Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Year’s Resolution – Behavioral Modification Strategies

So we are already well into the New Year now. Many people try to have New Year’s resolutions, but somehow they fall apart eventually (or already?). Have you had this experience? Why do you think it is so? Well, changing familiar behavior that are part of our daily routines is actually very, very difficult for most people.
Today, I am going share some wisdom Psychology has given us to help us achieve better behavioral modification.
By the way, I had an interview with the Coast Magazine some years ago about this topic, if you would also like to read that. Becoming the Best Version of You 

[Exciting Direction] First of all, you need to set a goal as something exciting, instead of depressing or punitive. Very typical resolutions/goals are, for example, “Lose Weight,” “Quit smoking,” “Get Out of Debt,” and so on…  Aren’t these already depressing and unmotivating goals? While the aims are good, expression of the goals are not fun.

When the goal is gloomy, we are less likely to keep at working towards achieving such goals because they seem painful. Therefore, it is important to imagine and visualize something really nice, still related to the direction, and have a better expression of the goal, such as “Be sexier and more gorgeous!” “Become smoke free so that I can run around with my child,” and “Feel financially peaceful.” The positive images are already making you feel a little more motivated toward that direction.

[Focus on the process] Secondly, the focus cannot be the results. It is very passive to stay focused on the result. For example, you lose weight as a result of some changes in your life. If your focus is the result, you will be more easily frustrated, helpless, and impatient, and you will eventually lose your enthusiasm more easily. Thus, the focus needs to be on the process, not the result. In this case, the focus may be “Exercise more.”

[Specific tasks] Rather than vague resolutions, the more specific and clearer they are, the better. If the wish is to “Lose weight,” then the direction is to “Be sexier and more gorgeous.” Your focus is to “Exercise more,” then the next step is to determine when, how, and what you are going to do to achieve your goal. For example, “Walking one hour every day.” If your tasks are unclear, you have more difficulty following through. Therefore, you will need to know what you decided to do.

[Schedule setting] Fourth, it is important to think of your daily routine, and where you want to insert your new habit. If “walking one hour every day” needs to be added to your daily life, you need to think of your everyday schedule and when the best time for that is. Just adding something new to our daily routine is very hard itself, so make it as easy as possible. The smoother things flow, the better.

[Easier transition] Fifth, it is helpful to make it easier. If you choose to walk in the morning, for example, you want to have all the clothes and shoes prepared by the bed, such that it becomes simpler and easier to make it happen. While half asleep, you won’t want to look for your walking clothes… You may rather go back to bed. Hence, it is helpful if the transition is easy. The more preparation, the better.

[Reward system] Sixth, having rewards keeps us going. Although we are much more complicated than mice or dogs, just like them, receiving rewards still really works. Simple rewards can be expressed as “If I do it for …, I will …” A reward can be something like going somewhere you like, buying something you wanted, and so on. That will keep you going. In addition, having something in your daily life is really helpful and sometimes just your daily routine may function as a reward. For example, what if you cannot touch your cellphone until you finish your walk? That may motivate you to finish your walk. If watching evening news is your relief after work, make it so that you cannot watch it until you finish walking. This kind of reward really helps. Just don’t make your reward anything that contradicts your goals. For example, if your goal is to “Look sexier and cuter” by not eating junk food, don’t make your reward a bag a potato chips! :)

[A little (potential) punishment] By setting up a “punishment” for failing in achieving your goals, you will add to your motivation. For example, let’s say you have someone in your life whom you think wastes money, you can promise them that you will give him/her a set amount of money when you don’t do your new task. For example, if you don’t walk as you promised, you give $10 to that person (*the amount depends on your finances. It needs to be something realistic and painful to lose). You don’t want to lose it for nothing! You will automatically be more motivated.

[Contract] Last, you can write a contract to yourself. You can write up everything above as a plan in support of your resolutions, and sign it for yourself. Now your goal is clearly set and it is more exciting and positive, your tasks are clearer, you know when and what to do, you have reward, and you seal the deal with yourself. If you ask someone close to be a witness, it becomes more accountable. That also helps a lot.

As you all know, changing our routines and bad habits is really, really challenging, and that is why these strategies above are important and helpful. In my life-coaching practice, I help my clients achieve their goals, while providing this kind of support and much more. It works. If you have any resolutions and you sincerely want to achieve them, give it a shot to utilize these strategies to make it come true! You will feel really better about yourself!

If you are interested in meeting with me to assist you with coaching you to achieving your goals in life, feel free to ask me questions to see if we can make it happen together.