Better Than New Year’s Resolutions

Rowing MachineIt is the last week of January.  How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming?

I read a great article in December that changed my perspective on resolutions.  The article, by James Clear, was Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.  He suggests that it is more useful to create a system than a goal.

The article resonated with me.  I realized that it was systems, not goals, that worked for me last year.  I wanted more energy, more fitness, more fun.  Instead of setting a goal around pounds or inches, I created a system of working out at the gym three times a week, and dancing at least three hours each weekend. 

I wanted quiet time to think about my direction and plan for my future.  I scheduled a silent retreat every month.  I got the results I wanted because I set up a system to achieve those results.  Plus, I got all kinds of spillover benefits.

BJ Fogg, director of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, says behavior changes require three things: a trigger, ability, and motivation.  If you are not getting the behavior change you desire, one of those three things is lacking.

I had the ability to work out.  I love to dance, so dancing provided the motivation.  In order to dance for three hours, I needed to improve my endurance, strengthen my knees, improve my balance.  My workouts at the gym made that possible. 

Then I needed a trigger that would get me to the gym.  I had to schedule the time.  My online calendar reminds me of my schedule.  It can keep reminding me every five minutes until I get out the door.

Fogg set up a website to help us develop new habits, starting with very tiny habits. I used this process to remember to plug in my cell phone every night before I went to sleep.  I had the ability and motivation to do so, but I needed a trigger to help me remember.  I always grabbed my to-do list before sleeping, so I could write down the action items I’d been carrying around in my head. Now I associate plugging in the cell phone with grabbing my to-do list, and I plug the phone in every night.

New Year’s Resolutions get a bad reputation because they rarely result in lasting change.  But now you know the secret to changing your behavior.  A trigger, ability, and motivation.

What behavior will you change?

© 2013 Marcia Davis-Cannon

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About marciadaviscannon

Marcia is a career transition coach leading “Uncover Your Calling”, “Uncover Your Narrative” and “Uncover Your LifeStory”’ at Deborah’s Palm. Her hobbies include public speaking, ballroom and contra dancing, writing poetry, and watching live theater.

One thought on “Better Than New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Hi Marcia,

    I didn’t know you were a dancer too! My husband and I have begun ballroom dancing together again – fun exercise!


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