Looking forward to 2013, I can think of a myriad of resolutions to make and goals I want to accomplish.
* I want to gain confidence in reading patterns, so I can increase my sewing skills.
* I want to be more patient with my children.
* I want to read the scriptures daily.
* I want to exercise at least 3x a week.
* I want to create a better daily structure for my family.
* I want to blog at least 2x a week - 3 if I can get a giveaway each week.
* I want to limit junk food.
* I want to lose 30 lbs.
* I want to complete and submit an article to my church's Ensign Magazine.
* I want a cleaner house.
* I want my family to do more service projects.
* I want to turn off the tv at night and read more books.
* I want to offer more giveaways.
* I want to become a social media consultant.
* I want to host twitter parties for companies.
I can spend 2012 wanting and hoping and trying and getting frustrated, or I can approach my goals and resolutions in a new way.
Rather than exhausting my willpower by tackling 15 goals at once, I'm going to aim for a few at a time, working on two overarching goals:
1. Exercise my willpower on one or two goals at a time, strengthening that "muscle" by exerting it in a focused, organized way.
2. Focus on building habits with one or two goals at a time. As habits are built, they become a routine part of our life and require less willpower over time, providing room to focus that willpower muscle on new goals and habits.
A friend of mine spoke in church on Sunday and illuminated this way of focusing on resolutions for me. He's currently a graduate student and shared how a study from Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal helped him to reframe how he approached spiritual goals like scripture study.
McGonigal explains the science of willpower:
One of the most replicated findings in the field
of willpower research is that people who use willpower seem to run out of it.
Interestingly, any act of self-control leaves people with less willpower for
completely unrelated challenges. Trying to control your temper, ignore
distractions or refuse seconds all tap the same source of strength. The research
also shows that willpower decreases over the course of the day, as your energy
gets “spent” on stress and self-control. This has become known as “the muscle
model” of willpower. Like your biceps or quadriceps the willpower “muscle” can
get exhausted from effort.
But that doesn’t mean we’re all doomed to run out of willpower by noon. I
prefer to talk about becoming a willpower athlete. Any muscle in your body can
be made stronger through exercise. If willpower is a muscle, even a metaphorical
muscle, it should be possible to train it. That’s what the research shows. As
with physical exercise, using your self-control muscle may be tiring, but over
time the workout increases your strength and stamina. So what starts out
difficult becomes easier over time. New behaviors become habits, temptations
become less overwhelming and willpower challenges can even become fun. (exerted from The Science of Willpower on the Scope Blog of Standford)
Thinking of willpower in this way makes so much sense to me. If I want to read the Bible every day, but I find the temptation of reading something else, watching tv, or prioritizing other things is keeping me from that goal, I focus my willpower on consistently reading the Bible at the same time each day.
Additionally, I don't try to heavily focus my willpower on ten other big goals at the same time. Instead, I steadily build the one habit and it takes less willpower to choose Bible study over time. Once I've established this goal, which in turn helps my spiritual welfare and strength, I can take that willpower and strengthen it on a new resolution.
So, on January 1st of this year, my resolutions aren't just about the what, but the how of accomplishing new and ambitious goals.
8 hours ago