When making resolutions look at risks and rewards

Another in a monthly series of columns by Carla Marshall of Marshall and Associates

Carla Marshall

As 2013 begins many people are setting resolutions for change in some direction. We may want to give up something: smoking, unhealthy eating, or compulsive spending, for example. We may want to get something: a healthy body, a better relationship with our child, a degree, a fulfilling job. Whatever we want to let go, or gain, here are some things to think about.

After the excitement of change subsides, we will encounter a variety of excuses our mind designs to put us back into our comfort zone. “But just one is not so bad… it’s too hard to stop… but I actually like [what I’m giving up].” Is it the same excuse you allowed to stop you from change 20 years ago?

Before you let excuses sabotage your efforts, try this. Realize that you have developed patterns and habits over long periods of time that can take time to undo and will take mental and physical work. If there is something you are doing that you want to stop, you need to recognize that you are getting something from it, some benefit, or reward. Sometimes we are drawn back to those perceived rewards.

When that story full of excuses and sabotage starts to play, sit down with a pen and paper and do a cost-benefit analysis of the short-term versus long-term benefits for continuing and discontinuing the behaviour.

Assume for a moment that you continue the behaviour you want to stop (unhealthy eating, drinking, gambling, smoking, compulsive spending, drugs, you fill in the blank). Write down the positive effects you will experience in one to two minutes after the activity (“I’ll get a rush… I’ll feel relaxed… relief… joy… excitement). Then ask, “what will the positive effects be in two hours if I continue [specific behaviour]? What will the positive effects be in 24 hours? Two days? Two years? Twenty years?” Write the answers down. Now do exactly the same for the negative effects of continuing the behaviour. What will the risks and drawbacks be in the next two minutes, two hours, and so on?

Do the same analysis for the effects of deciding not to continue the behaviour. Ask yourself, “assuming I decide not to engage in [fill in behaviour] what are the positive effects I will experience in the various time frames? Do the same now for the negative effects of discontinuing the behaviour.

What you have created is a rational breakdown of your decision to stop the unwanted behaviour, and one that empowers you to change because it comes from you. When you recognize that the costs of continuing far outweigh the benefits, you can now go about setting up all the other parts of the support network you need for the new life you are creating. You are free to be the best and most desirable you.

At the same time, it’s important to spend time visioning precisely what kind of life you do want. Rather than thinking of just letting go, spend your energy on what you want to achieve in the important areas of your life: family/relationships, health, prosperity, vocation, spirituality, leisure, and personal development. With your intention set, tools and support to overcome potential roadblocks, you are more equipped to manage the change.

-Marshall & Associates provides human resources plus individual and group development services.

For a consultation, or to find out more about their certified coaching services, please call (250) 513-0044.

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