How many of you even remember what your 2013 resolutions were?
I remember that I didn’t make any special resolutions in 2012.
Because, although a new year surely feels like you’re closing a chapter of your life and starting a new one, it’s much easier to fall back into old harmful patterns in mid January, than keep doing whatever uncomfortable new resolutions you made in December 31st.
And I think that point about the new resolutions being uncomfortable is key. That’s partly the reason why resolutions are so hard.
We tend to think that when the clock turned to 00:00, January 1st 2014, we became this new person living a new chapter in a book (or a new episode in our “My Life” TV series). But the fact is that we are still we. If we find it impossibly difficult to wake up at 5AM and jog every morning in 2013, we’ll find it just as equally impossible to do it in 2014 as well. The year changes when the last second ends, but we are still who we are.
Does it mean changing for the better is impossible? Of course not. But unless one experiences a truly life-changing episode, I don’t think an instant change is possible for most of us. Change is gradual, and for most (if not all) of the time, happens because we’re either looking for pleasure, or avoiding pain.
That’s why resolutions such as “run 5km every single day at 5AM” are probably not going to stick. It’s so painful! Your brain registers pain, pain, pain, and soon it’ll go back to sleeping until 8AM. I think, the key to lasting change is being gentle with your brain: push yourself hard enough that you experience pleasure, but no more. That way your brain registers your new habit as a pleasurable thing to do, and not a painful activity to avoid.
That’s why, while I don’t have any resolutions this year, I promised myself I am going to take it easy. I’m going to continue improving my exercise routine. I’m going to continue improving my brain exercise routine. I’m going to continue improving my diet.
But gone are the days of “starting from January 1st, I’m going to <insert drastic painful changes>”.
Because that doesn’t work. What works are gentle, gradual changes. Here’s to a gentler, but consequently more productive 2014!