For most of you, it’s about that time of the year again. It’s about the time that you have completely abandoned all those New Year’s resolutions you felt so strongly about a few weeks ago. If this is the case, two of the main reasons the resolutions didn’t work out for you are: 1) You forget to define some sort of specific behavior that supports the resolution and/or, 2) You didn’t hang in there and repeat the specific behavior related to the new belief long enough.
The exception to these general rules in terms of behavior change is the presence of trauma. For example, if you put your hand on a hot stove it is unlikely that you will need to repeat this behavior to change your future behavior. For purposes of this article, let’s stick with the idea of identifying a specific behavior and repeating that behavior for following through on what we resolve to do.
Let’s use an extremely simple example to illustrate how difficult it is to alter behavior. Although it might be a bit ridiculous, let’s imagine that for whatever reason you made a New Year’s resolution to move your trashcan from the right side of your desk to the left side of your desk. Everything about this resolution is concrete, that is, there are no abstract or difficult-to-understand-or-implement issues related to your relocating-the-trash-can resolution.
So, on the first working day of January you arrive at work, pick up your trashcan, and move it to the other side of your desk. OK, that’s done. Next resolution!
Or is it? What is likely to happen over the next few days? Unless major trauma is involved, which is unlikely with a trashcan relocation strategy, your brain will continue to believe your trashcan is on the right side of your desk. And there is good possibility that you will toss paper on the floor to the right of your desk for at least a week or so.
However, if you hang in there, your brain will gradually adjust to the new geography of your trashcan and you will have successfully implemented your resolution.
My point is, if changing trash-discarding behavior involves some level of difficulty, what is likely to happen if you resolve to take on more complex behavioral issues such as getting more organized, getting along better with your boss, continuing your education, getting a better job, reducing stress in your life and so forth and so on?
Here’s the good news. You do not have to wait for 2014 to roll around to change behavior. The window of opportunity for changing behavior reopens every day of the year.
Spend today choosing the one new habit that will help you the most in terms of career success. Next select some form of specific behavior that will support the formation of that habit. Now starting tomorrow, repeat the new behavior as long as it takes for your brain to get used to it. Happy New Day!
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.