Imagine yourself in 365 days…. you will have realized your good resolutions for the new year or will there be only good dreams left?
See, when it comes to good intentions unrealized, I always think of what is the most significant book ever written on willpower…. "Bridget Jones's diary"...
Come on, obviously not.
In fact, Bridget Jones is someone who, when she decides to go on a diet after the holidays, writes things like:
"Better get rid of Christmas sweets all at once, and start over from scratch starting tomorrow"
And by "freeing oneself" he means eating them ... (as I understand it, though!).
However, if it is true that you often learn from mistakes, here is that Bridget can teach us a lot.
The problem of the lists of good intentions
Bridget begins her famous diary with two long lists of good intentions for the new year:
- the first list relates to things to avoid (smoking, drinking more than 14 alcoholic drinks a week, throwing money away, behaving sloppily, losing patience, gossiping…. ..)
- the second, on the other hand, is relative to Things to do (stop smoking, drink less than 14 alcoholic drinks per week, reduce thigh circumference by at least 8 cm, improve career, go to the gym 3 times a week…. ..).
They seem reasonable don't they?
Yet these intentions are all destined almost inevitably to be wrecked by two fundamental errors and very typical of the human soul.
Two mistakes that you probably make too often, and that are at the root of the lack of willpower with which we sometimes find ourselves confronted.
Willpower and New Year's Resolutions
Says the wise:
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time
It sounds like a bitch, but it's actually the biggest aphorism ever uttered about willpower (this time I'm not kidding!):
In fact, it tells us exactly what it is necessary and not to do when it is used to make it your good intentions.
That is, it reveals the two errors I mentioned earlier:
- Try to lift weights that are too large
- Trying to lift too many things all at once
Let's see them together.
1. Try to lift weights that are too large
Bridget puts a few on her list target definitely challenging: for example, losing 8 cm of thigh circumference.
The problem is that our will is like a muscle, and therefore when it sees too much effort in front of it, it refuses to make it.
On the other hand, what would you do if you were asked to lift a stone that appears to weigh 3 tons with your arms? Obviously you would refuse to do that.
And the same refusal, unconsciously, is opposed by your willpower every time a resolution seems too difficult or demanding (it doesn't matter if it really is or not, what matters is how it appears to you!).
To remedy this problem, it is enough to deceive her a little, breaking up the lens bigger in many small and reasonable intermediate goals.
Let's go back to our Bridget for a moment ...
When she thinks she has to lose 8 cm in thigh circumference, she does not feel motivated, but frustrated and afraid: 8 cm is a lot if you think about them all together.
It would have been better for her to write in the diary “next month I want to lose 1 cm on the thighs”.
It's a small, reasonable, and measurable short-term goal.
Furthermore, it brings neither anxiety nor fear, because it doesn't take enormous effort and time to achieve it.
This is precisely the strategy that many doctors now use in diets: not 6 months of diet to lose 20 kg, because 20 kg is a lot, and six months is long. Thought alone psychologically destroys the unfortunate patient.
Much better instead is to prescribe a diet plan with brief but frequent checks, in order to build the major goal (i 20 kg) as a natural consequence of many small intermediate steps.
This approach, among other things, has the advantage that, upon reaching each small intermediate goal, a surplus of enthusiasm and trust is built in the patient.
Il success in fact è a petrol formidable for theby willpower.
So, success after success, it's easy to find yourself in a virtuous circle.
While, in a specular way, not reaching one's goals is frustrating and demotivating.
With the result that, failure after failure, it's easy to find yourself in a vicious circle.
So, to summarize, slice the elephant into lots of small pieces, and you'll see that
- it will be much more digestible!
- each bite will make it easier to eat the next.
2. Trying to lift too many weights all at once
Bridget makes a list of changes to make and new habits to make that she adds up to more than 40 good intentions at the same time!
It is as if, instead of a single elephant, you find yourself facing forty or so.
Yet that's what most people do when he engages in a thousand good intentions.
The result is that they go haywire, failing not only on one or two goals, but above all!
Have you ever done, in the same day, so many things at the same time that you find yourself, in the evening, not only exhausted, but without having finished a single one?
Here, it's the same thing that happens, on a large scale, when you have too many good intentions to pursue.
In this case, it is theexcess of enthusiasm.
The fact is that we are so enchanted by the person that we would be if we were able to pursue all our goals, that we do not realistically take into account what we can do at that moment.
Our willpower on the other hand works better if we give it a good dose of realism and humility.
If today you smoke, eat too many sweets, spend all your free time on the sofa, don't open a book even under nuclear threat…. it is simply impossible that from tomorrow you do not even light a cigarette, stay on a diet, go out for a run 10 kilometers and become a model student like Giacomo Leopardi.
And so it would be better focus on one goal (maximum two) at a time, in such a way as to focus most of your energy and attention on it. (See the article on the great power of concentration).
Then, when you have achieved it, you can dedicate yourself to the next one with the awareness and enthusiasm of having one less problem!
At this point, however, a question arises: among your many good resolutions for the new year, which ones should you dedicate yourself to first?
Better to have priorities than good intentions
If you want to be successful in what you propose, you have to follow a rule simple and iron: put on top of your thoughts and actions the things that are most important to you.
It seems obvious, but - as I tell in my article on priorities - it is not at all.
And in fact I'm sure that, if you think about your daily activities, few of them are really dedicated to the things that really matter to you.
Most of the time - either by your own choices or by other people's intrusions - it goes into trifles or things that are absolutely secondary to you.
The fact is that we are always suspended between two attitudes (the sponge and the weather vane) that lead us to lose sight of what is really important.
Except then remind us from time to time, when for example we are about to lose it.
We all place great value on health, but then we continually make choices that harm or overshadow it.
And examples of this type can be given for each of the main spheres of our life.
So when you do yours list of good intentions for the new year, put on top the two or 3 that you really think are part of your priorities.
To find them, you can use an analysis tool such as the Eisenhower matrix, and you will see that you will hardly go wrong.
Summary: New Year Resolutions
Let's recap the ideas we have seen in this article a bit.
If you want this year to be a different year, a year in which you will really realize what you have proposed, you must:
- First, work by priority, or by concentrating on one purpose at a time: it will be, for a certain period, your elephant.
- And then eat it:
- One bite (many small goals)
- At a time (distributed in a reasonable time)
In this way you will conquer all your goals one after the other, and your willpower will grow every day, as will the results you will get from it.
You see, I haven't read any of the other books in the Bridget Jones series, but I assume that doing so would end up with the exact same problems as the first one; and with a few more years on his shoulders.
For her it's ok, she lives between the pages of a book that serves to entertain us.
But for you?
A greeting. Armando.