Top Tip to Making Your New Years Resolution (or any goal) Stick

The truth is that we are all under construction. We all have areas of growth and we are lucky that each day we can improve ourselves. No one loves or believes in change and goals more than a therapist. But there is one tip that can make a huge difference in helping us to improve and reach those goals or keep those New Years Resolutions.

That top tip is this: Replacement. When you are looking to improve your life by letting go of something that isn’t the best for you, instead of just focusing on getting rid of that thing, you need to replace it with something better.

We are just learning more and more about the capacities of our brains. They are absolutely remarkable and complex. There are some things that researchers have found about our brains that can apply directly to our ability to improve ourselves and how we can make more progress in reaching our goals. For one, there is a term called neuroplasticity which basically is how the brain forms and recreates connections–or how the brain rewires. What they have determined is that anything we give attention to or anything we emphasize in our experiences and interactions creates new linking connections in the brain. So, where attention goes neurons fire. You can and do create new linking connections all the time. No matter what habit you are trying to break or new habit you are trying to develop– neuroplasticity means you have hope to be able to make any necessary brain rewiring needed.

One other aspect of the brain that researchers have found which gives a lot of hope regarding breaking and creating habits is about neural pathways. I’m simplifying greatly here for the sake of explanation but knowing how our brains work is crucial in knowing how we can improve or fix our thinking. Your brain is full of neural pathways which is basically the paths your thoughts travel and your brain is trained to take the shortest and easiest, most worn path if it doesn’t get different directions from you. Kinda makes sense now when you hear the phrase ‘we are creatures of habit’ now, huh? The hope lies in that we can direct our brains and we can create new paths or detours if you will to avoid our previous paths or ways of thinking. With the replacement option, when we have a tendency to go down a path that we are trying to change, you can direct your brain to hop onto and travel the replacement option instead of fighting within your mind to not go down the path you are now trying to avoid. (Our brains really don’t like to be told no–they much rather prefer –go this way instead. Knowing about neural pathways allows you to understand why it can be difficult to change behavior when the pathway is been so thoroughly ground in. It takes time to build new neural pathways and so don’t be discouraged when you recognize a tendency to return to old habits. Remember that you are building something better and focus on ways you can reinforce those thoughts that will allow you to progress in the goals you have for yourself.

For example, if you are looking to improve your health by limiting a particular food that you find isn’t healthy for you, you will be much more successful if you replace that food with something better for you rather than by only just cutting that out of your diet.

If you are looking at overcoming a pornography addiction, you will be more successful in this journey by replacing. Replace the time you spend alone pursuing a path that doesn’t lead to connection and add a meaningful connection like volunteering at an animal shelter or at a food kitchen or finding someone to serve. Replace the darkness with light. Tell your mind what to do instead of simply telling it to stop.

So when you are considering your improvement goals or your New Years Resolutions, don’t just look for what you should stop doing, but look for positive ways and things that you can replace what you want to stop doing by what you should start doing. We are all under construction, but knowing how our mind is constructed and using the replacement (detour) technique will surprise you how much more success you will find in progressing, reaching and accomplishing your goals this year.

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Why Goals Are So Powerful And How A Cow Could Be The Secret to Reaching Your Goals

There is a famous saying that you never step in the same river twice. Meaning that the river is always changing due to the currents moving in one direction or another. Life is really no different– it is full of change and we are either moving against the current or even without us realizing it, the current is moving us. Goals are the number one way to give direction and control in life. They can serve as an anchor in unchartered waters and the rivers of life and allow us to grow and improve despite our circumstances—even a global pandemic. Goals are powerful.

In fact, goals can allow you a path forward and more control in your life. They help you recognize what brings you joy and how to make your dreams and ambitions come true.

Goals can even help you push through difficult situations especially where feelings are intense. Instead of relying on “I’ll see how I feel”, you can predetermine your focus and thoughts and choose to move forward despite not feeling like it. Regardless if you are processing difficult feelings from a breakup of a relationship or early pregnancy loss or even an extended deployment –whatever you may be processing– having goals allows you a path forward rather than spiraling downwards in despair or discouragement.

