“Ask, don’t tell, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions” was a headline in the Globe and Mail, Friday January 1, 2016 pg. 27. Research carried out over the past 40 years shows that when we reflect and ask ourselves a question about what we want to create as a resolution, we are more likely to stay the course and achieve success. According to the article, this means instead of telling ourselves what we want to resolve to do, we need to reflect and ask ourselves what we want to commit to. This involves curiosity. Applying curiosity to your new year’s resolutions will help create realistic resolutions to which you will commit.
Here are 3 habits to help you get curious to discover what you want to commit to rather than telling yourself what you want to resolve to do. See the difference?
Using the most common New Year’s resolution as our example, instead of just thinking ‘I will loose 10 pounds this year’, get curious and:
- BE PRESENT in the moment to think about what this weight loss means to you, not what it could have meant last year if only you had done something about it or what it will be like in the future once you have lost it. Instead, be present in this moment and think about what it would be like for you to be 10 pounds lighter right now, keeping in mind what is important for you, be it health, looks, self confidence etc.
- BE OPEN to succeed. It is so easy to allow our judger gremlins to jump in, creating self -talk that defeats us before we even begin. Instead, be open to the possibility of being 10 pounds lighter, open to achieving success.
- ASK OPEN QUESTIONS to support your reflection on this resolution so you can figure out how you are going to achieve success. Just because someone you know lost 10 pounds by going on a very restrictive diet does not mean this will work for you if you love a diverse, tasty diet. Researching the different ways people successfully lose 10 pounds and then reflecting on what could work for you will help you succeed. This is where the asking instead of telling is so important. The research shows that when we ask ourselves a question instead of telling ourselves what to do, we become more open to the idea while at the same time reflecting on all the times we should have, or could have, and didn’t. Holding these two competing thoughts at the same time is called cognitive dissonance and can lead to sustainable behavior change. Looking at our example of losing 10 pounds, questions asked might include:
- Will you be able to loose 10 pounds over the next year? Yes, I know I can do this and this will give me more self-confidence. Competing thoughts could include ‘I have tried to loose weight before and can’t’, ‘ I like to snack too much’, ‘I like my glass of wine every evening’ etc.
- Do you really want to loose 10 pounds? Yes, I know I will feel healthier if I do. Competing thoughts could include ‘I am just getting older and extra pounds are part of aging’. ‘Losing weight takes concentration and focus and I don’t think I can be bothered’.
These competing thoughts, when our mind goes to the place where we think of all the times we have tried to lose weight and were not successful, create a tension which helps us change our behavior, helping us achieve those resolutions.
In order to fulfill your goal we suggest you continue to be more curious, dig deeper and explore further, asking questions in order to understand what you are willing to commit to:
- What do I need to do to lose this weight?
- How can I find out different ways to lose weight?
- What is important for me that I need to hold onto? (such as delicious food, no gym work, wine etc)
According to this article, researchers are finding that using this approach creates a change in behavior that can last up to one year. This is the year to use your curiosity skills to explore your competing thoughts so you can create the changes of behavior you want for yourselves in 2016. What do you want to commit to?