Some welcome and look forward to the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions, while others dread it, yet set them anyway with half-hearted intent.
Neuroscience research shows us that the brain works in a protective way and is resistant to change. The human brain is wired to seek rewards and avoid pain. So, goals that require big changes in our behavior or thinking patterns will naturally be resisted.
What if there was a way to set meaningful intentions around what matters most to us and shift our thinking to achieve our intentions?
From Goal-Setting to Meaning
A big part of goal achievement is to set goals that are highly meaningful. “For something to be meaningful, we need other elements in place in performing the activity. We need vision. Deep intention. We need the goal to feel assimilated and coherent with the rest of our life – past, present and future,” states an article from The Creativity Post.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight and get healthier in the coming year, dig into that goal and ask yourself what’s underneath it:
- Imagine how life would be if you achieved your goal. How would you feel? What would change in your life? What might you be able to do that you can’t do now? How does this goal connect to and support your other life plans?
From Meaningful Goals to Goals Met
Once we have a meaningful goal, how do we achieve it? Writing to change our stories, says social psychologist Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia, is part of the solution. Wilson says that “writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself.”
Research by Wilson and others prove the effectiveness of “expressive writing” or “personal story editing.” Check out the results of a study at Duke University led by Wilson and published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
- Researchers convened 40 college freshmen at Duke University who were struggling academically. The students were worried about grades and questioned whether they were intellectual equals to other students at their school.The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their freshman year. They watched videos of junior and senior college students talking about how their own grades had improved as they adjusted to college. The goal of showing them these videos was to prompt the students to edit their own narratives about college. So, instead of thinking that they didn’t have what it took for college, they were encouraged to think that they just needed more time to adjust. The intervention results were amazing! In the short term, the students who had undergone the story-changing intervention got better grades on a sample test. But the long-term results were the most impressive. Students who had been prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no information. In the control group (no intervention), 20 percent of the students had dropped out within a year. In the intervention group, only 5 percent had dropped out in one year (or just 5 percent).
New Year’s Resolutions and Your Personal Narrative
Applying “personal story editing” to New Year’s resolutions requires you to change your personal narrative. Many people set the same New Year’s resolutions year after year – and it’s often unmet because of some underlying beliefs that needs to be changed. Take some time to set one or two meaningful goals for the coming year – goals that connect the larger vision for your life (not what you want to change in the short-term, but what you want to create for your life in the long-term). Then, dig into what limiting beliefs might hold you back from achieving those goals and rewrite your story!
We wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2017!