Are you one of the millions of Americans who made a New Year’s Resolution this year? Did you start 2019 proclaiming that you were going to quit something, start something or be something different? Well, let me be the first to let you off the hook: Don’t bother. Resolutions don’t work.
What’s wrong with New Year’s Resolutions
Okay, fine; resolutions don’t work MOST of the time. Sure, some people can make ’em and keep ’em. But statistics show that only around 19% of New Year’s Resolutions made this year will be kept until 2021. And get this: nearly one in four people give up on their resolution in the first week. Twenty-three percent gone — in just the first WEEK. Poof!
Why do people slip up on Resolutions? Authors of the study The Resolution Solution concluded that it’s due to “a lack of personal control, excessive stress, and negative emotion.” Aha! Stress and negative emotion are not exactly a great way to start a positive change in your life, huh? Then why do people still make them? New Year’s Resolutions are so old school (almost as old as… oh, I don’t know… saying the term “old school!”), yet millions of people with the best intentions still make ’em every year.
But there’s a better way to make changes in your life; one that is exponentially more successful in helping you achieve that elusive Better Life. This year leave Resolutions behind and embrace your fresh new Inner Self in 2019: set an intention.
Why you should set an intention
An Intention? Ew. How earthy-crunchy! How touchy-feely! Hang on… stick with me for a minute. There’s a ton of science behind how the language we use presupposes success or failure and that using positive language is far more conducive to success. So setting a realistic Positive Intention for your life for this new year is WAY better than giving yourself some absolutist dictate like “Quit Smoking!” or “Lose weight!”
I could show you stats and talk about Positive Mindset and Successful Behavior (Forbes) and studies on Neurolinguistics or Self-Regulation of Intentions (NYU Dept of Psychology)…but, yikes! Instead, let’s just look at this idea of Positive Intentions by checking one out.
In 2018, 38% of people who made a resolution said they wanted to “Reduce Stress.” While this is an idea a lot of entrepreneurs and professionals like us can get behind — and an overall admirable Resolution — let’s take a look at it in terms of what it’s actually saying — and, more importantly, what it’s not saying.
First, “stress” is an inherently negative term, right? (Anything synonymous with “Agony, anxiety, tension” is not a positive!) So why start out with something you DON’T want, instead of something you DO want? Ever have someone tell you NOT to do something… and it just makes you think about it more? Well, that’s the way our brains work. When you state something in the negative — “Don’t eat that cookie!” — the last thing your brain hears is “eat that cookie” – making us want to, well, eat that cookie. :D
Next, “Reduce Stress” is ambiguous. What do you consider to be stressful? (What someone might think of as stressful – say, public speaking or training for a marathon – another person could heartily enjoy. Stress is not the same for everyone.) What are you going to do to reduce stress? How are you going to know when/if you have succeeded?
Vague and negative? Bleck. Try this instead:
Create a PRIME Intention: one that’s Positive, Realistic, Intentional, Manageable and Engaging.
How to set a PRIME Intention
Personalizing each part of a PRIME Intention will make it easy to keep — if you make the right one. Here’s how it works:
Out with the old (negative), in with the new (positive)! Instead of saying “Reduce stress,” try saying what you DO want: “I’ll be more (insert word that speaks to you here: calm… peaceful… quiet… happy… confident).” Because doesn’t “I’ll be more calm” sound better than “stop stressing out!” When you say what you want, you’ll work harder to get it.
Go big… but keep it real. While you never want to reign in your ambition, you have to KNOW that achieving your goal is possible. So it’s great to stretch yourself, but if you already know in your heart of hearts that you won’t achieve it while you’re coming up with your goal, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Don’t worry about “Go big or go home.” Find wherever your gut says is right for you. If you know you can do it, then you will, no matter how hard it is.
Get specific: What do you want? Why do you want to do this? What’s the reason for going after this goal? If you know from the start the intention behind your goal, you’ll be more driven. If you kinda sorta know what you want… you’ll kinda sorta fail.
Make concrete plans for your goal. What are you going to do? How you will do it? When will you know your goal has been achieved? The more specific you can get (thinking of steps to take or milestones to strive for), the easier it is to see that you are making progress. The motivation you get when you see that you’ve succeeded in taking a deliberate step in the right direction makes it that much easier to take the next step… and the next.
If you’re not that into it, you won’t do it. How important is this goal? Is it something you could happily live without? If you can’t see your life without accomplishing this goal, then you will have no choice but to make it happen. You’re going to unconsciously work towards it every chance you can. If you don’t want to do it, you just won’t. So make the version of your goal that you can’t see living without. It’s a sure fire way to get it done!
Putting it all together
Now that we know what the PRIME Intention is, let’s go back and apply RPIME to that original Resolution: “Reduce Stress.” Let’s put it in terms of the workplace. Maybe if being overwhelmed by your workload is stressful: “I’ll break down big jobs into smaller, more manageable pieces and take it one piece at a time.” Or if the stress is coming from a boss: “I’ll be calmer when confronted by my boss by telling him I’ll get back to him after making a plan.” Or if coworkers are getting you down: “I will stand up for myself and set manageable expectations for myself and my co-workers.” The more you can identify WHAT is causing the need for change, the more specific your plan can be.
So this year, let’s get positive. Let’s get PRIME! Let’s say yes to the New Movement in the New Year. Let’s move away from making those harsh, failing Resolutions and toward a kinder, gentler way of achieving your goals.
Ready to take a moment to set your PRIME Intention? Go for it! Just make sure you keep it: Positive, Realistic, Intentional, Manageable and Engaging.
Coz don’t you want to be part of the 19% of people who are still succeeding two years from now? I know I do! :D
Here’s to a New Year full of not “the best intentions,” but your PRIME Intentions. Cheers!
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