Okay, so here’s the obligatory New Year’s Day post that you’d expect. It’s gonna be about resolutions, goals, sticking to them, blah, blah, blah. All good stuff. And all important.
And while EVERY DAY (every moment, really) is a fresh opportunity to change, January 1st just provides a solid baseline from which to begin….and you know us: we LOVE baselines.
So let’s do this baseline thing. Let’s talk resolutions and sticking to them. But let’s go beyond the contrived and cliche, and get to what’s really at the heart of the matter….
Resolutions don’t work if your WHY is weak.
Your WHY is your wish, your dream, your vision for something DIFFERENT than what you currently have. “Vision” can sound trite, but make no mistake: vision is a powerful thing, and not to be underestimated.
When you consider that everything in the world is the physical manifestation of someone’s WHY, from computers, to space ships, to yard flamingos, you start to really get it.
But as powerful as vision can be, it’s up against some intense competition in the battle for your future. Your vision (your WHY) is in constant dance-off mode with your neurology, which has evolved over millennia to favor “things staying the same”…..neurology is one bad-ass mutha-Fer.
“Things staying the same” is super energy efficient for your brain. Your squishy grey matter is hardwired to automate your life’s activities as much as possible in order to conserve energy for other more creative stuff…..like imagining and designing computers, space ships, and yard flamingos.
You clearly see the conundrum here! Our brain clings to routine (habits, automations, etc) in order to have energy for new experience and creation, BUT this very same hardwiring process can challenge our ability to actually manifest the new experiences and creations we desire. Crap!
Clearly, overriding your neurology isn’t impossible…..or as a species, we would have ceased to exist. But as anyone who has ever wanted to drop a no-longer-useful habit can attest, it can feel pretty damn daunting.
This is the part where we get back to that “weak WHY” concern I mentioned above.
Your best bet for overriding neurology, and establishing a new and improved habit, is to insure that the WHY behind that desire is multi-faceted.
You can’t just say, “I want to stop eating cookies at bedtime because I don’t want to be fat” That’s too simplistic, and your genius brain matter will override that weak sauce in a short amount of time.
You need to have at least 5 additional WHYs, at least 5 additional FACETS, behind that goal of no cookie nibbling at bedtime. That faceting of WHYs might look something like this:
“I want to stop eating cookies at bedtime because I don’t want to be fat, because being overweight makes it hard for me to wear the clothes I like. When I can wear the clothes I like, I get to feel confident. When I feel confident, it makes it easier to speak my mind. And when I speak my mind, I get more of my needs met”
Now THAT’s a multifaceted and compelling WHY for wanting to change the cookie habit; it carries a deeper, personal relevance well beyond the surface-level “I don’t want to be fat” goal.
There’s a second part to the multifaceted WHY requirement however.
As you move forward toward your goal, you have to be prepared to have your WHY evolve, without allowing that need to evolve to be used by your sneaky smart “routine loving” brain as reason to abort mission. Let me give you a personal example.
I’ve been training CrossFit for 12 years. My WHY for keeping up with this grueling, painful, delightful, life-affirming practice has evolved multiple times. At first, I trained because it was something new and challenging. Then my WHY was based on vanity. Then my WHY was based on a sense of identity. Then my WHY was based on finances. Then my WHY was based on health. Then my WHY was based on service. And at many and most points along the way, my WHY has been a fluid combination of motivations.
Point is, I knew from the beginning that this training was good for me physically, mentally and emotionally. But if I had been too connected to my WHY of “new and challenging”, when the novelty wore off, I’d probably have stopped CF and moved on to the next shiny workout routine, where I’d have repeated the same cycle of excitement, achievement, normalization, boredom, exit stage left.
I’ve found and focused on different WHYs to shore up my habit of CrossFit because CrossFit is what’s good for me. Yes, I’ve had periods of time when I wanted to walk away from the intensity and just hike and do yoga, even though, in my heart, I KNEW that hiking and yoga couldn’t ever be enough for me. In those times, when I’d struggle with my resolve, I’d found a different facet of my WHY to focus on, one that could keep me on the path that was best for me, namely Crossfit training (with hiking and yoga sprinkled in).
Taking it back to the cookie eating example, perhaps the WHY evolves from wanting more confidence in the clothing of your choice, to wanting to be ready for a bikini in 3 months, to wanting to ward off diabetes, to something else. And it HAS to evolve, because that brain of yours, with good intention, wants you to stay the same, and will take any break in your resolve to get you back to the cookie jar. Having a new WHY ready to go offers you the best chances of staying the course.
So today, as you’re thinking about the year ahead, make those resolutions. And then, get clear on the WHYs behind them. Chunk the WHYs down as much as you can, getting to the deeper motivations for why you want what you want. When you feel your resolve waiver, as is likely to occur, thanks to your amazing brain, take it as a sign to connect with a different part of your WHY, and NOT as a sign of inevitable failure or overly-lofty ambitions.
Good luck out there.