If you Google “New Year's resolution” you’ll find it’s generally defined as a commitment someone makes to do something, or stop doing something, in order to better his/her life in some way. For example, here are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions people make:
- Spend more time with family
- Lose weight
- Start exercising
- Quite smoking
- Quit drinking
- Get organized
- Get out of debt
Since these are all very good things, why are they so hard to follow through on? There are as many reasons as there are resolutions, and because you’ve probably heard just about all of them I won’t spend any time on them. Instead I’ll take a different approach, one that might just PAVE the way for success in 2010.
Usually I talk about the principles of influence as a way to motivate other people, to get others to say “Yes!” to you. That’s not what I’m going to share this time. What I’ll share is a way for you to tap into consistency to motivate yourself. Almost all resolutions involve forming or breaking habits. You have to start doing something regularly or stop doing something you’re currently doing to better your life in some way. We’ll take a look at consistency as it pertains to you and four key ways to strengthen its use.
In the study of the principles of influence there’s a powerful motivator called consistency. People feel compelled to act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and values. They also feel compelled to act in ways that are consistent with what they’ve said or done in the past. When we act in consistent ways we feel better about ourselves and people perceive us in a more favorable light.
Here are the four keys to strengthen consistency, PAVE the way to success, and increase the chances that you’ll follow through on your New Year’s resolutions.
Public – Any time you make a public statement, whether verbally or in writing, you’re putting yourself on the line. The mere fact that another person knows your intention and might ask you how you’re coming along with your commitment is quite often enough motivation for people to follow through. Share with another person or group of people, your New Year’s resolution AND ask them to hold you accountable.
Active – You have to do something. Merely thinking about a resolution but keeping it to yourself will lead to the same results as people who don’t make resolutions. In other words, nothing will change. This came to light in a study with a group of students who wanted to improve their grades. One group was asked to write their goal down, one group kept their goal in their heads and the last group had no specifics whatsoever. As you can imagine, the group with the written goals succeed, with nearly 90% of students increasing by a full letter grade! With the other two groups the results were almost identical. In each group fewer than 1 in 6 students improved a full letter grade. It’s worth noting, they were all given the same study materials.
Voluntary – This has to be YOUR goal, not someone else’s goal for you. If you’re trying to do something, like quite smoking, lose weight or get in shape, because someone told you to, it’s not likely your motivation will last. The goal has to come from you because if it’s forced on you then your desire will not last. Samuel Butler hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.” If you voluntarily make the commitment you stand a better change of succeeding.
Effortful – It was noted above that you have to actively do something. In other words, making the commitment should require some effort on your part. In fact, the more effort the more likely you are to succeed. Something as simple as writing down your resolution can make a difference, even if you don’t share it with anyone. But, taking the time to share it also fulfills the public requirement which gives you more bang for the buck! Dr. Cialdini puts it this way, “People live up to what they write down.” Commit pen to paper and you’ve greatly increase your odds of success.
So there you have it, a slightly different way to approach some positive changes for the New Year. If you’ve been one to make resolutions and fail then give this approach a try. If you fail again you’re no worse off but you never know, this change in approach might just work for you. And think about how much fun it will be to spend more time with family after you’ve lost that extra weight, started exercising, quit smoking and drinking and have organized a plan to get out of debt! Okay, maybe that’s a bit much but accomplishing at least one would be nice.
I wish you a very happy and successful New Year!
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”