Can you believe it’s already mid-January? How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Did you even make any?
A lot of people don’t make them, and that’s often because they know they’re not going to keep them. They’ve tried over and over, and the resolutions just don’t seem to stick. So, they give up.
Now, I’m sure you’re not one of those people, but I wanted to share a little material today that might make it a little bit easier to keep your resolutions this year … and even easier in years to come. I learned about our subconscious and children by way of Annie Grace, author of “This Naked Mind” and “The Alcohol Experiment”, and I’ve adapted it for this article.
The trick is to train your subconscious that “no” means “no”. Just like you’d train a child. Because in a way, that’s what your subconscious is: an unruly child.
Think about how persistent children can be when they want something. You can say no, but if they sense even the smallest chink in your armor, they pester and pester you to get that puppy or have an extra cookie or go on one more ride at the amusement park. Right? They’re relentless.
What do you do with relentless kids? How do you get them to stop?
I know it was hard with my stepsons. Especially when they were young and cute and took full advantage of a new stepmother trying to build a good relationship with them. They wanted more paintball equipment, guess who they hit up? How about better snowboards or bindings? What about that video game they just had to have?
And it was hard to say no. For a lot of reasons. Eventually, I had to learn to say no … and mean it.
But after all the time of saying yes, guess what? It was hard to get them to understand when I was saying “no” and I really meant it.
Your subconscious is the same way. Every time you promise yourself that you’re not going to have that extra piece of cake, you’re not going to skip your workout, you’re not going to do whatever you resolve, your brain remembers what happens. If you cave, your brain – just like kids – knows that if it’s just persistent enough to keep nagging you, you’ll cave again.
Every time you give in. Every time you don’t keep your word to yourself. You’re training your brain that you really don’t mean what you say. But, to quote Annie Grace:
“When your subconscious understands that you don’t go back on your word, then it will believe you when you say not today.”
The reality is that most of us started training our brains that we don’t keep our New Year’s resolutions when we were very young. It didn’t seem to matter then. The resolutions may not have been that important. But the more we did that, with New Year’s resolutions and other self-promises, the more our unconscious mind knew that we were going to cave like an overly-eager-to-please stepparent (or parent).
And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to keep your New Year’s Resolutions now.
The good news is that you can retrain your subconscious. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Accept that your brain won’t believe you at first. That it will nag and pester you. Be prepared.
- Pick small goals at first. There’s a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous has people focus one day at a time. It’s one step toward retraining your brain.
- Do mindfulness practices, whatever that looks like for you: meditation, journaling, prayer, walks.
- Be empathetic with yourself when you slip. Be gentle. Negative self-talk actually makes it harder to keep your resolutions.
- Celebrate your successes AND celebrate with something OTHER than what you were trying to avoid or do. Reward yourself for not breaking your diet by taking a bubble bath, having your favorite tea, or watching an extra episode of your favorite show. Or celebrate a week of consistent exercise with a massage.
Retraining your brain can help in so many aspects of your life – not just keeping New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, it can help you thrive in uncertain times and be empowered to see opportunities and take risks.
I’m going to dive more deeply into these concepts and others during my 4-Day Empowered Thru Uncertainty Challenge, starting January 23rd, 2023 at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join me and a group of other leaders who want to start 2023 strong by learning the foundational tools to navigate uncertainty with calm and confidence.