Don’t fret! You’re further along the path to success than you realize. This year, Fail Forward.
Many of us make resolutions, hoping to break an old habit, or to start a new one. But more often than not, these are quickly abandoned. Some of us don’t even bother to make resolutions any more. But as was famously said by Mary Kay Ash, “People fail forward to success”. So what makes you so different? Why should you succeed without failing, even multiple times?
It’s also said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So how can you make the same resolution again this year and expect something different? There’s a whole new body of research on the science of habits. Here’s your road map to success:
Locus of Control is a term used by psychologists which refers to the extent to which people believe they have power over events in their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything. Take the classic resolution of losing weight for example. When we attribute our failure to lose weight to external factors like “my metabolism is different” or “I don’t have enough time” we’re giving away the power we have to be an agent of control in our own lives. But when we are honest with ourselves and identify our failure it gives us the ability to identify the obstacle and to change it if we choose to.
Make failure your friend
There’s no point in deflecting or making excuses for our failure. Accept the failure. Heck, look at how many other things you’ve succeeded at in your life! You have the right to fail once in a while, and failing just gives you another lesson in what doesn’t work. Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” asserts that people with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work and accept failure as part of the process. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
Do a PR campaign on your brain
Re-message your failure. As Shirzad Chamine Ph.D. describes in his book, “Positive Intelligence” we all have well-disguised mental Sabouteurs. So instead of: “I’m lazy,” put a positive re-frame on it: “I’ve been prioritizing sleeping in over working out”. By doing so, you’re giving yourself the ability to change through action rather than accepting a fixed negative self-descriptor.
Have a Plan of Action
In the book, “Switch”, Chip and Dan Heath talk about building “instant habits” by setting up what they call action triggers —telling yourself that you will do X when Y happens. Research has found that this is so powerful that people who have an identified action trigger are 74% more likely to achieve their goals. So next time you want to start a new habit, use something that’s already routine as your action trigger--putting on your running shoes when you get out of bed for example.
BJ Fogg, a social scientist at Stanford University, has developed a method called Tiny Habits. The idea is to “pick a small step towards your goal – a step so tiny, you’ll think it’s ridiculous”, Fogg says. Because it’s radically easy, you’re more likely to actually complete the behavior, regardless of how much or how little motivation you feel. This may make running 5 miles three times a week look as tiny as walking out the front door in your running shoes three times a week, but the idea is that if you repeat a behavior often enough, those synaptic pathways are going to get worn in and turn the action into a habit. Once you’ve made it a habit you can up the ante and run around the block. But don’t forget to celebrate when you’ve succeeded in completing even just Tiny Habits, Fog warns. Do a private end zone dance or mental fist pump. Taking time to acknowledge and relish in your success will reinforce the desired behavior.
The best news is that even making small changes has a positive ripple effect to other parts of our lives. Small habits have a snowball effect. So this year, when you feel like you’ve tripped up on your New Year’s Resolution, instead of abandoning it completely, see your failure as a stepping stone towards success, get yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.