We’re just starting a new year, and that means you’re either feeling good about taking steps to accomplish your goals for the year, or you’re worried about defaulting back to your old habits and routines. Setting new year’s resolutions is simple. It’s accomplishing them that’s difficult.
When it comes to setting goals and accomplishing them, there are two key things we need to remember:
1. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. SMART goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. However, when it comes to accomplishing goals, even the smartest ones sometimes remain out of reach.
2. You need to learn how to use your brain to your advantage. The trick with accomplishing goals is understanding how your brain works and how to motivate yourself for success. Often, personal or professional goals are based on changing habits. Changing a routine or pattern can be extremely difficult to do without recognizing how our brains create new habits and what motivates them.
Once you’ve re-evaluated your goals to make sure they’re smart, we need to look at ways to use brain science to accomplish them. Here are a few tips on achieving your goals and why these things work.
Prime your brain
Priming your subconscious can drastically affect your behaviour. To be more successful, create subconscious visuals to motivate yourself. If your goal for the year is to pay off debt, create a tracker that you can fill out each day and visually see your progress. Perhaps your goal is to exercise more. Create a vision board of all the workouts you want to try and the visual representation of success in your mind. Seeing these things, consciously and subconsciously, can prime our brains and create motivation.
Focus on creating a new routine
The thing with the human brain is that it loves routines. When it comes to goal-setting, we’re often trying to change a pre-existing routine. Want to be an early riser? That means changing an established routine and belief that you’re just “not a morning person.” If you turn your goal into a pattern or a habit, it will be far easier to accomplish. To do this, you have to convert a goal into a habit within your brain. This means moving it into a completely new location, from the subconscious lower brain to the conscious orbitofrontal cortex. This can be as simple as changing a few variables like eating popcorn in a movie with your non-dominant hand. With the help of endocannabinoids, that act like little administrative assistants who organize the files within this part of your brain and work the switchboard, you can transfer a goal into a habit.
Make sure you have mini-goals along the way to measure progress. Saying you plan to run a 10km race by the end of June can seem daunting on the days you struggle to run even one kilometre in under 30 minutes. Setting smaller goals within your resolutions will help you stay motivated, thanks to all of the mini celebrations that will excite you and motivate you to keep going. This method works because you get a hit of dopamine when you accomplish mini-goals, encouraging your brain to continue to the next milestone for the next reward.
Change your location
Some say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. When it comes to accomplishing goals, if things aren’t going according to plan, try changing the technique or method of accomplishment. This change could be as simple as a new location. This location change can make it easier for your brain to learn a new habit or change a pre-existing one as it removes the familiar cues that cause the default routines.
When it comes to accomplishing goals and changing our habits, there are many obstacles to overcome. Life always seems to get in the way, doesn’t it? However, when you can begin to learn how your brain works, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and work with yourself rather than against yourself to accomplish your goals and resolutions.