With the New Year only a few days old, resolutions are just beginning. Many people abandon their resolutions within a few days or weeks of starting them. While there are many reasons people give up, one thing iscertain, changing behavior is hard.
Resolutions stem from a desire to be a better person in the New Year. This is a great intention, but it is not enough to invoke lasting change. Few people have the knowledge or tools to permanently change their behavior.
The good news is you can succeed in your New Year resolution. The first tool you will need on your journey is positivity.
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It is important to stay positive. Being positive will help with the inevitable challenges that come with starting something new. Positive psychology research shows that people are more successful if they approach a situation in a positive, happy mindset.
Being positive is not genetic. Anyone can learn to be an optimist because the brain has an amazing ability to change the way it is currently wired.
. If you, or your friends and family, describe your personality as pessimistic, it is still possible to become an optimist, but it requires some hard work. The more engrained a habit, the more resistant the brain is to change – and yes, thinking is a habit. Do not let a little resistan ce get in the way of reaching your potential. An easy strategy to help begin switching your thoughts from negative to positive is with a positive mantra.
First, write down a positive phrase that you can recite each time you are being negative. This works because your brain cannot think two things at once. When you say a positive mantra, you are forcing yourself to focus only on a positive thought.
The mantra needs to be short, specific, and realistic. You want to write something that pertains to your specific situation and it must be believable. You cannot fool yourself. An example for someone who is beginning a running routine could be: “I can keep running when I get tired because I train hard and I am well rested.”
You can have more than one positive mantra, especially if you have multiple goals. If this is new to you, I suggest starting with just one or two mantras. As you progress, do not be afraid to tweak your mantra. It should change as your challenges change. The most important thing is that your mantra helps you stay positive.
The more negative your thoughts, the more time and energy you will have to spend focusing on your positive mantra. A mantra is not a quick fix, rather it is an exercise that helps change your thinking over the long term. It is like a treadmill for your brain. The more you use a treadmill, the faster and longer you will be able to run. Similarly, the more you use a positive mantra, the more your thinking will become positive.
You must keep trying and not give into negative thoughts. Once you get going with your new way of thinking, the positive thoughts will pick up momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill, eventually replacing all negativity.
Being positive is just the first step, the necessary foundation for behavior change. In a future column I will discuss being flexible and accountable because the process of change is not easy. There will be some days you will regress and feel like nothing is working. But if you stick with it, you will be among the few that keep their resolutions.
Do you have a question about how to improve your athletic performance? Dr. David Schary invites questions or comments from any athlete, coach, or parent. Email any question or comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.