Make a Resolution, Not a Goal

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Every New Year's millions of people make "resolutions".

However, if we look at the above definition, many of us are not making resolutions.  We're making goals.

Losing ___ pounds.  Running ____ miles.  Bench pressing ____ pounds.

These are goals.  These are potential achievements.  These are tasks that end after they are reached.

It's not necessary a solution to a problem or a true lifestyle change.

It's almost more of an internal ego battle.  A way for our brains to tell ourselves, "I told you so".  Then after reaching the goal, the brain sits back and lets the old habits resume.

 this is how I act after I've reached my goal weight ( image source )

this is how I act after I've reached my goal weight (image source)

Choose a Process Instead

Instead of aspiring to reach a goal, we should aspire to change.  But instead of focusing on the outcome of the change, we should focus on the process.

Why?

Process oriented change is more robust and effective.

The benefits:

  • Allows success on a daily basis
  • Doesn't depend on reaching an end goal
  • Is ephemeral - keeps you in the present (not the future)
  • Can be infinite, which leads to true change
  • A failure can be redeemed the next day, or the next time the process choice occurs (easy to get back on the wagon)
  • May be a keystone habit that improves other areas of life
 focusing on the top of the stairs makes the pug suffer, focusing on the process and each step makes the pug get a great workout ( image source )

focusing on the top of the stairs makes the pug suffer, focusing on the process and each step makes the pug get a great workout (image source)

Exercise Example

Let's use exercise as a quick example.

Focusing on the process of exercising allows us the opportunity to have success everyday.  It's not dependent on a physical appearance or a numerical achievement.

With a process focused approach there's no impending future failure or delayed gratification.  Instead, there's always potential success and instant gratification.  We're always one decision away from achieving our intent.

Going to the gym today is a success, even if we didn't go at all last week.

Hell, even walking up the stairs can be reframed as exercise.  And with this perspective, we can start making progress at every moment.  #TheLittleThings #Reframe #DailyExercise #TrustTheProcess

*I think a key to this approach is making sure we reinforce the positive choices or actions that allows us to feel the instant gratification and celebrate the small wins

Identity Based Behavior Change

One more major benefits of focusing on the process instead of the outcome is that it can lead to a new identity.

And there has been a lot of research on the power of our identity influencing our habits and decisions (1, 2, 3, 4). 

There is even a recent study on the "Batman Effect" - kids that dress up as Batman performed better at completing tasks than their normal civilian dressed peers.

 maybe our resolution should be to dress up as our favorite superhero ( image source )

maybe our resolution should be to dress up as our favorite superhero (image source)

But we don't have to put on a cape to change our identity and become someone else.  We just need to develop some advantageous subpersonalities, or parts, to help the whole.

For example, we don't need to become a superhero that never eats sugar.  We just need to develop the part of our identity that doesn't eat a whole sleeve of oreos in one sitting.

What to Do

There's just 4 things we need to do to make a true resolution.

  1. Focus on the process
  2. Identify with the process
  3. Allow the process/identity to change habits/behavior
  4. Buy a cape

Summary

It may not be free will that is determining our decisions, but how we identify ourselves. 

It's our perception of who we are that determines our choices, not our ability to consciously react to external stimuli.

By focusing on the process we will help affirm our new identities and change our perception, thus change our habits/behaviors.

It's identity based perception.  It's identity based motivation.  It's identity based habit change.  It's identity based behavior change.

And it all just starts with identifying with the process, not the outcome.

Donate

Many kids don't have the option of dressing up as Batman to change their behavior.

Many kids are struggling just to get enough food, let alone the right food.

"45% of all child deaths worldwide are from causes related to undernutrition, or 3.1 million children a year"

Consider a small donation to the Action Against Hunger to help feed the hungry.