New Year’s Eve. It’s a magical time full of promise. Tomorrow is the beginning of a year all shiny and new and full of possibilities. This is the time when people are full of resolutions of change to improve their lives. On New Year’s Day, those same people jump into making those changes, fulfilling those resolutions, with unbridled energy. No half-measures, not this year. I’m going to change everything on day one and maintain it throughout the year.
How does that work out? How often do those big all or nothing changes last? December? August? What about February? Surely I was able to keep up my new changes at least through February? No? Studies show 25 percent of people give up their resolution in the first week. Why is that?
One of the big things I tell people about making exciting changes for a better life is to make changes over time and not all at once. In fact, I tell them to be like goldfish.
With goldfish, what’s the first thing you do when you bring them home? Pour them into the bowl? No, you put the bag they’re in into the bowl to acclimate them to the temperature. Once they are acclimated you release them.
There is a significant body of evidence that shows that rushing weight loss and health is a short term fix that doesn’t stick. Slowly acclimating yourself to new changes that you enjoy make it a lifestyle change.
Additionally, studies have shown that willpower is like a muscle in several ways. One willpower study was very interesting.
Imagine you’re in a room by yourself. There are two bowls in front of you. One is a bowl of cookies. The other is a bowl of radishes. You’re told you can have all the radishes you want. But the cookies are off limits! That was the setup for a study on willpower.
There was also a second group. That group could have all the cookies they wanted. Then both groups were given a difficult task. Those who used their willpower to resist the cookies complained, griped, and gave up early while the cookie group pleasantly stuck to the task nearly twice as long. These types of studies seem to indicate that willpower is a limited resource and when we rush major changes, we exhaust it quickly.
But further studies show that, like a muscle, willpower can be exercised to grow. So not only does taking small steps one at a time help move us in the right direction, it grows our willpower muscles.
So start from day one – today – and move at the right pace to find what works for you and make sure you are always moving toward WOW! – one step at a time.