New Year’s Resolutions: The Top 10 Reasons They Fail
This week on The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, Sean Johnson and John Casey are discussing New Year’s resolutions and why they are seemingly impossible to stick to. For a lot of people, it seems like coming up with the resolution is much easier than actually putting it into action! Sean and John discuss common issues that prevent people from moving forward with their resolutions and what can be done to stop the vicious cycle of no change. Studies show that only 12% of people actually stick to their resolutions, meaning 88% of people just can’t figure it out. There are ten main reasons why people don’t stick to their resolutions:
- Treating Your Resolution As A Sprint
- Putting The Cart Before The Horse
- Not Believing In Yourself
- Too Much Thinking, Not Enough Doing
- Being In Too Much Of A Hurry
- Not Enjoying The Process
- Trying Too Hard, Too Soon
- People That Don’t Fulfill Their New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Track Their Progress
- Those That Fail Often, Have No Social Support
- You Know Your “What” But Not Your “Why”
Do any of these sound familiar? It is very likely that they do. Sticking to a resolution can be as simple as reflecting on three simple questions: “What have I done well? What haven’t I done well? What can I do differently moving forward?” After reflecting, putting your resolutions into motion can be as easy as starting with small steps and working your way up. For example, a popular New Year’s resolution is eating healthier and exercising. Instead of throwing yourself into an extremely regimented diet and exercise plan, start with small things: drink more water for the first week. For the second week, add an extra vegetable to your diet each day, and so on and so forth. It may seem complicated, but it is actually quite simple! What to learn about how you can be a part of the 12%? Check out “Ep 28- New Year’s Resolutions: The Top 10 Reasons They Fail” and let us know what you think! Leave us a comment and follow us on social media!
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Episode 28 – New Years Resolutions: The Top 10 Reasons They Fail
Sean Johnson: [00:00:05] Alright, John. We’re getting to that time of the year. It’s December and I feel like this time of year, people are much more reflective, thinking about the past year, thinking about the year ahead. So, that’s kind of where I wanted to focus our conversation today. What do you think?
John Casey: Yeah. We can talk about old man or the baby,
Sean Johnson: The old man or the baby?
John Casey: The old man being this year, and of course the baby being next year.
Sean Johnson: [00:00:31] Oh, I like that. Maybe we’ll talk about both the old man and the baby. So, one thing that obviously is a big topic for people this time of year is a lot of people seem to set New Year’s resolutions: “I want to lose weight. I want to work out more. I want to eat better, I want to save more money,” all those kinds of things. Why should we even think about doing this? I think it’s something that people, even when they do it, I feel like it’s kind of half-assed a lot of times. They’re like “Oh yeah, this year I’ll eat healthier,” or something, but they’re not really emotionally invested in it or anything. They’re not really putting the time in to reflect on, “What do I really want to accomplish this year?” Why should we even take the time to really reflect about that and think about that?
John Casey: Well, that’s a pretty good question to start with, Sean. You know what? There’s a great answer. There’s a very simple answer as to why we should all set New Year’s resolutions. The answer is because it’s easy, we can just take last year’s.
Sean Johnson: Work’s already done.
John Casey: Exactly, we’ve already thought of it. Didn’t do it last year, we’ll just reboot it. Only about 12% of people that set New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. 88%.
Sean Johnson: I guess you could probably guess that just by looking at the parking lot at the gym, usually in January versus March.
John Casey: [00:02:06] If some folks actually thought that the New Year started February 1st and that’s when they would start their gym membership, they could actually park in the front row. Most people do January 1st. You can’t get a parking spot the first week in January, but you can during the first week in February. We’re going to delve into why it’s not as common as it should be. But, to really start the conversation about resolutions, we have to go back about 4,000 years. The first evidence we have is the Babylonians. About 4,000 years ago, they had resolutions. Their new year began in mid-March, which was the actual birth of the year with plants.
Sean Johnson: Was it the spring solstice?
