In the past weeks I’ve read a lot about the psychology of things. Yeah, let’s just say that. Or I could do myself a favor and make this whole post a lot more interesting by saying “the psychology of willpower, self-control and other self-helpyish stuff”.
So one thing I learned is that dopamine is an asshole hormone that makes you want stuff and makes you keep doing something even if it doesn’t even feel good. (Checking Facebook, anyone?) Of course, dopamine has its good uses – without it people turn sluggish, hopeless and depressed, unable to imagine anything giving joy.
But enough of science – what does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions?
In the past years I’ve been a pretty adamant resolution-supporter. Worshipper. Prayer. Whatever, I’ve said a lot of resolutions, they have yet to come true. Hell, I don’t even remember the one from last year, but I’m sure it filled my January with bright hope and a heavy crash.
It’s called the False Hope Syndrome. It’s basically you being sick of something about yourself and wanting control over your life again, so you set a goal, and hey, while we’re doing it, let’s set a really high one. “Someone climbed Mount Everest? Fuck that. I’ll climb to the moon – no, Mars! What? There’s no feasible way of doing that? Well, stop underestimating me, ‘cause I’ll be the first person to climb in air!” – That’s you when you make resolutions. And I gotta hand it to you, way to be ambitious, but air’s not that great for, you know, having a lower density than solid matter.
What happens when you overshoot like this? You give yourself a quick boost of dopamine and a sense of self-control, and like the mice in this dopamine experiment that’s all we really want. Right? Except those mice ran themselves to death on electric shock for a lust of dopamine, and it didn’t even release any happy-hormones, like serotonin.
Bringing me back to New Year’s Resolutions. They suck. We’re so afraid of the coming year and all the shit it’ll bring – since the previous year obviously wasn’t that great, what with all the dying and famine and illnesses and stuff – that we need hope, so we create it for ourselves with a resolution. We set the bar high to make the dopamine rush greater, but it’s a trap and we’re setting ourselves up for failure when we cannot live up to those expectations.
So I have a proposition: A New Year’s Envisioning. Since process-oriented thinking is more productive than goal-oriented thinking, it’ll be much more productive, if that’s the kind of thing you want out of the New Year.
Pick an action that will lead you toward your big goal and envision it. Want to get better grades? Imagine yourself studying half an hour more on average each day, imagine yourself to a Rocky theme going at the math problems. Yeah. (It also just occurred to me that basically the reason Rocky-type-like montages are so awesome is because they’re dopamine goldmines.)
Want to lose weight? Hey, imagine how you’ll be going to the gym every week.
Want to eat healthier? Imagine drinking a delicious green smoothie every morning.
Want to be more sociable? Imagine setting off one day each week for being social.
My suggestions are so generic they’re bound to shoot far from your goals, so I suggest you try it yourself. Me? What is my New Year’s Envisioning?
That’s a secret I’ll never tell.
(lol. But since, obviously, my goal is to be a millionaire by 2017, I’ll envision myself spending lots of cash. Nice process.)