Add Mental Toughness to Your New Year's Resolution!

It's 2019 and you may think that you have your New Years Resolution plans all figured out. But why is it that so many athletes and individuals fall short of achieving their resolutions? This can be explained by looking at one simple, yet often misinterpreted concept called habits and rewards. First off, many athletes, coaches, and parents underestimate just how many days in a row are required in order to turn a positive action into a habit. In fact, when we surveyed over 100 athletes as to how many days are required to make a habit, most said 21 days and some even said as low as 3 days! But research shows that it takes on average 66 days to make something a habit. That's roughly 2 months! This long level of consistent commitment is part of the reason why so many athletes give up.

The human brain naturally seeks rewards that result in comfort!

Let's say an athlete's new year's resolution is to wake up earlier to train. The athlete may start off the first week or two waking up earlier; however, at some point, they will slack a day and then that day becomes a week and the habit is not formed. This is because our brain is programmed to not only keep us safe but to also keep us comfortable. Hitting the snooze button is a reward to the brain and to the body to get rest and crave comfort. Therefore, in order to create a habit athletes need to focus on developing a successful rewards process that will train the brain to resist the reward of comfort for enough time to ingrain the new habit.

Below are 4 methods to setting successful rewards and to finally achieving your new year's resolution!

1st: Make sure that you set a big enough reward to overcome the comfort cry of the brain. If your reward for waking up early is just so you can run faster or get better than most, you will most likely fall short. However, if your reward is to aspire to be the best player in your league or to play for the college of your choice then you will be giving yourself a better chance at sticking it out through the early stages of discomfort. 

2nd: Make sure that your reward not only excites you but also scares you if you do not go after it. For example, if an individual is diabetic then they should not only focus on eating better to live a healthier life but also be aware of the detrimental consequences that not changing the habit implies such as kidney damage, blindness, and stroke or worse!

3rd: Constant motivational cues. As previously mentioned, the brain seeks comfort so athletes and individuals need to surround themselves with motivational cues such as sticky notes throughout the house stimulating both drive and fear. This way when the athlete wakes up in the morning and heads to the bathroom, he or she will automatically be reminded to take positive action. 

4th: Give your resolutions a head start. When waking up early to train, athletes can increase their likelihood of turning morning actions into habits by making it easier to get started. For example, the athlete can have their running shoes right next to the bed as soon as they wake up or even go to sleep with their workout clothes on! 

These are just a few of many different techniques that you can use to make sure that your resolutions are realized!

Test out these 4 examples and get creative. Remember: You most likely know yourself the best when it comes to what motivates and scares you.