John Casey: Yeah, it was the middle of March. That was the time of year where they kept their reigning King or named a new one. They also at this time, promised their gods that they would pay their debts and return objects that they had borrowed. So, those are two good things to think about. Maybe we should pick those instead of getting more fit. We might be able to do them. There’s then evidence a couple thousand years after that during Julius Caesar’s time, where he declared that January 1st would be the beginning of the year. That of course as you probably know, the month of January is named after the Roman God, Janice, who was a two faced God who was looking both forward and backwards. That’s the Roman God that they named the month January after. Roman God looking forward and back.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, I totally knew that.
John Casey: You’re the “phone-a-friend” everybody wishes they had.
Sean Johnson: Got it all up here.
John Casey: So, what they often did in Roman times and we have documentation of this, is that they made promises of good behavior for the year to come. So, there’s a long history of making New Year’s resolutions. There’s also some more recent research about why it’s beneficial. So, research shows that making resolutions can be quite useful. People who make them are ten times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t make any. Here’s the simple reason: as you know, from our business, we talk a lot about human potential and how the mind works and how it’s the most powerful supercomputer we’ll ever use in our lives. However, we’re never trained how to use it and we don’t get the operating manual. Clearly, we have so many thoughts a day and that number is about 60,000.
Our mind ignores most of them except for the ones we repeat. So, our conscious mind all day long while we’re awake is having all these thoughts popping in and out. Our subconscious mind, which is actually the plan builder, the architect that creates the plan to get what we want or what it thinks we want, never sleeps. So, at night when we sleep, that subconscious mind that’s kind of been in the background operating, collecting stuff, goes through the memories of the day, decides what to keep and what to throw away. It bases the decision not on value or helping out our lives. It bases the decision on number of repetitions. How many times have we actually thought about this? Whatever we allow to dominate our mind, the subconscious thinks is important and begins to build a plan to bring it into our lives. So, making a resolution, thinking about it, writing it, talking about it, those are all repetitions that increase the likelihood of it happening. Most people don’t follow the right guidelines on how to set those proper goals or resolutions. But this time of year, psychologically speaking, is because it naturally brings us to self-reflection. We think about what was good about the year. We review the moments that were difficult and anything in between. The beginning of a new year can certainly represent a fresh, clean slate with new found hope and motivation. So, the timing couldn’t be better. If we just kind of follow the guidelines, we could probably all maybe join the 12% that actually can accomplish them.
Sean Johnson: Maybe we can try to bump that percentage up a bit.
John Casey: Yeah.
Sean Johnson: [00:06:40] So, obviously, ten is a big number. I didn’t even realize it was that much. But there seems to be, and we know through all the research around goal setting what kind of benefits people have from setting goals and setting and New Year’s resolutions or just that it’s a different word for a goal for the year. But, what we recognize is, like you said, 12% of people actually achieve them. So why is the other 88% failing?
John Casey: Yeah. Well, first of all, before we get to the top ten reasons, most people have not developed a proper habit of reflection and it should be a daily habit. It should be a pattern. It should be done at a similar time in a similar way. You and I know because of our training and where we work, that the best way to reflect is first ask ourselves three questions in the right sequence. The first question is, “What have I done well? Where did I have success? Where did I grow and learn?” This first question is often overlooked. Naturally, people have trained themselves to go to “What’s wrong?” or “What did I screw up?” or “What mistakes were made?” The first question is actually “What did I do well? What worked, where did I have success?” and really spending some time and energy on that question to know where we grew. Just answering that question increases our level of confidence, which then prepares us for the second question, which is, “What didn’t I do well? What did I avoid?” We’ve raised our confidence with the first question, we now can actually look at what some people call negative feedback, which is not necessarily negative if we learn from it. So, we have to look at that coin and we have to answer that question. Then of course, the third question, you know, writes itself: “What can I do differently moving forward?” We can reflect specifically to our health, to our fitness, to our career, to our financial goals and objectives using those same three questions. That’s one of the first steps that people just kind of overlook, slowing themselves down and reflecting on the year.
Sean Johnson: I think a lot of people just jump to the year ahead and they’ll kind of blindly set goals or resolutions. I feel like a lot of times even just on what they think they should be, as opposed to what’s really reflective of where they are in their lives and what they really want. Everybody just picks the eat healthier or lose weight kind of thing, because it’s what they should do without really reflecting on “how did I do with that this past year? Why didn’t I do it this past year?”