Our thoughts can be more powerful than even the most intense feelings and if you have preset goals, your thoughts about your goals can motivate you even through dark times. Goals give you a chance to muster your energy (which can be depleted at times) to a central purpose and allow you to rise above your current situation.

Goals allow for you to recognize growth and progress and are more powerful than you realize.

Here are five tips to help you find more success in making and achieving your goals including a final tip about a cow that could be the secret to you reaching your goals.

The Importance of a Progressive Mindset

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you are setting your goals is to have a progressive mindset. The pass/fail mentality often limits goal setting for fear that you will feel like a failure if you don’t reach your goal. It is important to remember that it is not about achieving or not achieving your goal but that all goals are meant to lift us higher and that no matter how high your goal, if you shoot for the moon, you will still leave the ground and any height off the ground is progress. Having a progressive mindset allows you to recognize and feel all the joy from all the progress you are making rather than limiting yourself to joy only in the outcome or only frustration when goals aren’t completely accomplished.

The Importance of Knowing Your Why

Knowing your why is essential in both combating discouragement and providing the mental encouragement in helping you reach your goals. It helps you overcome challenges and is the source of motivation. It also allows you to ignore how your actions may appear to others when others may not understand. Knowing your why also helps get you through the day to day monotony. For instance, if you have a goal to be a good parent and provider for your children, knowing your why helps when you get up early and drive to work while it’s still dark outside. Whatever your why, knowing your why allows you to intentionally make decisions that will help you reach your goal regardless of the opposition you face or the the challenges you might have. This is a short two minute commercial actually but it does a great job of illustrating the power and importance of goals and knowing your why. Try and not cry at the end.

The Importance of Knowing the When to Win

To be successful at implementing a new goal in your life, knowing ‘the when’ can be a crucial step. You need to know when you are going to accomplish this in your life. Where does it fit in your life? When are you going to do it? In addition to knowing when you are going to add the goal in your life, it is also important to set a time when you can evaluate whether or not what you are doing is helping you reach your goal and if it isn’t, you can make subtle changes to make sure you are on the right track. It is important to keep in mind that it is normal for how you reach your goals to change. For instance, if your goal was to take and active role in your physical health by going to the gym for 30 minutes everyday before work and then gyms are closed due to COVID, you would obviously need to reassess and change how you would work towards that goal. You may need to change the way you are working towards that goal by doing a workout at home everyday instead or adding a morning walk to your routine. COVID or another challenge you might face doesn’t need to cancel your goal or mean that you need to give up on your goal, it just means that the way you reach your goal may need to change. Knowing the when of your goals definitely helps you to win.

Two Key questions to Ask to Create Goals

While creating goals for yourself can sometimes be an overwhelming and daunting challenge, there are two key questions that can help you determine where to start. One: What is something that you need to start doing to be that person? And Two: What is something that you need to stop doing? Pondering the answers to those two simple questions can allow you to determine the direction you want to head and regardless of the currents of the river of life, setting goals to reach them will help lead you to becoming that person you want to be.

The Cow Does Not Give Milk

The secret to success can be found in a simple truth taught by a farmer: the cow does not give milk. Yes, the cow produces the milk but in order to get the milk, it involves the monotonous process of getting up at the crack of dawn and walking through a bunch of cow manure to get a bucket, sitting on a bench and physically removing the milk from the cow. You milk the cow or you don’t get milk. The things one receives are the results of the efforts one does. There is no short cut to hard work. Don’t be afraid of work as it is the key to any goal. Just wanting something or asking for something doesn’t mean it comes true. The cow does not give milk, it gets milked.

So, make this year your year of progress. Physically sit down and write out your goals and what you are going to do to achieve them. Regardless of what this year will bring, you will find greater happiness, greater peace and joy in your progress to becoming a better version of yourself.

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