Hello March! Hard to believe we are already a few months into the new year. How are you doing on those resolutions? Still going strong or have you already in just a few weeks time found it challenging to stay committed to something you felt really motivated to do or work towards this year?

If you’ve already found yourself struggling to stay committed to your goals, don’t be too hard on yourself because things like motivation, self control, and goal setting are much more complicated than we think. For example, recently there has been a renewed debate about willpower and whether we should be focusing on discipline, motivation, or both, a proposition that there can be a problem with focusing on big goals, and a discussion about how challenging we find it to push outside of and embrace our comfort zones.

Here are a few strategies that might help you to stay on track or get back on track with your resolutions:

  1. Rather than focusing on having the willpower to stick to your goals, focus on social emotions such as pride and gratitude.
    1. What are you grateful for? Instead of trying to avoid getting off track or force yourself to stay on track, think about something you’re grateful for now in this moment.
    2. What can you be proud of? Celebrate successes instead of just focusing on the times that you don’t stay aligned with your intentions. We are hardwired to focus on discrepancies between ideal and real so we often forget to “reward” ourselves for a job well done that can provide the motivation to continue on that path moving forward. Keep a log of the things you’ve accomplished and the times that you’ve weathered through the challenges so that you can be reminded of the progress you’re making instead of only focusing on results.
  2. Prepare for obstacles. Do some contingency planning in which you think about what real world obstacles might get in your way and come up with a plan for adapting to them so you don’t abandon what you’ve set out to do.
  3. If you do get derailed by an obstacle, capitalize on the energy we tend to get from fresh starts (good read on an interview with Wharton professor Katherine Milkman on her research and what she has dubbed “the fresh start effect”). When you’ve just “failed” at something related to your goal, use the start of the week, the start of the day, or another fresh start moment to re-energize you to get back on track with your goals.
  4. Remember that we have a fundamental need for meaning. While we like the security of comfort and certainty, we also crave novelty and a sense of purpose. For example, in The Power of Meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith discusses the enrichment that occurs at the Detroit Zoo in which small changes are made to help make the lives of the animals more exciting, stimulating, and unpredictable (ex: moving rocks or branches around to create a different environment to explore, hiding food so the animals have to search for it, giving the animals obstacles to manipulate). While they may live longer lives in a zoo, their lives aren’t as interesting or meaningful as they would be in the wild. So enrichment helps them to feel like they have more control over their environment, which is crucial for enhancing their well-being. What’s the bigger “why” behind what you’re doing? Make sure you know that and connect with it often.
  5. Focus on small habits instead of goals. Knowing your goals can be great for having a vision of what you are trying to accomplish, but setting in motion the discipline for creating small habits is what will put you in the best position to achieve those goals. What habits would help you to create the change(s) you’re looking for? Prioritize and pick one to get started with. Create a habit plan to set in motion by determining a trigger for the habit (note: you shouldn’t need to do more than a few actions that take more than a few seconds in order to start your habit; ex: set your running clothes out at night, when the alarm goes off in the morning put on the clothes and head out the door).
  6. Lastly, create a mantra that you can say to yourself each day or when you need to remember why this is important to you.

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” – Robin Sharma

Originally published at http://www.alignperform.com/stateofmind