John Casey: It is whatever other people are talking about and it’s a “me too” thing, jumping on a bandwagon and it’s not a personalized, customized approach that way. It’s general and vague.
Sean Johnson: Yeah and I feel like with something that is more general and vague and it’s just whatever everybody else is talking about, we’ll jump on that bandwagon and adopt that one too. It’s hard to get excited about those ones.
John Casey: Yeah, we’re going to talk about that. There’s reasons we can make our resolutions, however trivial to others, more vivid in our own mind.
Sean Johnson: [00:10:19] Yeah. So I think before we go to why people fail, just go to the reflection piece. The first step really is reflecting on the past year, and using those three questions: “What I do right? What I do wrong? What can I do differently this coming year?” Are there specific areas, and you mentioned a couple of them, but it might be good to give people a little bit of structure around, what are the areas of life that they should be thinking about and reflecting on where they’re thinking about and using those questions to reflect?
John Casey: You bet. These are in no particular order and they may be prioritized differently by the person, but clearly if we’re in the workforce, we should be reflecting on our career. That does finance a lot of the other areas of our lives, so that should definitely be an area we reflect on. Our health, our physical health, without that, what else matters? So, that clearly is an area that I think people need to more have targeted reflections around. Personal finances; in this day and age, we all have to pay attention to that and there’s so many tools and ways to do better in those arenas. I think maybe the fourth one is relationships. How are we doing in our relationships as a friend or as a partner or a spouse or a parent or child for that matter? What areas might we need to improve or where have we improved in those areas? So, I think those are probably the big four.
Sean Johnson: [00:11:54] Yeah. Okay. So after we reflect in those four areas, we think about our career. We think about our personal finances. We think about our health. We think about our relationships. What I do right? What I do wrong, what can I do differently this coming year? We have the 12% that once they set their New Year’s resolutions, they’ll actually follow through and achieve it. Why do the other 88% fail?
John Casey: Yeah. Well, so here’s ten things that are reasons why resolutions can fail, but they could also be turned into actual best practices. So, here we go. Number One: Treating your resolution as a sprint. That’s why the first week in January, they go to the gym three or four times and it’s just hard to sustain because that’s not a habit in their lives yet.
Sean Johnson: You find that with like, crash dieting, people do that all the time where they go completely to an extreme for a period of a few weeks, which you know they’re not going to be able to sustain. That’s why diets don’t work either. They’ll do this extreme thing for a week or a couple of weeks and then they’ll drop the weight and then it’s not sustainable, so they’ll put it right back on.
John Casey: Sean, the turtle is not sexy. The rabbit is.
Sean Johnson: Yeah.
John Casey: Slow and steady is not in fact sexy, and it may even feel like there’s no change, but small changes stick better because they are not intimidating. If weight loss or fitness is the goal, just focus on a simple habit each week. “Hey, week number one, I’m just going to drink more water.” You can do that for seven days in a row, by the way. It’s pretty easy. Then the next week while you’re continuing with the water, just go for a walk. “I’m going to get up ten or fifteen minutes earlier and go for a walk first thing in the morning.” Then week three, as we’re carrying along with the water and the walking, “I’m going to work one more veggie into my day for nutrition.” So, that’s really the way to go. Those knee-jerk yoyo reactions cannot be sustained.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think we can circle back around to this later, but I think that’s something I know for myself that I’ve realized is I tend to get into a place where once I get into that reflective state of thinking about all these different areas of my life and where I want to improve., I get impatient and I think about where I want to go and I want to go do all of them at the same time. It just becomes overwhelming. It’s too many things and none of them stick.
John Casey: [00:15:03] You’re freaking other people out too. There’s enough stress in the first quarter, we don’t need to do that. That brings us to Number Two: Putting the cart before the horse. I don’t know what the automobile reference is to that, but instead of trying to do everything, kind of like you just mentioned, really focusing on just the few simple things that will produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it. Most people get caught up in paying attention to all the noise that’s out there versus the two or three things I should really be thinking about and doing like drinking a lot more water, walking more and eat more veggies. It’s the handful of things that will usually produce the results. So, let’s just focus on those, identify those and forget everything else.
