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How to Finally Ace Your New Year's Resolution...or Not!

Welcome to the first “official” workday of the new year. Around half of Americans make resolutions to start a new year, and of those, fewer than 10% will follow through and succeed at their newfound resolve. Of the other 90+ percent, most will quit this week. This.Week. Ouch!

Before you get all bummed out about the looming mass failure, let’s step back a bit and examine why the failure rate is so high. There’s interesting brain science involved, and I’ll make sure you’ll understand it perfectly.

The brain loves patterns. Humans can learn as fast and as much as we do because brains look for patterns, connect the dots, and voila! A new pattern is formed around the new information. That’s where language skills come from, math skills, driving skills…all the skills start out as a basic pattern the brain forms. If you’ve ever driven somewhere and realized that you don’t really remember driving because you were preoccupied with something else, congratulations. Your brain is very good at running the “drive to this place” pattern and that’s what was happening. You didn’t have to think about it because your brain was literally on auto-pilot.

This is the upside of our pattern-loving grey matter. The downside is that brains love patterns. Once a pattern is formed it takes focus, effort and a gritty resolve to break the pattern. Think about your morning routine and that time you decided to start the day a different way. How did that work out for you? It’s hard to change a pattern your brain already loves and runs routinely. Hard, and not impossible. Behavioral studies are pointing to a good way to switch something up – plug it into an already-existing pattern. That means if you want to add 15 minutes of meditation to your morning routine, look at the routine, decide where the meditation time would fit best, and set up whatever you need to set up before you go to bed the night before you begin. Find your comfy chair or pillow where you will meditate, and place a glass of water there the night before. If you’ll use a guided meditation or meditation music, pick it out the night before and have it open and ready to go at the push of a button on your phone.

By intentionally choosing the exact place in your current pattern where the addition to it will take place, you give yourself the best chance to be in the less than 10% of people who keep their New Year’s resolutions. Need a little more help? The Wellbeing Wisdom Tiny Bite podcast has your back!

Major life change stressing you out? There’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Need to tame your inner child’s tantrums? There’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Looking for a time-management hack? There’s a Tiny Bite for that!

These Wellbeing Wisdom Tiny Bites podcasts are quick hits on a single topic each day, designed to give you an easy, evidence-based way to deal with common issues. It’s the world's second-shortest podcast - 90 seconds or less – and you’ll find a new one every day at the Center for Workplace Happiness website and wherever you listen to podcasts. If you like it, please subscribe and share it with your friends.

As for your New Year’s resolutions, now you know why they’re hard to keep, and you have the tools to keep yours this year if they’re important to you. And if you decide they’re not that important, then drop those things like a hot potato without beating up on yourself. Create your life in a way that feels good to you, not one that feels like you’re constantly punishing yourself. And happy new year – may 2023’s patterns bring us all only the best!

Wags, Sandy Weaver, Program Director, Center for Workplace Happiness

PS...For evidence-based self-improvement courses and books, check out the offerings available through the Center for Workplace Happiness. Need a bunch of one of the books or courses? Enjoy generous bulk discounts – contact me and we’ll get your team taken care of.  


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