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Why You’ve Failed Your New Years Resolutions and How You Can Fix It

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It’s late January and statistics have it that only 8% of people will stick with their New Years resolutions after 30 days.

With most already having quit. Maybe that’s you. And that’s fine. Next year consider making the resolution to never set New Years resolutions.

I see it this way: resolutions are for people who believe that they have one shot to turn their life around, once a year. Goals are for people who know they can turn their life around, every second of every day.

New Years resolutions are often set on the emotional high of the coming year, when all your friends and family can talk about nothing else. The new possibilities, the end of a bad year and the first page of a new book are among some of the clichés. This then becomes near on impossible for us to see our resolutions through because that emotion they were built on dissipates. It’s like building a house on quicksand. We get discouraged and quit, until the next year.

Understand that if you’ve failed don’t wait for a perceived fresh start, instead know that each moment is a new beginning. Every second of your life is a fresh start. Free yourself of the shackles of time. Align yourself in the now. And set goals.

“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years” – Henry Moore

There are many ways to set goals. Over the last 10 years I’ve trialled a few ways and at the moment have found one that works for me. I think that’s the key – works for me. There is no right or wrong approach to goal setting, well, accept not setting any.

 

To get you started here are a few ways:

  1. Write them down with a deadline
  2. Write them down with no deadline
  3. Write them down with no deadline, but with rewards

 

The standard approach to goal setting is to jot down your goals and add deadlines to them. I used this approach for 5 years, with limited success. I found it overwhelming, and when I looked back on the year I realised I had achieved about 2 goals.

The second approach was certainly less stressful however I found that I was even less motivated because their was no time target so I went days, even weeks without thinking about my goals. When you don’t think about them, you don’t work on them.

Then I stumbled on the third approach which I first learned about from Steve Kamb’s reward based goal setting TEDx talk. I now add experience points to my goals like a computer game. When I complete one I add it to my goal table with the date and points. After I get 100 points, my life levels up. It’s a little cheesy, but it’s fun. And on average I complete about 7 goals a year now. But what’s better is I’m incentivised to challenge myself more and put myself out there.

 

Steve Kamb’s Ted Talk on Resetting Your Life

 

It’s all about knowing yourself. You may be someone who thrives on deadlines, and that is awesome. Go set them. If you’re not however consider approach 3, and watch your life transform.

I want to end on this:

Pursuing success is amazing, it gives life meaning. But never forget that the journey is the reward.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” – Nelson Mandela

To your success,

Stuart

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Stuart Ralph

    Jan 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Hey Imran

    Thanks for reading buddy.

    Great to hear goal setting is working for you. Keep it up!

    To your success,
    Stu

  2. Imran Soudagar

    Jan 26, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    To sum up this article in a sentence I can say your advice is Not to set new Resolutions but to set Goals. And I totally agree with you. Over the last so many years I have set hundreds of Resolutions but I failed at most of them. But whenever I have had Goals, I have succeed.

    Thanks buddy for reminding this.

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Life

Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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5 Things You Can Do to Fend off Boredom and Stay Focused

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Curiosity is human nature and it’s only natural that humans will lose interest in a topic after a while. This has been a topic that has been extensively explored among children, teenagers and adults by a psychologist with similar results being reported from each of the categories. Human’s minds are therefore prone to boredom, making it important for each professional to spend some time to understand the factors that drive boredom and strategies the individuals needs to use to overcome boredom and focus on their profession and development. (more…)

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Life

Decision and Failure: Deciding That Failure is Not an Option

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Nobody likes wasting time, money or opportunities by making a bad business decision. We can certainly identify what “bad” looks and feels like, however we should be identifying what the “win” looks like too. Too often we focus on the bad, which puts us in victim mode that perpetuates a scarcity mindset which leads us directly into becoming frozen or stuck. (more…)

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