New Year Resolutions and holding true to your intentions

From our Tai Chi and Chi Kung teacher, Geoff Busbridge, he offers the following interesting insight and advice for those of us making New Year resolutions:

“Are you planning to take on more in your life - working out, more exercise, better diet, more hobbies?  Or are you trying to give something else up, like smoking, unhealthy eating, television or mindlessly surfing the net?

“The sad fact is that most people will break all of their resolutions before February and then forget about them until 2014.  Some people will manage to stick to one or two long enough to make them a habit.  Very rare indeed are those who can make a series of resolutions and stick to them for a whole year.”

“The human mind builds on past experiences and reprograms itself.  It comes to expect and plan for what it knows.  In other words, we reprogram ourselves for failure every time we fail.  If, on the other hand, we experience success, we begin to expect it, anticipate it and make it happen.

“If you do things right you can correct the subconscious expectation of failure, develop quiet confidence in your ability to improve and succeed, and make your resolutions an inevitability.

“There is a part of the brain called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) that is directly connected to willpower.”  It compares the good things (resolutions) that you intend to do with what you are (the bad habits) doing.  “When there is a discrepancy, the ACC sounds an alarm, bringing attention to the problem so that you can fix it.”   However, if the ACC is overtaxed by a surplus of conflicting information, “you will temporarily “exhaust” the ACC and leave yourself open to lapses in willpower.”

“To stick to our resolutions we need a strong ACC and good willpower reserves.  How do we accomplish this?

“Start small. You need to build up willpower like you would physical strength, by exercising it gradually.  Going to the gym and lifting the heaviest weight when you don’t work out isn’t a good idea.  Even if you can lift it, you will be too worn out to do it again after that.  Doing that to the ACC will deplete your willpower.

“Start by adding, not subtracting.  If you have been smoking for 20 years and have lax willpower, quitting will be nearly impossible.  If, on the other hand, you add some good habits first, you’ll strengthen your ACC enough to tackle the old, bad habit.

“Don’t give yourself a choice.  Do the same thing at the same time every day and you’ll build willpower without also taxing your choices.  Stick with it for at least 30 days, preferably 6 weeks.

“Simplify.  The more you tax yourself for other things, the less willpower you’ll have.  The more decisions you have to make, the more fatigued your ACC will get.  If you can simplify your life, you will have a greater reserve of willpower to draw from, which in turn will make developing it easier.  Good habits are great for this because you don’t even have to think about what you are doing - your autopilot kicks in, freeing up your ACC for the hard stuff.

"Remember it takes six weeks to develop a habit.  Stick to one thing for that long and see how well it works! "