New Year’s resolutions are upon us. There is a lot of helpful advice out there on how to set resolutions. But keeping them can be the hard part. We may focus on making the change in January, it gets harder in February and by March we find we are not doing very much. Then the ‘beat myself up’ can start and sometimes it doesn’t end.

Stopping making the change becomes our preferred option so the self-battle ends. But then guilt creeps in. The what if’s, the could have’s, the feeling of failure, not being good enough, the hope… These feelings hang around in the background but are ever present.

Change isn’t always easy and straightforward and actually, that is really normal. Some stuff I learned about neuroscience explains that and I share it with you to help you make the change you want for yourself happen and stick.

5 principles to make change happen and stick

Change requires consistency and the 5 principles, which reinforce one another, help make this happen.

  1. Motivation/ Emotion
  2. Commitment
  3. Discipline
  4. Structures
  5. Practice and self-compassion

alt="using neuroscience to make change happen"

Change needs consistency and how you can make that happen for yourself. B Babcock 2016



Use your motivation and emotion to get you started and keep you going


This is your desire to make a change and the positive emotions that go with that. This gets you started but can be fickle and may not last long. The reason is that motivation and emotion come from the Limbic part of our brain. But Limbic also looks for the problems with the change we want to make. So Limbic can keep us in this vicious circle of wanting to make change but finding reasons not to take action. Hence why so many people purchase a gym membership and then find reasons not to go.

Asking yourself what you will gain and lose if you make the change and if you don’t, can help you and Limbic get out of that vicious circle. Sometimes we will lose something we didn’t realise we valued so much when we make a change. This hidden desire can often stop us from making the change we want. So get clear on what that is for you by using these helpful questions.

pros and cons of making change

Will the gains of making your change outweigh the gains of doing nothing? Drawn by B Babcock 2017



Strengthen your commitment to the change


This keeps you going. It develops over time as you take action to make your change happen. If your action is of a size that is easy to take and achieve, you are more likely to take it. And so develop your commitment.


Use discipline to maintain and build your commitment


Now you need to maintain the commitment to making your change happen. Discipline helps here. Discipline is about saying yes to the things you want to say yes to and things you want to say no to. You develop discipline through practice, thereby strengthening your commitment. And to do that, keep the change small.


Implement support structures to keep you on track


These are the support mechanisms you put in place to help you make change. They can be the support of family and friends, favourite quotes, alarms, apps that provide an element of competition, your savings, and so much more.


Practice and exercise self-compassion


Practice and self-compassion are the glue holding these pillars to the seat of consistent change. With practice comes discomfort and mistakes. That is the natural order of things when you are learning.

Remember, you weren’t born knowing how to walk. You fell down a lot in the process of learning. And when you fell, people around you applauded you for your effort and helped you back up. Eventually, you learned to get yourself back up, walk, and then run and skip.

As you are making the change you want for yourself, feeling any discomfort and making mistakes, remind yourself that you are learning, ask yourself what specifically you are learning, and implement that learning. That is self-compassion in action. And make sure your support structures appreciate your effort and help you up when you fall down.

If you find you want to make change but are not taking action, use the higher order functioning of your pre-frontal cortex to have a dialogue with the rogue thoughts and emotions that want to take you away from making the change you want.

Ask them what their need is. Negotiate a new role they can play in helping you achieve the change you want. Or if they are being completely stubborn and you cannot find a way to give them a productive role, send the rogue emotions and thoughts away on the never-ending best holiday of their life.


alt text = "dealing with troublesome emotions"

Sending rogue emotions away on a never-ending holiday. B Babcock 2016


Also, when you engage in the new thing you are doing for yourself, pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings just before you start and while you are doing it. This enables you to learn more about how you are positively helping yourself and you can call on these thoughts and feelings as you engage in the new activity in the future.


In summary…


Make sure the change is right for you. The upsides of making the change outweigh the upsides of doing nothing or what you may lose by making the change. This is key!

Keep the change small, and so easily achievable. Once you achieve it, then look at the next step.

Practice practice practice.

Choose support structures you love and are truly helpful to you.

Lean into the discomfort and mistakes that come with practice and trust yourself to learn from them and come out the other side.

Lastly, change can take time. That is ok. My new year’s resolution from last year, which I steadily took action, is continuing into this year too.


What’s it like for you?


Have you set any New Year’s resolutions yet? What have you planned to maintain discipline and build your commitment? What support structures will you put in place? Feel free to share them here and together we can support one another.

If you would like to make a change this year and would like to chat that through as a way to get support, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.


Pass it forward


Although these blogs are written in the context of living with the impact of a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, share this post using the icons below.

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened and whether you have to, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

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