Here it is again, folks – January; a new year: a world of endless opportunity and a socially acceptable time to flush past mistakes and poor habits. This is when we all come to agreement about what we are sick and tired of, and then individually make a commitment to change.
This isn’t crazy stuff, mind you. We aren’t looking to make life-altering or directional decision just because it’s the first month of the year. Nope; these are normal everyday issues that are well within our ability to control – all the things that we know are holding us back from what we really want.
WEAK LINKS AND ROAD BLOCKS
The perpetual actions and inactions that chronically sabotage our lives are the target of change. We know exactly what they are, and that’s why it seems so simple. “I should spend a little more time with my family…”, “If I would just get my lazy butt off the couch…”, “If I could limit the computer/tv/phone at night…”, “I know I should just have one glass of wine after dinner…”. These woulds, coulds, and shoulds are the obvious weak links and road blocks that stifle a richer, fuller; and potentially longer life.
So why is it that I had the same exact list of NYR’s last year? An even better question is, why is it that I had the same exact list of NYR’s two years ago? An even better question is… …well, you get the picture. Why are seemingly simple resolutions so impossible to secure? The answer is actually simple. It’s because simple patterns of action are impossible to change… when they are necessary.
Our habits are habitual, because they serve an important purpose – they help us fulfill our commitments. The things in life that we are committed to are necessary. Now I know what you are thinking… Sure, I get it, I just need to be more committed to my resolutions! As true as that may sound, there is an underlying issue that actually controls our commitments. That issue is called “pay-off”.
Pay-off is simply the difference between the (actual or expected) reward vs. the cost of a given action. We may say that we are committed to something, but the reality is that we are committed to the pay-off that accompanies it. Here are some examples:
· I don’t steal, because the cost of guilt on my emotions is greater than the reward of obtaining the item stolen.
· I brush my teeth before bed, because the cost of tolerating a stale flavor and gooey film on my teeth is much greater than the physical demand of brusha-brusha.
· I don’t ski double diamonds, because the perceived possibility of sliding 500 vertical-feet on my face… in a coma… is a considerable cost compared to the imperceivable pleasure tied to schussing down a 60⁰ ridge.
· I watch four hours of reality tv every night, because the mild reward of being entertained is greater than the expected cost associated with anything else.
These are just a few simple examples of what is an infinite list of trade-offs, and the elementary equation we all use to do what we do. With this knowledge it is possible to construct a pay-off which will turn our resolutions into commitments.
In the following posts I will break down the steps to turning resolutions into not just possibilities but probabilities. Stayed tuned!