The Worst Thing About New Year’s Resolutions—And How To Beat It

Lisa Lahey

A Study by Lisa Lahey of Harvard University found that when heart patients are told they will die unless they change ingrained habits, only one in seven of them will successfully change their ways.

Humans have a natural aversion to change, even when it comes to literal life or death. In point of fact, Lisa would like people to have a clear understanding of how that aversion manifests in everyone’s life prior to setting any new objectives in 2023.

People have the very erroneous belief that you can change quickly. “It simply is not true,” asserts Lahey. You must really give yourself more room.

According to Lahey, the worst thing about making New Year’s resolutions is not that we “fail” to keep them. She says that the tragedy is that, despite decades of research demonstrating our resistance to change, we often criticize ourselves when we fail.

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“It’s like people drink the Kool-Aid, [and think] ‘If I really intend to make this goal happen, and I can’t, I’m a loser. There’s something wrong with me,’” she says. “I think it’s just a profound loss of human energy.”

“So much of that has to do with the fact that people don’t recognize and sufficiently respect that there are powerful forces at play that are [operating] at an unconscious level that make it hard for us to change,” Lahey continues. “There’s nothing shameful about that.”

However, none of this precludes change from occurring. According to Lahey, some New Year’s resolutions may be simple to keep. For instance, it may not be difficult to begin making healthier choices if a person who never exercised or thought about what they ate notices that their metabolism slows as they get older.

When we don’t see an underlying belief system that is actually preventing us from achieving our goal, the problem arises.

According to Lahey, if you’ve tried to change the same behavior multiple times but haven’t seen results, that’s a sure sign that something else is going on behind the scenes.

Lahey has developed a comprehensive plan for identifying and overcoming our “immunity to change,” supported by decades of research.

On a recent episode of the podcast hosted by best-selling author Brené Brown, Lahey demonstrated this in practice, which serves as an illustration of Lahey’s teachings in action.

There are four main steps in the process. To begin, you must determine your actual improvement objective and what additional steps you would need to take to achieve it.

Brown’s objective appeared to be simple: She referred to her team’s regular meetings as “mission critical,” and she wanted to be more disciplined about scheduling them.

Lahey advises that the next step is to examine any current actions that might be contrary to your goal.

That sort of knowledge is basic, Lahey brings up, on the grounds that it’s right now in the guide that individuals ordinarily think they see what the issue is — just to end up handling a fragment of the main problem in question.

She asserts,

“They go at the behavior change at this very concrete, direct level. What my work says is, if you can make the change that way, you should do that … but for many people, that doesn’t work, because the behavior is actually serving a really important [competing] goal they have.”

It’s now in the guide that people can distinguish a lot bigger fundamental presumption about how the world functions that has really been driving their protection from change from the start.

Similar to Brown’s, Lahey claims that when she guides individuals through their own “Immunity to Change” roadmap, the final column is “almost always” unrelated to the first column.

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She gives the example of a mother whose fourth column was all about the guilt she felt whenever she left her children while her first column stated that she wanted to exercise more.

According to Lahey, reversing these kinds of presumptions won’t always happen right away. However, you can get started on changing your mindset by conducting “a valid test of your beliefs.”

That will appear slightly different for each person. For the mother who was concerned a more thorough work-out routine would prompt disdain from her kids, that test was straightforward: While a caregiver looked after her children, she began going for walks.

The kids were fully involved in their own activities when she returned: Sure, they were pleased to see her, but they were fine occupying themselves.

“That was all she needed to begin taking care of herself in multiple ways. Lahey continues, “She started to feel literally better physically about herself and how she was parenting.”

And that is the primary motivation for all of this work. According to Lahey, starting by being kinder to oneself will make everyone feel much better and help them stick with the changes they’ve been trying to make.

She asserts,

“The big gift in all of this work, to me, is to provide the possibility that people can feel less shame — and ultimately release the shame they feel from not being able to make change happen — because they’ve been using the wrong model, the wrong tool,” she says. “It would just never work, so you can release that.”

“There’s just so much commonality because fundamentally we are human,” she adds. “We are all in this big boat together.”

Source: Harvard’s Lisa Lahey

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