigms and changing habits in our lives, I’ll refer you to the below diagram of the See, Do, Get Cycle. How we SEE the world, or our PARADIGMS (beliefs and mindset), determines what we DO, or our BEHAVIORS, and our behaviors determine what we GET, or our RESULTS.

You’ll notice that this cycle moves in a clockwise fashion, with one concept feeding the next, and all rolling back up to reinforce the SEE or our PARADIGM. This can be a vicious unproductive cycle that holds us back, or a very productive and beneficial cycle that propels us forward to new heights of productivity in all areas of our lif

Our paradigms are affected by many things in our lives. What we watch on television, what we read, our education, religion, prejudices, biases, etc., basically all of the data that enters into our brains on a regular basis, to include first and foremost, something that most of us take for granted; our language. The internal self-talk, AND the external language we use on a regular basis has a profound effect on our belief systems and how we live our lives. Medical research using MRI technology has shown time and time again, how profoundly our language affects our ability to achieve greatness in our lives.

That takes me back to the title of this article. How to make your New Year’s resolution(s) stick. The reason most New Year’s Resolutions don’t last, is because once people decide they want to make some changes in their life, they move directly to changing the “DO” part of the cycle, or their behaviors, which is a great way to start, however the mistake they make is doing this without first changing their PARADIGMs, or belief systems.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey so eloquently stated “If you want to make minor changes in your life, work on your behavior. But if you want to make significant, quantum breakthroughs, work on your paradigms.”

For example. Let’s say you want to make the New Year’s resolution of getting to the gym, working out, and getting in shape. Let’s also assume that you have practiced some effective goal setting techniques, perhaps from FranklinCovey’s Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity or the Four Disciplines of Execution, and going to the gym and partaking in an exercise program was going to be a productive part of your overall health goals for the upcoming year.

You find a gym, visit with a salesperson, and sign up for a full membership. You’re excited, and ready to start this new, healthy phase of your life, and decide that Saturday morning is going to be the magical day that will set the tone for the rest of your life. You start off strong, and after a couple of days, weeks, or even months, you’re back to the old routine.

5 Common Challenges

Below is a list of just a few common mistakes/challenges many people encounter when trying to make long lasting changes in their lives, and the solutions to overcome those challenges:

CHALLENGE #1

Not being OPEN to changing, or not being aware that change is needed in your life.

You feel that your way is the only way, and you don’t need nor want to listen to anyone else’s ideas about changing or improving your life, or you are legitimately not aware that improvement in a certain sect of your life is needed or warranted. In the case of going to the gym, your current mindset could be one of “Hey, I’ve got this. I don’t need anyone telling me what to do. After all, I was a high school football champion back in the day.” Back in the day, that was a wonderful thing, however now, it may be time to take a good look at your current paradigms, and ask yourself if they are TRULY serving you in a positive, productive way. You also may just believe that your life is perfect the way it is, and that very well may be the case. Either way, it’s a great opportunity for you to take a look at your current results and ask yourself if they are exactly where you want to be.

STRATEGY:Resolve to being open to change.

Start by taking a look at the SEE, DO, GET cycle. Move directly to the GET or RESULTS piece.  Ask yourself, “in this particular area of my life, am I getting the results I truly want.” If the answer is no, then circle back up to your Paradigm(s) and ask yourself about your beliefs regarding the changes you are working toward. Check in with your language, self-talk, and any other thoughts and feelings you may have about the direction you want to move in. From there, make some commitments to yourself around being more intentional and self-aware, and pledge to practicing the rest of the solutions below.

CHALLENGE #2

Not being intentional and aware of your language or self-talk.

You wake up on Saturday morning thinking “Oh crap (I’m being nice here), I HAVE TO go to the gym.” In reality folks, you don’t HAVE TO do anything. It all comes down to a choice. Unless someone ties you up, throws you in the trunk of a car, and forcibly takes you to the gym, the act of going to the gym (or doing anything for that matter) is a choice you either make or CHOOSE not to make.

We call this using Proactive versus Reactive language. Proactive language is the language of potential and possibilities, while Reactive Language, or road-block language is the language of limits, impossibilities, and hopelessness.

Some clues to our current unproductive paradigms around exercise could be words like, it’s painful, it’s hard, it’s expensive, I don’t have enough time etc. However, we can reframe our self-talk and have a profound effect on our paradigms by catching ourselves when we use reactive language.

STRATEGY:Watch your language.

As opposed to thinking or saying, “I have to”… correct yourself by thinking or saying, “I choose to” or “I get to”. Choose phrases like “I’m going to have a great workout today.” “I’m going to give 100% of myself to my workout today and every day.” “I’m prepared and motivated to do what I must to make this project a success.” Don’t make the common mistake of letting the simplicity of this technique be indicative of its enormous power to change your Paradigms and your life.

