If you are like 54% of Americans, you are probably having a hard time making your resolutions stick. Sometimes, simply controlling the external factors (setting SMART goals, breaking them down into actionable tasks and scheduling them in your calendar) is not enough.
There are also some intangibles that contribute to success, such as attitude and discipline. The beginning of the year is an ambitious and optimistic time. We often set big goals, and as the days go by, we tell ourselves that maybe that goal is too big, or we don’t think we can do it.
One way to ensure that we continue to make progress on our goals is to control our attitude and “fake it till we make it.”
In her 2012 Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, discusses this concept of “fake it ‘till you make it.” Through her research on body language, she discovered that “our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior and our behavior changes our outcome.”
Yesterday, my 6-year old son brought home from school a winter project that he had been working on. On two separate sheets of paper, he had to write things he loves and things he hates about winter. For love, he wrote things like sledding, ice skating and hot cocoa. For hate, he wrote slipping on ice and less time to play. If he were to write a story about winter based on only one of those sheets of paper, the narrative would be completely different depending on the one he chose. This reminded me of a recent article I read, where the author discusses how “three anecdotes make a trend.” The reason this works is because our brain believes what we tell it.
So how do we control our attitude and chose the three anecdotes that will help shape our narrative into one of success, of achieving our goals? I often have my clients do Srikumar S. Rao’s Alternate Reality exercise.
For the exercise, Rao has students describe, in detail, a situation that is currently of concern to them. It can be something at work or something in their personal lives. What the students don’t realize is that what they are describing is not reality, it is one possible reality. That is, it’s the reality they have constructed.
With the help of other students in the class, Rao then has them construct a different reality: one that is better for them and that they can get themselves to believe at some level. Then he asks his students to go out and live as if this alternate reality they have devised is their reality.
At first, the students are likely to come across a lot of evidence that shows that the alternate reality they have developed isn’t true. But they will also see some evidence that supports the alternate reality. Rao indicates that it is important to write down any evidence that supports the alternate reality. Little by little, more supportive evidence starts to show up. This is because we see what we focus on. Rao’s students are always surprised at how, over time, the alternate reality that they constructed becomes their new reality. Since the alternate reality is better for them, their quality of life improves.
Pick a goal, describe what your life will be like when you achieve it, and start living every day as if you have achieved your goal, start “faking till you make it.” Little by little, you will start seeing changes and by the end of the year, you will have reached your goal and resolutions!
This article was originally published on AMA Playbook