How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

Have you ever run a marathon?

If not, have you ever attended one of these racing events to cheer on a friend or a family member?

Whatever the distance 5kms, 10kms or 25kms, think about struggle runners encounter as they journey from the starting line to the finish line. They are driven to run this race — they signed up and agreed to it.

They have the personal motivation. But is personal motivation enough to make reach the finish line?

The answer is usually NO.

During the race, several factors work against the runners. Their legs hurt, they’re thirsty, some may have trouble breathing, and others might have blisters.

Meanwhile, there are other factors working in favour of the runners. They chose to run the race, people are cheering them on, volunteers are waiting with cups of ice-cold water, and no one is alone — other runners are facing the same obstacles and overcoming them together.

It’s the same with life. We have things fighting for us and we have things fighting against us.

There are always six sources of influences out there — and they’re either helping you win or they’re acting as obstacles that prevent you from reaching success.

Success goes beyond Personal Motivation

First, you need to get the sources of influences on your side.

The more influences we can gather on our side, the more likely we are to succeed. But, we often make the mistake of assuming the only real source of influence is our own motivation.

That’s simply not true. You could be the most motivated person in the world and still not be able to change.

New Year’s resolution is one of the best examples. I’m always motivated on January 1. I think, “I’m going to lose 15 pounds…” which works for about 10 days. On January 11, I’m busting open the ice cream again.

Others say:

I’m going to give up smoking… until a stressful project comes up.

I’m going to spend less money… until there’s a sale for a limited time only.

I’m going to work out more… until the weather stops cooperating.

I’m going to read more… until that new Netflix series premiers.

We don’t fail to meet our resolutions because we’re bad people or lack willpower. We fail to change because the other sources of influences are at work.

They either pull for you or against you. And if they’re against us, changing is almost impossible.

Likewise, others don’t fail to meet our expectations simply because they don’t want to. The six sources of influence are at work for everyone everywhere.

When we ignore the other five sources of influence, we make the fundamental attribution error. We mistakenly assume people do things only because of one aspect: personal motivation.

We think if we can just convince ourselves to change, if we can curb our own personal motivation, then the battle is won… but that’s not how it works!

In reality, we’re influenced by much more.

What Else Influences Us

We’re influenced by both motivation and ability in the personal, social, and structural spheres.

Look at our running example: In the race, our influence is about more than just “Do I want to finish this race?” There are five other kinds of influence simultaneously affecting whether or not we will actually finish.

PersonalDo I want to finish this race?Am I able to finish this race? How is your health? Do you have an injury that’s preventing you from finishing?
SocialDo others around me want me to finish? Are there fans and friends cheering you on or are you alone?Are others helping me finish? Are volunteers providing water and snacks?
StructuralIs it a fun course and race environment? Is there music strategically placed and an encouraging environment for runners?Am I able to navigate the course itself? Is it a flat or hilly course? Do I know where to go or is it not marked clearly?

When you fail to meet your goals and when others fail to meet your expectations, don’t assume the worse. There may be more than personal motivation working in the situation.

If you want to make the undesirable desirable — if you want to finally make the change that’s eluded, you so long — you have to step back and look at the other sources of influence.

When you start to recognise them and use them to your advantage, you’ll begin to see a real impact in yourself and your organisation.

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