It’s the second week of January – how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? If you’re like most people, the outlook is not promising: nearly a third have given up after two weeks, and more than half give up after six months, according to Statistics Brain. Why do so many people give up? We know it’s not for lack of motivation: we really, truly want to lose weight, get organized, enjoy life more. So why do we keep reverting back to old habits? The reason may lie in our subconscious: in his book, Know Can Do, Ken Blanchard describes how he set out to answer this question. He learned of research done at the University of Santa Cruz back in the 1970’s that explored the link between what we tell ourselves subconsciously and how we behave. These researchers discovered that after about age 11, 77% of what we hear is negative. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we internalize these negative messages. (I’m fat, I have no willpower, I’m lazy, I’m too old….).
These researcher pioneered the field of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. (Neuro=brain, linguistic=language – what we tell ourselves.) Could repeating positive messages affect behavior? The answer was yes! These positive messages are known as “affirmations“. There are a few tricks to it – for example, if you tell yourself you will lose weight, your brain will focus on the fact that you need to lose weight, and you will self-sabotage. Instead, tell yourself that you are moving toward your ideal weight. Ken Blanchard discovered that it takes repetition to counteract those negative messages, so those who use NLP repeat the affirmations by listening to a recording of them every night or posting them around their home and workspace so they read them often.
A life coach or therapist who is trained in NLP can write custom affirmations for you based on your goals. If you want to try some generic ones on for size, I recommend Affirm Your Life, where you can choose from hundreds of affirmations and even add them as an app on your phone.
Another trick to following through on resolutions is to have someone hold you accountable. Once again, a life coach can fill this role, or you can just buddy up with a friend and check in with each other regularly. Imagining how you feel when you achieve your goals is another powerful motivator that will help to keep you on track.
In short, you don’t have to become a statistic: with some smart strategic planning, you can dramatically increase your chances of success. Think how proud you will be and how good you will feel when that resolution becomes a habit!