How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

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Lets say there are 2 people who made it their New Year’s resolution to quit smoking — they’re both feeling strong when finally they are offered a cigarette by a not-so-supportive “friend.” The first person says, “No thank you, I’m trying to quit.”  Typical response, right?  It’s not bad, however, this person is under the BELIEF that they are in fact still a smoker. 

The 2nd smoker is asked the same question and their response is, “No thank you.  I’m not a smoker.” It is a very small difference in phrasing, but the statement has huge ramifications. Smoking was who they WERE, not who they ARE. Tony Robbins calls this the, “2 Millimeter shift.” It is those tiny little shifts & habits that add up — a week from now, a month from now, a year from now — to make a profound difference.

This brings us to our point — that in order to effectively create good habits (your New Year’s resolution), you must first fundamentally change the way you approach them.

The 3 Layers of Behavioral Change

Layers of Behavioral Change

1ST LAYER // OUTCOMES

This level is all about change in your results: lose weight, stop smoking, run a triathlon.  Most New Year’s resolutions start at this level of change.

2ND LAYER // PROCESSES

This layer is about systems: wake up early to go to the gym, meal prepping, develop a practice of mediation.  

3RD LAYER // INDENTITY

This is the deepest layer and it’s the most important.  It’s all about changing your beliefs: your world view, your self-image, your judgements about yourself and others.  

Outcomes are about what you get.  Processes are about what you do.  Identity is about what you believe. 

It's All About the Order

All of these layers are important in seeing your New Year’s resolution through. However, what is most important is the order in which you apply each of these layers to your resolution.  If you were to take a guess as to which of our smoking friends above will stick to their New Year’s resolution, which one do you think will succeed? You’d probably say the bloke who doesn’t even IDENTIFY as a smoker…and you’d probably be right. This is because our friend didn’t simply set out to stop smoking (OUTCOMES), they set out to be a person who doesn’t smoke (IDENTITY).  It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this, it’s something entirely different to say I’m the type of person who is this.  Behind every outcome is a process, and behind ever process is an identity.  Find out who you want to be, prove to yourself through processes that you are in fact that person, then the desired outcomes ensue.    

Let me float it to you this way — Let’s say I have a goal to run a marathon. To maximize my ability to follow through I must first change the goal. What I actually want is to become a runner (IDENTITY). In order to reinforce this belief, I need to create a PROCESS or system that proves to myself that I am, in fact, a runner. I put it in my calendar, I set my alarm, I check the weather, I get the right attire, I put out the appropriate shoes and clothes, and I reduce any resistance that may get in the way. I will not rise to the level of my goals — I will fall to the level of my systems. This is where the rubber meets the road, and even still I will likely lose sight of my goal. When I don’t want to run, I ask myself what would a runner do? “Well, they’d get their ass up out of bed and run!” So I get up and I RUN. The more I do this, the more I rewire my brain to truly believe my new identity as a runner. Rinse, wash, repeat until one day I simply enter a marathon and run that mug like a boss! Ok, ok…I know it’s not quite that simple, but you get the point.

  1. Find out your desired IDENTITY
  2. Create a PROCESS that reinforces that IDENTITY
  3. See the desired OUTCOMES as a byproduct of doing numbers 1 & 2
This certainly is not an exhaustive look into how to keep your New Year’s resolution, but I really believe that it is a huge start and will put you on a path that is more likely to succeed.

*Disclaimer — much of what was talked about in the above post is from James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits” and Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit.”  If you’d like to read more on the topic of habits we highly recommend either of these books! 

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