We’re almost at that time of year to make resolutions for 2019. In a few short months, we’ll be at the time of year, most of us will have abandoned our resolutions…again.
The majority of my audience is focused on this:
The Brutal Truth
Next year, about 60% of us who failed this year, will make the same resolutions all over again! Some of us will live on repeat with these resolutions 5 times before succeeding.
Why? Because we’re biased when it comes to ourselves!
How can you crack this circuit and act on your intentions long enough to actually succeed this year?
The first step is simple. We tend to be more accurate predicting someone else’s behaviour than our own. Accept your bias and know it predicts your failure. Ask a friend to help you achieve your goals this year.
The Science of Self-Regulation
The science of achieving goals is about the processes we use to direct our thoughts, feelings and behaviours to achieve them.
Or not! And unpacking the disconnect (often called the intention-action gap) gets in the way of perfectly good intentions.
Here’s the good news. Science isn’t always overly complex. It can be clear and instructional too. Learning how the different parts of the process work will help set you up for success in your chosen career-life goals. So, let’s do the science bit together.
Want to know the single biggest predictor of whether you’ll actually achieve your goals? Intending to.
Yet research shows intentions only translate into action about 50% of the time.
The other 50% – called the intention-action gap – is the subject of much research. And that gap is where most of our New Year Resolutions fall down.
Intuitively it feels like some people are better at doing what it takes to achieve their goals than others. You know them when you meet them. They’re self-disciplined, forward-thinking, motivated and resilient sorts. And achieving goals comes down to this mix of traits, skills and abilities, all working to drive what we do – how we act.
Question. Do you think you are good self-regulation? Do you stick to your goals with determination? Test it out for yourself below. Objectively.
Here are 2 questionnaires that will give you insight into different areas of self-regulation.
So, what’s going wrong here? The scientific studies point at a couple of key things:
So, we give up because we feel we must. In that moment. But we mustn’t. Not when it matters.
These are the things that will help. Awareness of our bias. Looking objectively about what levels of self-control and grit we have built in. Understanding why good goals still fall down the intention-action gap.
But there’s more to the science of self-regulation. There is a way to navigate those threats and stay on track. A way that closes the intention-action gap.
Think of these as very specific self-instructions linking a situation relevant to your goal to a goal-directed response. So you have a short-cut all thought out and don’t miss the moment to act. The when, where, how and what you will do to implement your specific goal.
It’s time to think about your own work-life goal using this template. Getting as specific as humanly possible, come up with some if-then plans to help you succeed.
IF: a good opportunity to act shows up – or an obstacle or threat triggers action….
THEN: ….your goal-response is initiated. A specific behavior, doing something in a certain way, stating a boundary or ignoring something / feelings without de-railing.
Don’t skimp on this task. Remember these If-Then Plans significantly increase your chances of achieving your goal.
There is one big problem with If-Then Plans.
And ‘thinking positive’ can backfire. There’s study after study, showing that those with the most positive thoughts, images – fantasies about their goals, were the least successful.
Why? Because while positive expectations boost our motivation, fantasies take it too far. They trick the brain to thinking the work is done.
And so kill motivation to achieve the goal in real life!
WOOP is an evidence-based mental strategy that people can use to boost their commitment and change their habits. With over 20 years of research, we know WOOP works.
WOOP stands for:
Known scientifically as Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions, WOOP balances positive thinking about our goals, by thinking through the obstacles that might stand in our way of achieving them.
We need these negatives.
Then commitment dials up.
As do rates of success.
So now you know, the 4 letters that spell success are WOOP. I've created a (free) PDF to show you precisely how to stop thinking positively and make it as easy as saying WOOP, to fulfil your career-life wishes this year instead!