Sean Johnson: It’s the signal in the noise, which I think especially as we’re getting hit with so much, the amount of information we have access to and are getting pinged with and emailed and texted and all that kind of stuff every day is overwhelming. So, I think that definitely becomes more difficult for people to kind of find that signal of “What are those couple things?” They just get distracted with whatever the new shiny thing is in front of them.
John Casey: [00:16:30] Sean, the world is competing for your eyeballs and your ear balls. I don’t think we have actual ear balls, but I think you got the point. So this is a big one, Number Three: Not believing in yourself. They don’t believe they’re actually up to the task or they do not believe they are worthy of the results that completing the resolution will bring them.
Sean Johnson: [00:17:02] Alright, so those are kind of like a Part A and Part B in regards to the self. How do they recognize that that’s what’s going on, that they set this goal, how do they recognize that “maybe I don’t really fully believe that I can do this”?
John Casey: You can’t just hand somebody a plan.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. It would be nice if you could.
John Casey: Yeah. By the way, they’re out there. There’s so many “how to” books that nobody ever plugs in. So, why is that? Obviously, whoever wrote the plan or wrote the book did it. That’s the way they did it. So, why can’t people just do it the way they did? Clearly, there’s a lot going on with that, but if you’ve tried and failed in the past, maybe there’s something to that. You didn’t believe you could, you started strong and then it just went away and then you’ve convinced yourself, “I couldn’t do that anyways.” So, trying and failing are examples of not necessarily believing enough in yourself. It’s an unconscious thing, too. It’s not necessarily top of mind that this is all going on.
Sean Johnson: [00:18:29] The second part of it that I wanted to drill down on a little bit more is, you mentioned worthiness. People don’t believe that they’re worthy of the result. What do you mean by that?
John Casey: Well, “Nobody in my family’s ever done anything like that” and “I’m too old, I’m too young. I’m a man or a woman.” There’s so many reasons that we could pay attention to that prevent us from actually starting. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I looked like that or had that kind of wealth, I would waste it, and it would change me.” People are always selling themselves something and sadly, most are selling themselves short. We’ve got a solution for that that we’re going to get to a little bit later, but self-doubt and fear are the greatest paralyzes in human history and they’re imaginary. So what if you failed at a past goal or resolution? Everybody has. So what? It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not something that should cripple us. So, we’ve got some solutions coming.
Sean Johnson: Alright. I like solutions.
John Casey: [00:19:42] Here’s Number Four: Too much thinking, not enough doing. The old analysis paralysis thing. You don’t need a gym membership or a new outfit to get started. You could just take a walk. So, some people have to get all the variables lined up and organized and structured and usually those things are just avoidance things. That Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, popularized by Brian Tracy, provides us with a simple reminder about getting started: “Do the thing and you’ll get the energy to do the thing.” So, just start. It’s amazing. I’m a big fan of the five minute rule. Whether it’s a project at work or a project at home, a home improvement project or whatever, or working out, just say to yourself, “I’m just going to do this for five minutes and after five minutes I can give myself permission to stop.” This is the five minute trick. By the way, once you get in motion, you create more energy, which creates more motion, which then starts to fuel itself. Especially if you go for a walk for five minutes, away from your home, then at least you’ve got another five minutes coming back. So, it doubles. The five minute rule works, cause then you get started and that creates some more emotion that creates more motion, so forth. “Do the thing and you’ll get the energy to do the thing.” Sometimes, just starting is key.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think setting those expectations takes the intimidation factor out of it. I’ve heard, I can’t remember the author, but there was an author that, I was listening to an interview with that, they were talking about their writing process and do they give themselves a quote every day to how much to write? They said “One crappy page. One crappy page a day is my quota. That’s it. All I’ve got to do is sit down and do one crappy page, it could be complete garbage and I might throw it out afterwards. But, that’s all my quota is.” The reality is, once you sit down and you start writing, you end up with ten pages.
