Written by Millionaire’s Digest Team Member: Ashley Ford-McAllister
Founder & Owner of: Negative is Also a Charge
Millionaire’s Digest Team, Contributor, Business and Successful Living Writer
Let’s finally admit, once and for all, that no one keeps New Year’s resolutions. (Well, okay, maybe a handful of perfectionists, and a couple of motivated-by-the-possibility-of-imminent-death types. But no ordinary people.)
The thing is, the human brain doesn’t like change. Change is bad. Change means the brain actually has to do some work, pull its finger out, set up a new schema for this changed-up reality. And the human brain would really rather just plod along as a good-but-nothing-special member of the physical body, occasionally having moments of brilliance, but mostly just… Ticking along.
But you are not just your brain, and you want to change, so don’t decide on a “new” thing you’re going to do, or not do.
Look at your past. Look at your habits, and twist them, ever so slightly, so you’re sneaking changes in through the back door.
Feeling flabby, and want to get fit? Don’t say you’ll “lose weight” – tell yourself you’ll take up a sport you used to enjoy as a child, or that you’ll spend half an hour a day just walking aimlessly in your local area, or somewhere nearby. Your brain will be so busy reactivating kinetic memory for the muscle groups required in your particular sport, or scanning the horizon for threats and opportunities as you walk along – things your brain is good at, that it enjoys doing, and is programmed to do well – that it won’t notice you’re also burning calories, which, in the long run, will lead to weight loss. And, since walking aimlessly is easy, and playing a childhood sport is fun, it will be easier for you to keep doing those things than it would bring yourself to go to the gym, or jog for an hour a day.
Want to stop smoking? Don’t tell your brain you’re going to stop. Redirect it – not every time, at least not in the beginning. At lunchtime, say, tell your brain that “we’ll go for a cigarette once we’ve had an apple, and a quick chat with Tom over there.” The likelihood is that being engaged firstly with the mechanics of eating an apple, and secondly with the complexities of verbalized social interaction, your brain will forget you usually have a cigarette at lunchtime. Do that every day for a week – that’s seven fewer cigarettes you’ve smoked. Then, start also redirecting your after-dinner cigarette craving to “I wonder what mango juice and ginger ale tastes like? Shall we try a glass of that just now?” (It doesn’t have to be mango juice and ginger ale. Or apples. Choose something refreshing, and/or that you haven’t had before, but are likely to find pleasant.) That’s fourteen fewer cigarettes. And, since your brain has other things to do, and your hands are occupied, you probably won’t even notice.
Trying to get better at saving money? Whatever you do, don’t deny your brain its Starbucks fix, or cancel your Netflix subscription. Keep those little glimmers of brightness in a dull world, if they help you. Instead, set up a direct debit to a long-term savings account, or a pension fund. Pay a monthly amount you can afford without anxiety. Arrange for the direct debit to go out on payday. There. The money’s gone. You never had it, never saw it, are not depriving yourself of anything, and, most importantly, it’s not sitting somewhere in the house, calling to you every time some new piece of bright and shiny is released to the marketplace. If you’re lucky, you might even get interested in it. Now, this bit is important: Don’t look at your savings statement until you’re ready to cash in to make the big-ticket purchase you’ve been saving for. Just don’t. Your brain is used to direct debits going out. It’s got into a habit of treating them as money that no longer exists. That’s how it sees the money you’re sending to that savings account, and it’s perfectly happy with that.
Old habits – the need for fun, boredom being relieved by something new, paying bills by direct debit – die hard. Use them to start building a new you.
Article Credits: Ashley Ford-McAllister
Millionaire’s Digest Team, Contributor