Now that we’re in the second week of January, 25% of those who created New Year’s resolutions for themselves have already given up. It’s not enough to just set a goal – persistence is an essential component of your success.
More than anything, persistence is a habit of thought. And thanks to modern technology, we know that thinking is actually a physical process; doctors and scientists can see what’s going on in our heads as electrochemical reactions. We know where a thought occurs, how long it takes new neural patterns to form, and what kinds of stimuli move this along more quickly. Habits – the patterns and actions that we don’t consciously think about – take up a huge proportion of our brain power, and the conscious activities of setting goals and sticking to them require us to literally rewire our brains. No wonder it’s so hard to stick to those resolutions!
If you make a resolution on January 1, your brain doesn’t yet have the neural pathways that you need to support that goal. It wants to fall into the worn, comfortable paths of thinking and acting, which require a lot less work. If your new goal requires new habits, you’re going to have to repeat and reinforce those new habits on a daily basis and make a conscious effort to develop new behaviors.
This means revisiting your goals every single day. Imagine your success. Plan the actions you’ll take to reach your goal. Check items off your task list. Re-write your goals. Set milestones for your progress. Do something related to your goal every day, and you’ll literally create the pathways in your brain that make it more likely that you’ll succeed.
Does this feel like too much work? Ask yourself whether you’re excited about your goal – and be honest. Do you really want this, or is it something you’ve become accustomed to thinking you want? Something you think you’re supposed to want? Emotion is a powerful element in actually reaching the goals we set for ourselves. The neural pathways that help you form new habits are stronger, more numerous, longer-lasting, and harder to change if they’re tied to a strong emotion. When you picture yourself reaching your goal, how do you feel – energized and excited, or relieved that it’s finally over? If you struggle with persistence, it might be worthwhile to evaluate whether you’re heading toward the right goal for this time in your life.
In other words, it’s not about setting a goal or making a resolution; the key to success is maintaining daily focus on the thoughts, behaviors, and images that will help you reach a goal that you really want.
So take this goal-setting stuff seriously. This is your life – you have the power to shape it as you want. If you set goals that you’re emotionally invested in and take daily steps toward that goal, you’ll form the habit of success.