New Year’s Resolutions: How To Change The Outcome

by Doc Orman, M.D.

In my first post this week, we examined why we keep making New Year’s resolutions every year, when we so often fail to keep them.  Then, in the second post in this series, we looked at one of the main reasons why we often don’t keep our promises.  

The main insight you should have gained from these two previous discussions is that keeping our promises (to ourselves or to others) is a skill we need to constantly work on.  It’s like a “muscle” we need to train, so that when the world rises up to try and defeat us, we can use our personal word-keeping powers to emerge victorious.

Here Are Some Suggestions

Over the years, I have found that it helps to have some simple routines to help me practice keeping my word.  I look at these practices as “games” I can play to strengthen my word-keeping muscle.  The important thing about each of these “games” is that there have to be forces (often within me, but sometimes external) that might ordinarily stop me, but that I can easily “move through” to end up keeping my word.  Here are a few of the word-keeping games I have consistently played for many years.  You are welcome to adopt any of them you like, or you can make up other ones that might work well for you.

The Daily Exercise Promise Game

For more than 30 years now, I have used exercise as an excellent way to practice keeping my word.  Most people look at exercise as a way to lose weight, gain fitness, improve stamina, or build physical muscle strength.  If this is all you think about, with respect to the benefits you can gain from exercise, you are missing a HUGE opportunity.

There is nothing better you can do, to strengthen your word-keeping muscle, than to play a daily game I call “wake up…make an exercise promise for today…and then keep that promise…NO MATTER WHAT COMES UP DURING MY DAY.”

It’s that last part—the NO MATTER WHAT part of the game—that makes this daily practice so empowering.  As far as I’m concerned, once I make my daily exercise promise, there’s nothing—and I mean nothing—that’s going to stop me from keeping it.

Try playing this game for a few days, or a week, and see what it can do for you.  By the way, it helps to keep your daily exercise promises somewhat flexible, so that you can always hit your mark.  For example, don’t say “I’m going to exercise/run/jog/swim/bike/etc. for 30 minutes, from 6:00pm to 6:30pm, at my local gym.”  Better to say “I’m going to exercise for at least 30 minutes sometime today (before midnight) somewhere of my choosing.”  See how much more flexible that type of promise is?  Of course, you can always make your daily commitment much more specific, if you want to make the challenge bigger…and the game much more fun (and empowering).

The Always Take The Stairs Game

Another great word-keeping game you can play is “I’m always going to take the stairs (in the building where I work, in my apartment building, in any building I might enter, etc.).”  I’ve played this game consistently for more than 40 years, and you’d be amazed how many internal thoughts, feelings, rationalizations, and a few external situations I had to overcome to keep this simple promise.  Remember, the best way to play all of these games is to adopt the principle that “losing the game is not an option.”  Play at this level…and your life will be transformed.  I promise you this.

The Always Wear Your Seat Belt Game

For many years, during my youth when I first started driving, I rebelled against being “forced” to wear a seat belt.  This was back in the day when there were no established laws to worry about.  Then, one day, I realized “this rebellion is pretty stupid…what if I get into an accident?”  So I decided to make putting my seat belt on, 100% of the time, part of my daily word-keeping muscle building repertoire.

I especially like this game because it frequently drives my friends nuts.  Let’s say I pull into my driveway, get out of my car to pick up the newspaper, and then all I have to do is drive about 30 yards to my house.  Yup, you guessed it, I always put my seat belt back on.  Same thing goes if I’m just getting in my car to back it up a few feet, or even a few inches.  I ALWAYS put my seat belt on…and it has nothing to do with personal safety.  It has everything to do with building my muscle of keeping my promise, no matter how minor or how reasonable it might be to just let it slide.

The No Snacking At Work Game

Like many people today, I have a tendency to overeat and over-snack.  At the office where I work most of the day, there is free candy, snack food, and other tempting goodies lying all around.  There are also several vending machines that I could visit, if I wanted to.

About 10 years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER snack at work.  This means NEVER eating anything (water and low calories beverages excepted) other than lunch or an occasional breakfast or dinner meal at work. And I’ve kept that promise almost 100%. 

I’ve also found, that by playing this game every day at work, I find it much easier to resist common food and snack temptations when I’m not at my office.

What Word-Keeping Games Are You Going To Play?

I guarantee you, if you start adopting a few of these or other similar word-keeping games into your daily routine, you won’t have a problem keeping your New Year’s resolutions.  Of course, this won’t happen overnight.  You do have to put the work in to actually strengthen your word-keeping muscle.  But the point is, once you build this word-keeping foundation, and work on it daily (did I mention …forever!), you won’t have a problem keeping your word.

Here’s Another Resolution To Consider

As this year comes to a close, why not set a goal for the coming year to learn all you can about the hidden, internal causes of stress.  I know I mentioned this goal in another recent blog post, but I think it’s worth repeating.

One way you can do this is to keep checking in with this blog on a regular basis.  Another is to sign up for my free monthly stress relief newsletter, if you haven’t already done this (see sign up form above and to the right on this page).

A third way, is to read all four of my introductory stress mastery PDF trainings. Again, all four of these PDFs are free and you can easily find a link to the first one located in the orange bar at the top of every page.

Hope the remainder of your Holiday Season is happy, healthy, and relatively stress free.  I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts about stress with you during the upcoming year, and for many years to come.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

due date calculator January 8, 2012 at 6:37 PM

i totally agree

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