John Casey: [00:21:56] Then you run and you run a lot farther. It’s funny, that’s such a common, artistic trick. Jerry Seinfeld is famous for continuing to write one joke a day. Then he puts an “X” on the calendar and he’s got all his old calendars going back now, decades. So, he’s kept to the craft. Just one joke a day. Often he writes more than that, of course, but, right. And that’s why he, he doesn’t have to go out and do stand up to earn a living, but he still does, cause he’s got so many jokes and he loves the process. So that is Number Five: Being in too much of a hurry. We need to remind ourselves, if it was quick and easy, everybody would have done it. There are no magic pills or fixes, and remember, 88% give up. So, this is not an easy thing. We can’t be in too much of a hurry. Closely tied to that is Number Six: Not enjoying the process. People don’t enjoy the process. They don’t enjoy the writing or the coming up with a joke or stretching out and getting ready to go exercise or whatever it is. It’s certainly easy to understand that people struggle when they see their resolution as a chore or a bore, if that’s what you think it is….
Sean Johnson: That’s what it’s going to be.
John Casey: [00:23:25] You’re going to naturally tend to avoiding it. So, the best plan is one that causes the least interruption to our daily life and the goal of setting a resolution isn’t supposed to add stress, it’s supposed to remove it. The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently. So, make getting in shape or nutrition or saving more money fun. Whether it’s participating in a sport or hobby you love or or asking a friend to join us, or an exercise class or an investing group or a book reading group, depending on what your goal is. You can give yourself permission to give yourself, if you’re an exercise regimen person, a free day, each week where you can decide to do whatever type of exercise that you want. Get a dog, because the dog will love you more than most other people do, and you will want to love the dog in return and take it outside. So, not only getting a dog makes us fitter, if we walk it, it makes us live longer too. That’s probably going to be a solution that we work into other podcasts. Just get a dog, get it done. So another thing, Sean, that challenges folks, is Number Seven: Trying too hard, too soon. Unless you want extreme punishment, don’t deprive yourself of pleasure and little incremental rewards. If you’re telling yourself, “I can’t have this, I can’t do that,” the more you’re going to want it. So, as long as you’re making positive choices 80 to 90% of the time, you’re really making progress. Indulge every once in a while.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Just from a nutrition standpoint, you see a lot about cheat days where people say, “Alright, I’m going to stick to it and I’m going to eat healthy. But once a week or one day a week or one meal a week, I can have whatever I want. I can indulge myself. I can have all the cookies and the cakes and the pizza and all that I want.” I think that helps people stick to it because it’s not, “I can never have a slice of pizza again. I can never have a cupcake again.” It’s just like “I just have to wait two days.”
John Casey: What they have found is that people that give themselves a permission slip to go off the rules, they do it far less. They monitor themselves better. Then they go way over the top.
Sean Johnson: Well, when they feel like it’s not that far away, they’re probably just thinking about it less.
John Casey: [00:26:12] That actually brings us to Number Eight: People that don’t fulfill their New Year’s resolutions don’t track their progress. These big resolutions that most people make cannot be impacted greatly, right away. But, if we track our progress, like how many steps we’re taking or weighing ourselves or keeping track of calories, just little things like that we can find little levers that we can pull to make us feel good. All you need is a notebook and a pen. We talked in one of our other podcasts about keeping a gratitude journal or a gratitude list. The more you write and track, just like writing or rewriting your resolutions, you really engage your mind a whole lot more. So, tracking your progress helps on a couple of different levels. So that’s the eighth.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think especially for, typically if we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions, we’re talking about a goal for the year. It’s a fairly long time horizon. It’d be different if it was a goal for the day. But, if you’re setting a goal for the year, it’s going to take you a year to get there. With that long of a time horizon, if you don’t feel like you’re making progress and you feel like it’s still so far away and you’re still in the same spot, inevitably, you’re just going to forget it.
John Casey: [00:27:48] Yeah. That becomes the easy choice. You are correct. Which brings us to Number Nine: Those that fail often, have no social support. Obviously, it can be very difficult to stay motivated when you really feel like you’re on your own or you’re alone. But, you’re not. There are so many people that are probably working on the same objectives that you are and facing some of the same challenges that you are. Two heads are better than one. Having a mastermind group, whether it’s through Facebook or LinkedIn, where you find people, including your friends and colleagues that may be sharing a similar objective or heck, just finding an accountability buddy who shares some of the same things. Positively encouraging other each other is a wonderful way to have another level of support in addition to what you’re carrying around in your own head.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. It’s the wave behind you that can help lift you up.
