If you subscribe to any blogs you can guarantee towards the end of the year you will be getting a million emails about setting New Year’s Resolutions. As we all know, New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously difficult to meet and maintain. In fact, I only set Resolutions like “I resolve to forget more things and eat more stuff.”
I think part of the reason for the colossal failure of Resolutions to make a difference in our lives is that they set up the Horizon Effect.
Think about what happens when you walk towards the horizon. Do you ever get closer? Do you ever reach the horizon?
No? Neither do I.
It’s the same with Resolutions or personal change goals. We can usually walk towards them endlessly but they stay the same distance away.
New Year’s Resolutions are usually ideals. We think about the ideal behaviours we could have, the ideal person we could be, the ideal life we could create for ourselves. The problem with ideals is that they’re often completely unreachable or they’re too far away from where/who we are now and thinking about them scares our brain. Brains are delicate little creatures really.
Whenever we make changes to ourselves or our lives our internal alarm system gets activated. Small changes are ok – they kind of fly under the radar. Big changes set off the alarm and we will subconsciously sabotage ourselves so we don’t change at all.
One way to combat this and the Horizon Effect is to measure your progress backwards. Instead of looking forward all the time, look back.
Look back at the changes that you have already made. Look back at how far you have already come. Look back to see the progress you have already made.
When we look back in an approving way, the reward centres in our brain get activated and we feel gooooood. And then we associate the changes we’re making with feeling gooooood. And then it’s easier to keep making changes because we know that we will look back on these changes and feel goooood. So change = feeling good.
If we measure the changes by how far we haven’t come then all we see is what we’re lacking. And that does not feel goooood. So we make less change because it’s less rewarding. And we don’t maintain change because the ‘horizon’ still seems too far away. So change = effort for little progress.
So instead of focusing on what you want to achieve, why not try focusing on what steps you’ve already taken to get there?