Time to Consider a Change

A little boy looks off into the future.

Time to Consider a Change

Time to Consider a Change

After Ryan Seacrest brings down the Waterford Crystal Ball at Times Square for the 17th time on ABC and Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson host a dance party on NBC, you’ve got 2022 front and center.

Few will mourn 2021. It’s been rough personally, politically, and professionally. We had enough of isolation and mask-wearing with Covid during 2020. I hoped we could bid the Pandemic adieu by January 2021. But, no, we were destined to take another dive into vaccinations and boosters, as the divisions reigned between those who agreed to take the former. While vax-ers are not immune to Covid, they’re not filling hospital beds or straining the medical staffs for the fourth time, like those resisting vaccination and masking.

Granted a date certain for the official END of the Pandemic cannot be predicted. But the 1918 Pandemic coasted to a close after a mild opening, then a lethal blow, like Delta in the U.S., but petering out on a mild tail, resembling uber-contagious Omicron that is rushing through neighborhoods and families throughout the globe, but without the lethal consequences.

Now 2022 stretches out in front of us as a time when the Pandemic could no longer dominate our lives as it did in 2020 and 2021. It’s time to consider a future when we would no longer be isolated if we no longer choose it.

My suggestion: Take the clean slate 2020 presents you and put it to good use. Select one element of your life that you would like to change. Before you complain that you don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because you disappoint yourself before the end of January. You fail every time.

Maybe you should try another strategy.

Kay Milkman in How to Change-The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You want to Be lays it out. “Making hard things seem fun is a much better strategy than making hard things seem important, according to Milkman.

Behavior change requires setting tough goals, breaking them down into the component steps. Visualize your success as you create tiny working habits that you build your own customized strategy. In doing this, identify the weakness that has prevented you from making progress and succeeding.

Milkman began her research into human behavior as a assistant professor of Wharton. She realized why Americans die earlier than they should: 40 percent of premature deaths are the result of personal behaviors we can change—small decisions about eating, drinking, smoking, and vehicle safety. Her work helps us identify the obstacles that keep defeating our efforts to move forward.

Agassi Used this Strategy

Andre Agassi used this approach to get out of a slump—focusing on the adversary, not perfection—to win in 1994 and thereafter. He’d been focusing on landing a perfect shot EVERY time. Impossible! A new coach showed him how to determine his opponents’ weaknesses and capitalize on his own strengths.

Pairing Drudge Work with Pleasure

Reading novels was a guilty pleasure for Milkman, but as her grades dropped, she decided to read assigned papers while getting a manicure, she listened to James Patterson’s murder mysteries and Harry Potter while on the treadmill, and folded laundry while watching Netflix. She allowed herself a glass of wine at the stove when she prepared a home-cooked meal. This motivated her to accomplish her must- do activities with pleasure.

Locking Out Temptation

Milkman points to literary examples where the author finds ways to force themselves and their characters to carry on, despite the more appealing options. Odysseus in The Odyssey has himself tied to the mast to avoid the temptation of the Sirens’ song and to steer his ship off course. French writer Victor Hugo, who enjoyed the life of the socialite, procrastinated on completing his first draft of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He locked up all his clothes, except a shawl to cover himself. By staying home, he focused on the manuscript and finished on deadline.

Cash Commitment

Twenty-six-year-old tech entrepreneur Nick Winter worried his life no longer met his expectations. Life lacked adventure. He wanted to transform himself into an adventurer—skydiving, skateboarding, and trimming five minutes off his 5K—and to write a book about it in three months! To accomplish this, he would need to set the stakes high–$14,000, everything he had. He wrote what became a popular book, The Motivation Hacker, and went skydiving with his girlfriend, who wasn’t afraid of heights like he was.

Flake Out

Sometimes life’s details– transporting kids, doing laundry, fixing meals—keep us from keeping our commitments to ourselves and our communities. Sometimes people just forget. One of her colleagues applied what they learned to registered voters. He found that huge numbers of registered voters said they planned to vote but failed to show up at the polls. In one election he studies, 54 percent of registered voters intended to vote, but they “flaked out.” They forgot. Actually, this is not so uncommon. In one study they found that we forget nearly half of the information we’ve learned within twenty minutes. After twenty-four hours, about 70 percent of it is forgotten; a month later, the loss can be 80 percent.

Bottom Line: Make a Plan and a Checklist

 Developing a planned attack to tackle your goal. Break the goal into little, easily achievable stops to build your confidence as you move forward. Build in your own nudges to remind and encourage you. Figure out where you most need help to follow-through. How will you do it? When? Where? Schedule a reminder that will cross your eyes at just the moment you need to act. Put it all together in a simple checklist on a whiteboard you will see each day. Mark off your progress. Schedule your reminders to keep you on track. The more distinctive the cue, the more likely it will trigger recall and action.

We’ve been part of a Universal event, suffering through a Pandemic—together. I’m listening to the neighbors in southwest London play Abba’s “Dancing Girl,” a song that crosses borders. It is two hours from New Year’s, five hours ahead of the U.S. Here’s to making the best of 2022, if not for us, then for the generations to come. Let’s start by making one personal change.

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