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Winning the Brain Battle

January 7th, 2022

Happy New Year!  For many, January is a time of resolutions, goal setting, and promises of what the year will (can) bring.  It is estimated that more than two-thirds of us make New Year’s resolutionsUnfortunately, about half of resolutions are abandoned within 2 months and only about 1 in 15 people who make resolution make any progress at all.   Why?  The problem lies in your brain.

Our brains have a huge preference for The Comfort Zone, meaning that the human brain loves to do the same thing over and over again.    If we try to break a habit, our brains will resist.   We can make intense promises, declarative statements, and even begin to implement some near-term changes, but if we’re not careful and hyper-focused, our brain’s plasticity will quickly drive us right back to The Comfort Zone and our old habits.

Habits are not instincts.  They are acquired, conditioned reactions.  Returning to old habits creates relief from the discomfort of change, even if when doing so is unproductive or unhealthy.

So if you’re serious about exceeding your goals and/or sticking with your resolutions this year, here are a few time-tested, proven techniques that could help…:

1.  Make an HONEST assessment of your commitment.  Are you truly committed to this new goal, change, or habit?   On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to succeeding?   This is actually a bit of a trick question, because the scale isn’t necessary.   You are either unconditionally committed or not.   In or out.  Just about anything other than ALL-IN guarantees failure.  So if you are not all-in, don’t bother.   If you intend to proceed with a quasi-commitment, you are simply wasting your time and the likelihood you will fail is astronomical.

2.   Identify a Compelling “Why”.    Close your eyes, project yourself into the future, and visualize how success would feel and look?   Athletes use visualization because it has consistently been proven to work.  Next, try to experience the consequences.  How you will feel if you failed?   Do the rewards of success feel powerful and motivating enough to compel you to enthusiastically leap out of bed each morning and consistently leave your Comfort Zone and behave differently?   If so, great.  If not, I’d suggest you invest some more time with items 1 & 2 before setting yourself up for a very difficult Battle against your Brains.

3.  It’s totally OK to start small.  Many people wait far too long to set important goals, then try to eat the elephant all at once, setting themselves up for almost certain failure.   Small changes can have huge effects.  In sales, making just 2 more calls per week = 100 per year and can translate into millions of dollars of new business.  Replacing just one glass of beer (or wine or Coke) with water, tea, or coffee each day can save upwards of 50,000 calories per year.   Depending upon metabolism, this simple act can translate into 15, 20, even 30 pounds per year.

4.  Make a Plan devoid of Hockey Sticks or Sprints.   Your Success Plan should include consistent, daily behaviors.   Plans that rely upon a gigantic last month or sprint to the finish line are almost always destined to fail.   In the battle with your brain, slow and steady wins the race.

5.  Focus on replacement, not elimination.  Your habits are embedded, so don’t try to break them.  Trying to stop doing something actually makes you crave it more.   If we try to break, our brains will resist.   Instead, focus upon replacing your existing habits with more effective ones. 

6.  Be confident and tell everyone.   Now that you know you have an unconditional commitment to your new goal and a compelling why to maintain the motivation required to stay focused upon correct behaviors, proudly tell everyone about your goal and success plan, especially your best friends and supporters.  Most importantly, tell those individuals who care enough about you to share tough love and to call you out if you allow busy-ness, “life”, or any other excuse prevent you from executing your great new plan.  

7.  Seek a coach and/or accountability council.    Superior athletes and other superior performers understand how to win the Brain Battle.   They understand that achieving new heights and goals demands that they must stretch, so they consistently train themselves to become comfortable living outside of their Comfort Zone.  They do this by surrounding themselves with great coaches and peers who will help to hold them accountable to their commitments and keep them motivated.  This is not rocket science.  We are talking here about time-tested principles that simply work.   Model their behaviors and practices and you can model their performance.

8.  Take action.  The first step is the most important.   You will never accomplish your goals by talking about them, reading, studying, searching the internet, or dreaming about them.   Get into action today and pay attention to results.   If adjustments are required, make them, but stop talking and start doing.

9.  Don’t bail out.  If you make a mistake or fall off the horse, don’t beat yourself up.   Dry cement is yesterday’s news.  Forgive yourself, jump back on, and get back to creating a better future for yourself.

Here’s to your success in 2022!   Wishing you peace, freedom, prosperity, and abundant happiness.

Copyright © Joe Zente 2022. All Rights Reserved.