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Here is an interview I gave to the AZ Republic last year. I hope you find it to be helpful. Happy New Year!
1. Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?
People traditionally see this time of year as an opportunity for self-improvement; by starting with a clean slate. They can identify and address their challenges, feeling safe from criticism or judgment from others. They regard the New Year as a symbol for new beginnings and a motivator to enter into some meaningful agreements with oneself.
2. All things considered, is it a good thing for people to do?
Making resolutions is neither good nor bad…it just IS. People make New Year’s Resolutions, in part, as a social ritual, a cultural right-of-passage and an interesting New Year’s Eve Party topic for conversation.
Making New Year’s Resolution is a good practice, but can become self-defeating if you see it as a win-lose activity. Harvard Studies demonstrate that when people take time to think about their goals and write them down, they are more likely to achieve them. Unfortunately, there are also many of us who tend to “hit a wall” not long after we make the self-promises. Even though we have the best of intentions to realize our resolutions, we are unable to stay the path to the finish. Then we have to find a way to emerge out of our shame (consciously or not), only to find ourselves pretty much back where we started….that’s “shrink-speak” for then we experience failure. Once that happens, we don’t feel very good about ourselves and we are at risk to get even more entrenched in our bad habits as a distraction from feeling disappointed. It becomes a vicious cycle.
3. What’s the best way for people to go about trying to make changes in their lives?
Start with the inside job. Work on becoming a resolute person, rather than make resolutions. Consider the value in acquiring the characteristics of determination, faith in oneself, integrity and open-mindedness. Practice using higher thinking to access traits of courage, self-forgiveness and trust. Write these traits down on index cards and look at them every day.
Also, develop your ability to collaborate or work together with others to reach a common goal. Work on a community project in a team setting that will offer you this type of experience. This will serve you well in your own individual growth.
Above all, first ask yourself this: “am I a human-doing or a human-being?” Put your focus on who you want to be, rather than on what you want to do. People who work on a positive self-definition naturally tend to make positive changes and do things well.
4. Why do people have so much trouble making changes, whether they’re little or big?
It is all about the brain and neurogenesis (creation of new neurons). Unproductive behavior patterns are deeply set in the gray matter of the brain as a result of repetitive and high volumes of neuron-firings forging any one particular brain groove deeper and wider. After a while that neural pathway becomes as big as a freeway and starts to take on a life of its own. We call some of these automatic firings “bad habits.”
The key for healthy change is to consciously work to fire your neurons up and left in the brain to a better-outcome destination, while the existing “bad habit groove” starts to shrink and atrophy due to lack of use. That may sound like a challenging road, but it is one that will help you arrive at change that lasts. Remember, you have to first agree to engage in cognitive/thinking activities that will blaze a new neural pathway in your own brain. I believe that is the biological essence of making changes.
5. Is there something in the human condition that seeks improvement?
Yes. I think it is the work of the primitive brain just trying to survive. Darwin called it Survival of the Fittest. In order to become resolute and develop faith in yourself, I think you have to first seek enlightenment, rather than improvement.
6. What do successful people know – or do – that other people don’t?
When successful people want to make a change for the better they:
1. make a resolution they can live with (rather than set an unrealistic goal).
2. brainstorm all the options on how to get there (be open-minded).
3. pick the option for reaching the goal that is do-able (know your limitations).
4. hold onto the desired outcome lightly (keep a balance between the journey and the destination).
5. understand that setbacks are intrinsic component of success (shed your fear of failure).
6. Collaborate with important resources to reach the goal. (It is okay to need help and learn some new things along the way).