CHALLENGE #3

Not knowing enough about the changes you are endeavoring to make (in this example exercise), and what may be the best way for you to pursue that particular goal.

Just showing up at a gym, and trying to think back to those days, long ago in gym class when you were forced to exercise as a child as your barometer for exercising effectively and safely is not the best way to begin this adventure. Folks, for most of us, that was a long long long time ago. I’ll say this once. Cut the cord, and let it go of the past. The old days are gone and changing paradigms are all about looking toward the future. It’s time for a new beginning. Letting your ego get in the way, and paying the price for it later is not an option here, and it can come at a heavy price in the form of jeopardizing key relationships, or in this example, life changing injuries. I do a fair amount of health coaching these days and one of the biggest challenge’s clients seem to have (mostly men for some reason) is starting slow and building up to a more suitable routine.

STRATEGY: Take the time to educate yourself.

Whether is beginning a new exercise program, or making changes elsewhere in your life, educating yourself on the process before you begin, is key. Take the time to learn everything you can about what you are endeavoring to change. Whether through books, attending a workshop, or hiring a professional coach (or trainer), do what you can to educate yourself, so you are better able to approach your new paradigms and behaviors in the most powerful and productive way possible.

CHALLENGE #4:

Not taking action around the things you can control/influence, but instead, spending your time complaining about or trying to influence things you can’t control.

It’s critically important to commit to taking small actions, within your circle of influence. Most people get caught up living their lives within their circle of concern. Notice the diagram below.

The outside circle, or the Circle of Concernin the above visual represents all the things in our lives, both personally and professionally that affect us, but that we have no control over. Some examples of items that would fall into our Circle of Concern are things like the weather, traffic, other people’s decisions or moods etc., to name just a few.

The Circle of Influence, or the center circlein the diagram represents all the things in our lives, both personally and professionally that we have absolute control over. Things like our attitude, body language, choices, things we say, and our behavior would fall within our circle of influence. Although it can be argued that some things may be unconscious, we can also argue that when we are self-aware, we can control and make conscious choices involving our behavior. Reactive people may blame others for their behavior, or use their personality as a crutch or shield. Proactive people accept responsibility for their behavior, and do their best to live in their circle of influence every day.

STRATEGY: Commit to taking small consistent actions in your circle of influence.

This is all about your focus. Like Tony Robbins said, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” You want your focus to be on those things you can control or influence, and away from the things you have no control over. It’s easy to get caught up in the trap or a mindset of; “I just don’t have any control over this, and as a result setting yourself up for failure by stressing over things you cannot control.” Remember to maintain your proactive language here, and focus your actions on the things you can influence, even if they are just small actions. In the exercise example, you first month at the gym may be for 20 minutes, three times per week, slowly increasing your time and endurance month after month. If it’s an idea about a policy or procedure at work that you feel can be changed or improved upon, however you feel that it’s out of your circle of influence, perhaps you can sell your idea to someone who has more influence in a particular department, and create change through a synergistic partnership.

CHALLENGE #5

Most people tend to throw in the towel and give up after a setback or two.   

Central to success in making your New Year’s resolution permanent is to realize that this is all about effort, and not about flawless. As fitness expert Jillian Michaels once said, “It’s not about perfect, it’s about effort, and when you bring that effort every single day, that’s when transformation happens; that’s when change occurs.” As human beings, our brains are designed for us to default to negative thoughts and patterns. It’s all part of our reptilian brain fight or flight wiring. However, we can choose to engage the part of our brain that keeps us focused on choices, logic and making good sound decisions. The prefrontal cortex, or the CEO of the human brain, which separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom can be engaged purposefully by intentionally making the decision to move to our circle of influence and taking small actions toward our goal.

STRATEGY: Reward Small Victories and Don’t Dwell on Setbacks.

Setbacks will happen. Accept that, and be ready for them. Make the decision early on to forgive yourself when they do come, and to remain proactive in your mindset. Be realistic however. A reward for a great day at the gym (in the previous exercise example) may be a nice deep tissue massage or spa treatment to pamper yourself, as opposed to a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Victor Frankl who said;

“We who have lived in concentration camps can remember the ones who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from us but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances – to choose one’s own way.”

Have fun choosing your new year my friends, and make it a great 2019.

Three more articles about goals to motivate and inspire:

4 Comments

  1. Ida Farida Nurhayati on December 30, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Thank’s.Henry

  2. Terrance Mortimer on December 31, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Henry, you asserted some very good insights into human behavior and how to change it. Fundamentally you reminded me of the often overlooked truth from the ancient proverb that says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Particularly insightful is the circle of concern vs. the circle of influence paradigm. Thank you!

  3. Bhagyashree on January 2, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    This is a very helpful article for self interospection.

  4. Dr Steve on January 10, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    Great article Henry and particularly timely – I am trying to balance work and still get to the gym (which has been a habit for over 25 years now)

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