The Trouble With Resolutions—Part 3 (How To Improve Your Chances)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

In my last post on why we don’t keep our New Year Resolutions, I pointed out that  keeping our promises, especially to ourselves, is a skill we need to constantly work on all throughout the year.  I likened this to a “muscle” we need to train, so when the world rises up to oppose us, we can use our highly developed word-keeping skills to be victorious.

Resolutions: How To Improve Your Chances For Success

It helps to have some established routines to help you strengthen your word-keeping skills.  I look at these as word-keeping “games” you can play and repeatedly “win.” The important thing about these “games” is that no matter how simple they might be, there will always be forces (within us and external) that could stop us and that we will need to “move through” in order to end up keeping our word. 

Here are a few of these word-keeping games that I have consistently played for years.  You can adopt any of these that you like, or you can make up new ones on your own.

The Exercise Game

For over 30 years now, I have used exercise as a powerful “game” to practice keeping my word.  Most people look at exercise as a way to improve fitness, burn calories, or build actual muscle strength.  If this is your only reason for exercising, I think you are missing an additional huge opportunity.

There’s no better game you can play, to strengthen your word-keeping skills, than to wake up each morning and declare an exercise promise for the day.  As soon as you do this…the game is on!   And your goal is to win this daily game by keeping your exercise promise…NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS…during the next 12-16 hours.

It is this NO MATTER WHAT quality to the game that makes this type of daily word-keeping challenge so empowering.  And it becomes even more empowering if you play this game at the highest level possible—i.e., that once you make your daily exercise promise, there is literally nothing—and I mean nothing—that’s going to stop you from keeping it.

Try playing this game for a week or two and see what it does for you.  But remember, the only way this will benefit you is if you keep your word…no matter what.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a big exercise promise or a very tiny one.  The only thing that does matter is that you declare what you are going to do that day—and then nail it.

Take The Stairs Game

Another excellent word-keeping game you can play is to always take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator.  Whether it’s where you work, in your apartment building, when you are out shopping—make a pre-determined promise that you will always take the stairs and then stick to this promise 100% of the time.

I’ve played this game consistently for more than 40 years now, and you’d be amazed how many barriers I constantly have to overcome (internal thoughts, feelings, rationalizations, and external situations as well) to consistently keep this simple pre-determined promise.  Remember, the best way to play all of these word-keeping games is to adopt the principle that “losing is not an option.”  Play these word-keeping games at this challenging level…and your life will be transformed. 

The Always Wear Your Seat Belt Game

During my youth, when I first started driving, I rebelled against being “forced” to wear a seat belt.  Then one day it dawned upon me that “this was pretty stupid…what if I get into an accident?”  So I decided to turn wearing my seat belt into a self-empowering game.  My goal was to put (and keep) my seat belt on 100% of the time, no matter what types of thoughts or feelings I might have to the contrary.  Thus, this discipline became an important part of my daily word-keeping muscle-building repertoire.

I especially liked this game because it drives other people nuts.  Say I’m driving home with a friend in my car.  I pull into my driveway and spot the newspaper lying on the ground.  I get out of my car to pick up the newspaper, and when I get back in, I put my seat belt back on, when all I have to do is drive a few more yards to my garage.  I do the same thing if I’m just getting into my car to back it up a few feet, or even a few inches.  I ALWAYS put my seat belt on.  And in these instances, it has absolutely nothing to do with personal safety.  But it has everything to do with building my word-keeping muscle, and that’s what most people don’t understand when they see me behaving in this way.  (Hey, it’s my own private game, so I don’t feel compelled to explain it.)

No Snacking At Work Game

Here’s another simple game that surprises many people, yet it is tremendously empowering, so I have been doing it for almost 15 years.  At the office where I work there is always candy, snack food, and other tempting goodies lying around all day long.  There are also several vending machines within easy walking distance. .

In early 2000, I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER snack at work.   And I’ve kept that promise almost 100% of the time, even on special occasions and celebrations. 

Also, by playing this game every day at work, I’ve found it much easier to resist snacking on candy or junk food when I’m not at my office.

What Word-Keeping Games Are You Going To Choose?

If you start incorporating these types of word-keeping games into your daily routines all throughout the year, you won’t have a problem keeping your New Year resolutions.  Of course, this won’t happen overnight.  You do have to put the work in first. But once you build and then maintain this word-keeping foundation, and work on it daily, you won’t have a problem keeping your word.

Hope you enjoyed revisiting this three-part series on New Year resolutions, and if you take this advice to heart, maybe next year the “force will be with you.”

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