If you have New Year Goals you’re planning on working on, here is something that might help. My thought process is as follows: what makes us more likely to do something is either:
1. A fear of a hugely negative consequence for not doing it
2. A great pleasure in the work itself
3. A great pleasure in the result of the work.
While we can tempt ourselves to work under the threat of punishment or by waiting for intermittent dopamine rewards after we’ve completed a task, neither of these methods are likely to lead to a happy or sustainable state of affairs, and especially not to good lifelong habits.
So my goal tends to be to make habits as enjoyable as possible, so that I can stick to them longer.
One of the most fun states of being for me is flow: the feeling of being utterly absorbed in my task, unconscious almost, unaware of time and space. A state so amazing, I don’t even realise I’m in it until it’s over.
The more I can reach this point in my work, the more I enjoy the work. The more I want to do it again, the stronger the habit.
So, I wanted to share the 9 elements that make things enjoyable (or define flow). Resource: study by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi PhD
You might be able to either adjust a few of them in the habits you want to form, or optimise for activities that create some of these conditions naturally. The point is, the more an activity is characterised by these elements, the more enjoyable it will be.
The 9 elements that make things enjoyable:
- Having clear goals along the way
- Having immediate feedback to our actions
- Having a balance between challenge and skills (so that are are focused, neither bored nor anxious)
- Our action and awareness merge (so we concentrate on what we are doing)
- Distractions are excluded from our focus
- There is no fear of failure
- Self consciousness disappears
- We forget time is passing
- The activity becomes autotelic - we are enjoying it for the experience itself
I find the easiest ones to change are:
- I try to set clear outcome goals and know what the next steps are for me in many of the tasks I do, or ask others to set these out for me
- I constantly try to make the things I do either much more challenging (if I’m procrastinating because I find them boring), or break them down into easier steps (if I’m avoiding them because I’m anxious I’ll fail)
- I do quite a bit of self-esteem CBT to try to minimise my negative self-talk and self-consciousness (this helps in SO many other ways in life too!)
The others I find much more challenging to change! Those are the ones that at present, I just wait to see if they come up by themselves, and that’s how I know I’ve stumbled upon a task that is right for me!
Hoping this helps your New Year Resolutions and wishing you an absolutely incredible one!