New Years Resolutions: How to increase your chance of success through Conscious Choice and Deliberate Practice

December 31, 2012

(This is part two of an ongoing series about Deliberate Practice. To read part one, which is a very basic introduction of the concept, click Deliberate Practice:  A strategy for living better.)

Are you one of those people who start the new year making all sorts of resolutions?

Maybe you want to lose weight, get fit, spend less, enjoy life more, or learn something new.

If so, you have a lot of company–45% of us usually make resolutions and another 17% of us make them occasionally, according to the reports I’ve seen.

So what’s your track record of success?

If you’re like most people, it’s dismal. More than 88% of us fail, and many do so repeatedly.

About now I feel the need to remind you of one my favorite Albert Einstein’s quotes:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

But what if  this coming year was different and you weren’t among the many who fail?

What if you were among the 8-12% who succeed? What if you were among the few who are 10 times more likely to attain your goals?

How different would your life be? How confident would you become in your ability to make change?

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

So here’s the good news:

It is possible to change your approach to resolution-making.

And here’s the bad news:

Keeping your resolutions will still require focused concentration and effort.

But if you can do it, the payoff is huge–a better, more manageable, and happier  life.

Still interested in making some changes?

Here are some thoughts and recommendations:

  • Be gentle with yourself–at least in the beginning

I know, I know. You’re all excited about the changes you want to make and your energy and enthusiasm is high–at least right now. But what’s going to happen when the holiday is over and normal life begins again?

Prepare for that inevitability by making small, relatively painless changes at first.  This will increase your odds of success.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. I was one of those, “I’m going to lose 10 (or maybe 15 or 20 pounds, depending on the year) by March 31,” kind of people. Some years I was more successful than others, but most of the time the pounds came back on.

I don’t make resolutions like that anymore.

Here’s what I do. I simply remind myself of my commitment to live a happy, healthy, creative life (I have defined for myself, in great detail, what this life “looks” like) and then try to make conscious choices on a daily basis that are in harmony with that commitment. Of course, some days are better than others, but when I start each day focused on what I want, I end up making more of the right choices.

Put enough of the right choices together and you achieve success. Pretty soon you are ready to tackle the big stuff.

Of course, in order to do this you need to be absolutely clear on what you want and why it’s important. Then you can weather what life throws at you and stay on course.

For those of you who need help with that, here is a blog post/video I did a while back on The Power of Conscious Choice

  •  But do the work–there is no escaping the tough stuff if you want to succeed.

Starting small doesn’t mean there’s no effort involved. You still have to maintain focus so you can make more of the right choices. As I said in part one of this series, people who are successful in designing the life they want and/or become  masters in the chosen field, work at it.

They don’t just do the easy stuff.  In fact, they spend as little time as possible on it.

Instead, they choose to put their limited time and attention on the stuff that is hard.

They employ a strategy of deliberate practice because they know that confronting and conquering the tough stuff means that they are learning new skills. Skills  that help them tackle more complex tasks down the road.

For example, when I began playing guitar several years ago, I always started my practice with the stuff I already knew how to play. I considered it getting “warmed up.” I had great fun as I went through my repertoire. I would play those old standards  for a very long time and it felt really good.

But soon I realized that doing the easy songs first left me with tired, sore  fingers and only a limited amount of  time to work on the new stuff–the more difficult stuff. The stuff that frustrated me and left me feeling totally inadequate.

In other words, the stuff that would make me a better player.

So now I “warm up” on the new stuff. The hard stuff. The painful to listen to stuff.

Is this as much fun? No!

But I am willing to do it because I know that working more on the tough stuff  is what will, eventually, make me a much better player.

Doing the work, as Steven Pressfield says, is what separates the pros from the amateurs.

  • Begin each day by focusing on your resolution or goal

Be clear about what you want. Then start. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make changes as needed.

Then start again the next day.And the next. And the next.

You get the picture.

  •  Keep your eye on the prize

Once the day is done–it’s done. There’s no going back.

Keep your eye on the prize so you can start again–regardless of what happened yesterday.

  • If things aren’t going well, ask “Why?”

Not just once, but as many times as needed to get to the root cause. (See my post about “Why?’ here.)

Once you understand what’s really preventing you from doing what’s necessary, decide if you need to make any course corrections. Then start again.

  • The decisions you make daily shape your destiny

Do not allow your “mood of the moment”  to determine the course of your actions.

You’re better than that…

Finally, I’ll leave you with this quote from George Bernard Shaw, playwright and Nobel Prize winner:

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.

I hope that 2013 finds you identifying and then working on the circumstances you want in your life.

I’ll be here to help in any way I can.

Please feel free to share your experiences with resolutions and goal-setting  in the comments section.





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