Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Real Resolution

The previous parts of this article are here: Part 1 & Part 2.

In my last post, I talked about the role that our expectations play in the efficacy of our self-improvement programs. I gave some examples related weight-loss programs. Today, let me share some of my own struggles with respect to self-improvement. Over the years, I have made several resolutions that I could not sustain for a long period. Some of the notable ones that I remember right now are maintaining a daily diary, practicing music daily, practicing pranayam daily, meditating daily, the list goes on and on. Like it often happens with respect to resolutions, I started these activities with a lot of determination. However, somewhere down the line things fizzled out. Usually, it started with a miss here and a miss there. Then it seemed like I didn't have the will power to stick to a resolution, and before long, I had given up.

Inculcating new habits is a tough job. Although we are creatures of habit, we are manifestations of only our old habits. Thus, in many ways, our old habits hinder the progress on forming new ones. We all love the security associated with our old habits. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because our old habits can be good, healthy and constructive habits, which lead us to live happier and more successful lives. However, most of us ordinary folks do not just have positive habits. We also possess bad habits that we want to get rid of. And we also seek newer good habits that we think will improve the quality of our lives.

Can we do anything to make such positive changes in life? I say, "Yes! ...a very emphatic yes." I don't think there is one single method that would work for everybody. However, I'm happy to share the strategies that seem to have worked pretty well for me. The first one is to make a real resolution. By real resolution, I mean one which is more than just an intention to change. Oftentimes, we only have intentions to change, but we don't actually write them down. I have personally found that my resolutions gain much more potency when I write them down. Research seems to support my experience. For example, in one interesting study on New Year resolutions, researchers found that success rate of resolutions was a lowly 4% after 6 months of making an unwritten resolution. However, the success rate was a much higher 46% for the group of individuals who wrote their resolution down. The writing down of resolutions could also be seen as a component of S.M.A.R.T goals. I teach about S.M.A.R.T (or specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-based) goals in my management class. I have personally seen that S.M.A.R.T goals have a kind of stickiness which our unspecified desires and intentions do not. It's easy to see how. When I told myself that I want to read more of books, the lack of specificity in my goal allowed me to get lax. However, when I specified that I will read classical fictional literature everyday after dinner, I missed fewer days of reading.

I'll write more on this topic in my next post. But before I wind up for today, let me explain why I suddenly started writing in parts for my blog (in case, you are wondering). Writing in parts certainly helps in the exploration of a topic in detail. However, there is also a practical reason. That is that I set myself a goal for the month of February that I'll add a new post daily on my blog. And you can imagine that it is easier to write and post 3-4 paragraphs daily than to be ready with 10.

To be continued ...

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