John Casey: [00:28:54] So, and lastly, I think this is a big linchpin as well: Number Ten: You know your “What” but not your “Why”.
Sean Johnson: Best for last.
John Casey: You know what it is you want to win, want to accomplish, but you may not necessarily know why you want it. So, for example, if you want to get fit, lose weight or be healthy, why is that important? Why is it important? Is it because you want to be a positive example to your children? You want to feel more confident at work? If you’re single, more sexy? What is the “why”? Maybe it’s just to have more clarity and energy as you age and do another decade or whatever it is. Reminding yourself and knowing your “why” is a huge thing. We’ll talk a little bit more about how to best do that when we get to our last part here about, how we best stick to it.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, well I remember, maybe it was you who told me a story or I’ve heard story, maybe it’s a famous example. The father is trying to quit smoking and can’t seem to get himself to quit smoking and he tries patches and all that kind of stuff. I know you’ve talked about this before, but what kind of clicks it for him, is finally when his daughter comes and says, “Please stop smoking. I want you to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.” He threw them out. He threw him out and never smoked again.
John Casey: [00:30:28] No, but now I’m going to start using that story. It’s really incredible to me, I’ve actually got a different one. It’s a recent one that just happened a couple of months ago. He was a participant in one of my programs. He works for one of our clients. His name is Mike Cordova. As most folks know, at 2logical, we always focus on development on two levels: the attitude, mindset level, which is often overlooked and the skill set, activity or process level. Most people want change, they want positive change and evolution. They focus only at the action level, the process level, the activity level, and they don’t focus at the attitude or mindset level. So, in some of my trainings, I’ll use the example, for people that are trying to quit smoking, kind of like you pointed out. They don’t focus on the mindset, attitude piece. They focus on the skill set process piece. That’s why they use the patches or the gum. I remember somebody I knew he used to carry around a bag of lollipops, so they wouldn’t put a cigarette in their mouth. They’d put a lollipop in their mouth. Those are not bad techniques, I guess, but they’re avoiding the root cause of what keeps people addicted to smoking. It’s the mental addiction, the physical addiction. After we process chemicals through our system, which happens over the course of a day and a half or so, the physical addiction starts to wane very, very quickly, but the mental addiction is the main culprit, because I suspect a cigarette smoker, their very first thought in the morning is, “I love the first cigarette in the morning.” They probably have that cigarette and that thought pop into their head before they get out of bed because they’ve programmed it there. They’ve said it to themselves so many times that it’s now on autopilot. It’s just the play button when they wake up, that thought is the first thought they have. Then maybe their 19th thought is, “I love to smoke after I eat.” Then the 34th thought is “I love to smoke when I drive. I love to smoke after a meeting, and I love to smoke after lunch. I love to smoke when I’m outside. I love to smoke when I’m drinking beer. I love to smoke when I’m watching sports.”
So all these thoughts that they have carefully crafted and reinforced over their years of being a smoker, they’re now embedded. They are part of their operating system. If those thoughts are not replaced or beaten down, they will remain. That’s why the mental addiction is so much harder to kick than the physical addiction. So, I’m telling this story at a program a couple of months ago. There was a guy in the audience and this was a two day program. On the morning of our second day, we go around the room and everybody shares their takeaways from the first day of the program. This guy, Mike says, “My takeaway is, I’m a nonsmoker now.” I go, “What?” He goes, “Yeah, I quit smoking yesterday afternoon.” I go, “No kidding.” he goes, “Yeah, yeah. When we took our afternoon break and I was going to go outside and have a cigarette like I did this morning, I had one cigarette left and thought about what you said. I just said, ‘No, I’m not going to have it.’
As a matter of fact, I threw the pack out with the one cigarette left in it. I’m driving home last night and I text my wife and she says to bring something home. So, I stopped at the convenience store and I caught myself grabbing a pack of cigarettes because I knew I didn’t have any. I caught myself and I said, ‘No, I’m not going to.’ I just grabbed what I needed. So that evening, I did not have a cigarette and I can’t smoke in the house anyways, so I have to go outside. My wife asked me to run out and fill up the car with gas. I ran out and again, I caught myself and I didn’t do it. The next morning, I woke up, I had the thoughts, I replaced them with something else. Long story short, I’ve been battling these thoughts all day long since I’ve been in this room. I’m replacing them with the right ones. I am a nonsmoker.” I go, “You’ve got to keep repeating that. That’s your goal.”
