At the start of each new year, many times, we want to feel like we’re upgrading our lives. We say, “this will be the best year ever.” We look at the future with possibilities about what can happen.
This makes sense. According to a recent book written by Dr. Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the new year is seen by most people as a “fresh start.” And the feeling of a fresh start makes a great jumping-off point.
The key is to use the fresh start to make changes. To quote Tony Robbins, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” So, let’s use the new year to create a new you and make some changes!
Katy Milkman’s book “How to Change” provides some great strategies to actually become a better version of ourselves through making changes. We’ll look at some of her researched frameworks to teach us how to change.
Many times, we are triggered to change. We have to want to do it. That’s exactly why the start of the year is a great time to make changes in life – because it feels like a fresh start. Find a fresh start for you and use it as a springboard to making changes.
A big roadblock to change is our impulsivity, or present bias. We are biased toward instant gratification – e.g., a cheeseburger now – rather than long-term rewards – e.g., longer, healthier life. A strategy around this bias is temptation bundling. Using this strategy, you do something you want when you’re doing something that serves a long-term goal. As an example, if you like murder mystery podcasts, only allow yourself to listen to them when you’re working out. This way, you’re motivated to work out (so you can find out who did it) AND cut down on your binge time because you’re only listening during working out.
Procrastination is another symptom of present bias, according to Milkman. We can help combat procrastination by developing a commitment device. She calls a commitment device anything that reduces your freedoms in service of your greater goal. An example she researched is creating a “locked” savings account that can be opened when it reaches a monetary target.
Confidence is key to making change. Sometimes we are not confident enough in ourselves to think change is possible. We need to build up our own confidence so that we can bounce back from setbacks. Milkman cites research that shows that setting ambitious goals, yet giving yourself a limited number of emergency passes, helps you not allow setbacks to stop the change from happening.
To make transformative behavioral change last, Milkman says, we must address the root cause, not only the symptoms. Impulsivity, procrastination, low confidence are symptoms of how our brains can be wired. We must remove the blocks that create barriers to make changes stick and continuously watch to make sure new ones don’t pop up.
When we can learn how to change, this new year can indeed be the year of the new you.
Grab a copy of Katy Milkman’s book How to Change here.