January 6, 2011

Resolution tips

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From the article: Three Ways to Make Change Easier in 2011

1. Do more of what’s working. People are wired to look at the negative. We like to analyze things that aren’t working and then try to fix them...Instead, flip that mindset and focus on the “bright spots”—that is, those times when things are working well. For instance, say you’re a parent trying to improve your relationship with an uncommunicative teenager...ask yourself: When was the last time we had a good conversation?

That conversation is your bright spot—it’s the evidence that it’s possible for things to work the way you’d like. What was different about that encounter? Maybe you were talking at a different time of day (late at night?), or you were in a new place (in the mall?), or you were talking about something you don’t usually discuss (heavy metal bands?). Identify what made that time different, and do more of it.

2. Set “action triggers.” Say you’ve been putting off going to the gym. So you declare to yourself: Tomorrow morning, right after I drop off Sarah at school, I’ll head straight there for my workout. Let’s call this mental plan an “action trigger.” You’ve made the decision to follow a certain plan (working out) when you encounter a certain trigger (the school’s front entrance, tomorrow morning).

...a group of patients in England, with an average age of 68 who were recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery. Some of them were asked to set action triggers for their recovery exercises—something like, “I’ll do my range-of-motion extensions every morning after I finish my first cup of coffee.” The other group did not receive any coaching on action triggers. The results were dramatic: Those patients who used action triggers recovered more than twice as fast...

Action triggers work so well because they allow us to avoid making tough decisions in the moment...we simply carry out the plan we created earlier.

3. Don’t be derailed by struggles.  To make a big change, you’ve got to expect some failure along the way. As the California Tobacco Control program says in one of its anti-smoking ads: “It took you years to learn how to smoke. How come you thought you’d be able to quit the first time?”

...So if you make a New Year’s resolution, and then slip up, then relax. What made you think you could change overnight? No one stops learning how to cook because they accidentally incinerate a chicken breast one night.

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