Sean Johnson: That’s such a great level of awareness for him to say, “I’m a nonsmoker.” Not, “I’m trying to quit smoking.”
John Casey: I told him, I said, “Listen, if people say, ‘I hope, I wish, I will’, they’re using the future tense and the mind ignores the future tense. We have to say things in the present, positive tense. “I am a nonsmoker. I have completed a marathon. I weigh, whatever your ideal weight is.” Long before you’ve actually accomplished those objectives, the mind will embrace them and start to help you.
Sean Johnson: So, yeah, there’s the famous Muhammad Ali, he’s quoted, you know, obviously “I am the greatest,” but there’s the quote by him that says “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
John Casey: [00:35:27] Well, yeah and his mother had planted that thought in his head. She wanted him not to drop out of school and become a gang banger and a criminal. She thought if he believed he was the greatest, that he would take the right path. She did not realize what it would eventually lead to. So, that’s a famous story.
So, back to Mike. I sent him an email a couple of days later and said, “Hey, how’s it going?” He wrote back a nice note and he said, “Hey, listen, it’s now been a week. By the way, the weekend was really tough because it was my birthday. My wife threw me a surprise party. I was drinking and I was around some of the usual suspects, all the triggers. I held myself accountable and I did it.” So, it’s a neat story about the power of the human mind and how we can help ourselves if we actually focus on those two levels. So, here are some additional techniques about how to stick to New Year’s resolutions. The first one is to set a clear and specific goal. “I want to make more money,” doesn’t work. “I want to lose weight,” doesn’t work. “I want a new car,” doesn’t work. “I want a better relationship in this area of my life,” doesn’t work. Those are general and vague and our mind ignores generalities because our mind is really smart. It knows that nothing ever happens in general, only specifics happen. So, being clear and specific with what it is we want to accomplish is the most important thing because our mind will embrace it.
Here’s another great best practice that we share a lot. We’ve all set and accomplished goals. We have all brought plans to fruition in our lives. As a matter of fact, every strength that we now have was once a weakness. Most people have thousands of things they’re good at, thousands of strengths. So, over the course of our life, we have turned weaknesses into strengths thousands of times. We’re actually really good at doing this, if we just give ourselves credit and actually remind ourselves. Make a list of the things you’re really good at doing, because at one point you sucked at doing those things. So ask yourself, “How did I get good at these things? What was my attitude? What did I do? What were my dominant thoughts and beliefs about this objective, this thing that I’m now good at? What did I do at the attitude and mindset level? What did I do at the skill set activity process level to make this a strength in my life?” We don’t have to make stuff up. All we have to do is look into our own journey and find that we have done this a lot. So, that really takes that reflection exercise to a much higher level. How did we do it on two levels? When we move forward with a New Year’s resolution, we’ve got to build our plan on two levels, not just what we’re going to do at the action level. How are we going to use affirmation? An affirmation is anything we repeat. How are we going to use visualization? How are we going to use reflection? These are the things that happen at the attitude, mindset level that people overlook when they’re building a plan. So, that’s the most important step. Build that plan at the mindset, attitude level. What do you say to yourself over and over again about the resolution? How can you create consciously the optimal, most positive statement that you can repeat over and over again?
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Part of the reason that I think Mike was able to stick to that is because he kept saying, “I’m a nonsmoker.”
John Casey: He did have children and he was a former athlete and he did want physical fitness back. There were a lot of “whys” that I helped him bring out. So, he’s got those things that he can point to. So, back to building this two level plan. Obviously, building the right mindset attitude is the precursor of success or failure, having that optimal mindset is that success generator, if you will. But, then you’ve got to put items on your “to do” list. New actions that you can start to take to get you a little bit closer to that resolution. Making a daily “to do” list is a great habit. Again, pen and pad is all you need. I would put stuff on a “to do” list that wouldn’t take much more than 15 or 20 minutes to do.
