Do you remember that feeling at the beginning of a new school year, starting with brand new school supplies? That sense of freshness and new beginnings as you open up the first page of a new notebook and hold a new sharp-pointed pencil poised to make the first mark? Usually, the first few pages of my notebook would have my best neatest writing, which then deteriorated as time went on. My desire to do my best, reaching for higher standards of excellence dwindled as the day to day routines of daily living took me back to standards of mediocrity and just getting by.
The beginning of a new year is when we reflect on the past year and see things that we would like to change and do differently. A new year represents a fresh start, a new chapter, and a clean unwritten page in life. There is a desire to live better, reach new goals, and make a fresh start. We make New Year Resolutions and promise ourselves we will do them. We summon up our will power and determination and step into the New Year with the greatest and sincerest of intentions.
New Year Resolutions have become almost the joke of this season. It is well recognized that those well-intentioned New Years' resolutions often fail as quickly as they are made. One common resolution is the goal to lose weight by eating sensibly and exercise. It is the busiest time of year for Fitness Centers, but statistics have shown that new memberships are rarely kept up more than a month or two. New Year resolutions do show that good intentions are not sufficient to make permanent changes in our lives.
Why do most New Year Resolutions fail?
We are motivated by pleasure in life rather than pain. Many resolutions involve some deprivation of pleasure, whether it be eating or stopping a bad habit. We know that although we enjoy our bad habits, their consequences are ultimately not beneficial for either our health or life. The desire for instant gratification for short term pleasure is far more potent than any logical mental sense of reason in most cases. We know what we should do in our head, but doing it when it opposes our immediate desires is tough.
Our mind is composed of two parts; the conscious and subconscious mind. Brain activity takes place through neurons. In one second, the conscious mind uses two thousand neurons, and in that same second, the subconscious mind uses four billion neurons. This means that every second, two thousand neurons make conscious decisions, and four billion neurons make subconscious decisions. Which part of your mind has the most significant control, do you think?
The subconscious mind is trained by the constant repetition of the beliefs, values, and lifestyle you have taken and lived from an early age. It automatically follows the familiar and well-trodden path of well-ingrained thoughts, ideas, and behaviors. The subconscious operates from such a well-established history that it responds automatically with learned responses and behavior. This is why it is so challenging to create new habits of thoughts and actions, and the subconscious mind will always try to revert to an old familiar way of doing things because they have become so automatic. The conscious mind has a hard job to make permanent changes because of the power of those four billion neurons. It can be achieved, but the conscious mind takes hard work to retrain our subconscious mind.
It's said that you need to do something at least 30 times to create a new habit. For life changes long learned behaviors, it can take far more than that. For example, have you ever got in the car and driven to your destination, and not remember the journey there. You have been driving using your subconscious mind's learned behaviors, and your conscious mind has been thinking about something else. However, if you were to drive in a different country whose custom is to drive on the other side of the road, your conscious mind would be working very hard to correct your subconscious mind's learned and instinctive behavior. The whole experience of driving on the other side of the road feels wrong and uncomfortable. If you lose your concentration, you could find yourself automatically going back to familiar patterns and become a road hazard!
Here are tips for working on those New Years Resolutions:
*Don't expect instant results – it's a process.
*Plan small attainable steps to your desired goal.
*Celebrate each successful step towards your goal and work on it until it feels automatic before progressing to the next.
*Don't give up when you experience relapses and setbacks.
*Review your new steps and goals several times daily.
*Visualize what it looks and feels like reaching your goal.
*Write down your steps and goals.
*Find people who will support and encourage you on the way.