As a new year rolls around once again, many of us are thinking about all the things that are wrong in our lives and the changes that we need to make. Everywhere we look are ads reminding us that we are not slim enough, fit enough, or rich enough. It’s hard not to fall into the trap that we really need to do something different. As we began planning for 2017, we were full of optimism that this year will be different and we solemnly commit to making changes. However, the sad truth is that we aren’t likely to fulfill those promises. According to statistics published by the University of Scranton, 92% of us will not achieve our New Year’s resolutions. One third of us give up just after one month and more than half within six months.
Before you give up on making changes in your life, how about taking a pause to consider a new approach. Rather making commitments to add something to your already overcommitted life, how about trying a “BE Resolution.” Numerous research studies have shown that being more present or mindful holds the key to achieving many of the traditional new year’s resolutions like exercising, losing weight, building stronger relationships, and more control over your finances. A meta-analytic study published in 2016 proposes that mindfulness may be a “root construct” that shapes human experiences in thought, emotion and action, paving the way for individuals to enjoy a number of physical and psychological benefits (Good, et.al., 2016)
How can something this simple be the key to achieving our goals? When we gain control over our attention that is, spend more time in the present, we start making conscious choices about what we do and think. Many of our counter-productive actions take place when our attention is on automatic pilot like snacking while watching TV or pushing the elevator button instead of taking the stairs or hitting the buy now button on our IPads.
When we are present we have the opportunity to make micro-choices that add up to big changes. Here is how it works. Each time we bring our wandering attention back to the present we are training our attention to be more present. Being present allows us to notice where we are placing our attention giving us more control over our decisions. The good news is that mindfulness is a trainable skill and can be practiced throughout day without adding any more time to your already busy life.
Sources: Good, D. J. Lyddy, C. J., Glomb, T M., Bono, J. E., Brown, K. W., Duffy, M.k> Lazar, S. W. (2016). Contemplating mindfulness at work: an integrative review. Journal of Management, 42, 114-142. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0149206315617003
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