Assume you have no will power

Bill Buckley and Dr David Purves at BBC Radio Berkshire

I had a quiet New Year’s Eve because I was booked to appear on the BBC radio on New Year’s morning. I talked about how to keep resolutions. Many of us make resolutions but only about 28% of us manage to keep them for more than about 30 days. Making a resolution is the same as making a goal and I am a fan of good goals.

So what is that makes goals and resolutions so hard to keep? Research carried out by Professor Riachard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire has shown that the way we go about making and then implimenting goals is the problem.

People who manage to keep goals go about things differently from those who do not manage to keep their goals. I have made the positive factors into a neat list of 5 do’s and the unhelpful factors into a list of 5 don’ts.

5 Do’s

1. Make a step by step plan
2. Tell others about your goals
3. Think about good things that will happen if you achieve your goals
4. Reward yourself for making progress towards your goals
5. Record progress in a journal

5 Don’ts

1. Motivate yourself by focusing on a role model
2. Think about bad things that will happen if you don’t achieve your goal
3. Try to suppress unhelpful thoughts (don’t think about food, drink or cigarettes)
4. Rely on will power
5. Fantasize how good life will be when you achieve your goal.

Your environment

Finally, what can you do to make the envrionment you live in work to your advantage. By environement I mean your work, home of leisure contexts and the places you spend time in.  Let me use the example of wanting to quit smoking. If you still go to the same places and do the same things while you are in the early stages of trying to quit then all of the habitual associations found in those places will work against you. Will you go to the same place you have your first cigarette of the day and expect to use only will power to overcome the cravings? If so you are setting things badly against yourself.

The enviroment captures associative strength from the behaviour you perform in that environment. Put simply, go someplace you always smoke and you will want to smoke more than if you go someplace you don’t smoke. The old places make you think about smoking and it makes it easier to have a cigarette even if you are committed to quitting. You have to change the places you go to help ease the burden of habit.

Eventually, you have to create new routines in new places where you spend time and where habits have NO SMOKING, HEALTH AND FITNESS as their associated message rather than the other way around. Keep your resolution always in mind. If it is important enough to be a resolution or a life goal then give yourself the best shot you can at realizing it.
Use all the tools at your disposal, that way you have a chance of not being the 78% of people who fall the first hurdle in the New Year’s Resolution stakes.

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