Like New Year’s health and fitness resolutions, blogging resolutions are predicated on increasing frequency — of visits to the gym or of blog posts, respectively. Conventional wisdom in both cases is that success depends on overcoming physical/intellectual inertia through willpower and self-discipline.
A Wall Street Journal article offers an alternative approach to keeping New Year’s resolutions that substitutes advance planning and practice for guilt and shame. Brain research indicates that the part of the brain responsible for willpower is easily overloaded and exhausted, while the parts responsible for linking positive emotions to new habits are more effective at helping you condition and sustain new behaviors.
To illustrate the process, the piece includes a diagram for a metaphorical dance called “The New Year’s Shuffle”:
- Make a realistic plan in advance
- Practice in advance exercising self-control in other areas of life
- Think in advance about what might cause setbacks and slips and plan to avoid those things
- Plan rewards for yourself when you do new habits
- Practice focusing on your new habit instead of the old one
- Expect setbacks and slips
- Make a plan for bouncing back from setbacks and slips
- Plan punishments to help you get started, such as denying yourself TV
- Reduce other life stress if possible
- Use positive reinforcement 80% of the time, negative reinforcement 20%
Whether you master those steps or not, Happy New Year!