If you put something on your to do list that takes you two hours to do, you’re going to put it off. So, really breaking it down into small chunks, is another best practice. So, another example of how to create that “why” that we’ve already talked about is to simply make a T chart on a piece of paper and on the left hand column make a list of all the ways in which your life will improve if you accomplish the resolution. This helps us leverage the self enhancement, motivational driver. There’s two drivers of human behavior. One is self enhancement, making a list of how your life will improve once the resolution is accomplished is fuel. Then on the other side of the T chart, “What pains will I avoid after my resolution is achieved?” So you’re using the self enhancement lever as well as the self-preservation lever. So, both sides of that coin to really drive the “why”.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think a lot of people will have tried to avoid a loss even more than they will try to gain a benefit. Maybe people have thought about all the reasons to do it, all the ways that their life would improve, but maybe haven’t thought about “what loss will I avoid by doing this?” That preservation instinct I think kicks in and is a major driver for people.
John Casey: Yeah. No doubt about it. Another neat exercise that we recommend that folks can do is, try to create, build, write, what does a great day look like? Hmm. It could be a work day, it could be a non-work day, but what does a great day look like? Make it clear and specific with steps. How would it flow? What would it look like? Of course, within that is, where would you take the steps that would bring you closer to your resolution? In the end, like calls to like, so if we have a clear picture of what a great day looks like, we’re going to be drawn towards it. If we don’t know what a great day looks like, how will we know if we ever have one?
Sean Johnson: Yeah.
John Casey: So, like calls to like, and this is the power of goal setting and resolution setting. It is profound because, the example we all know and have lived, is that when you’re thinking about a new vehicle, a new car or truck, and you think about it over and over again, you start to recognize that vehicle everywhere you go. It’s not an accident. It’s like a calling to like, and it wasn’t because they were just recently put there as a marketing ploy to get your business. They were already there and you missed them.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Well, you feel like you see so many more car ads when you’re looking for a car. They haven’t changed and they know
John Casey: [00:43:22] That’s why they’re doing it. There’s so many ways, to really help increase the likelihood of us moving under the 12% and out of the 88% of those that don’t. So, and here’s the last thought about New Year’s resolutions or resolutions in general: any day is a good day to start, whether it’s the beginning of a week, the beginning of a month. How about the beginning of any day? That is a good time to start. You don’t have to wait for the calendar to turn. You just have to start and too soon, and too often is better than too late and not enough.
Sean Johnson: “Do the thing and you’ll get the energy to do the thing.”
John Casey: [00:44:09] Simple thing. Simple quotes. Sometimes it’s all we got and why not use those to fuel ourselves? I do a lot of this myself like “Oh, alright John, just give yourself five minutes, five minutes. You can start, you can quit. You can quit after five minutes, one bad page or one joke.” It’s really distilling it down. Just get started. Simplicity I think is one of the keys. Some of the other techniques that we’ve talked about are also there to help you. By the way, remind yourself, you’ve done it before. You can do it again.
Sean Johnson: Alright. Thanks, John. To everybody listening, if there’s anything we can do to help you crush 2020, let us know.
John Casey: You bet.
00:00:31- Why Should We Reflect?
00:02:06- The History of New Year’s Resolutions
00:06:40- Why Do So Many People Fail To Keep Up With Their Resolutions?
00:10:19- What Areas Should We Be Reflecting On?
00:11:54- Why Resolutions Fail, Starting With Number One: Treating Your Resolution As A Sprint
00:15:03- Number Two: Putting The Cart Before The Horse
00:16:30- Number Three: Not Believing In Yourself
00:17:02- How To Recognize When You Aren’t Believing In Yourself Enough
00:19:42- Number Four: Too Much Thinking, Not Enough Doing
00:21:56- Number Five: Being In Too Much Of A Hurry & Number Six: Not Enjoying The Process
00:23:25- Number Seven: Trying Too Hard, Too Soon
00:26:12- Number Eight: People That Don’t Fulfill Their New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Track Their Progress
00:27:48- Number Nine: Those That Fail Often, Have No Social Support
00:28:54- Number Ten: You Know Your “What” But Not Your “Why”
00:30:28- How John Influenced Someone To Stop Smoking
00:35:27- The Power Of Repeating Positive Statements
00:43:22- Don’t Wait To Start!