As we all know, the upcoming New Year brings much thought and attention to the future, and for many of us, we begin to consider the changes we want to make in our lives. We might have a conversation, or see something on Facebook, and this spurs a thought that “I will be a better mother/wife/sister next year.” Or more commonly, the look in the mirror stimulates an intention to improve health or fitness. And yet, the data suggest many of you will be making some financial goals, as you seek to improve your overall liquidity and net worth.

But here’s the problem with these resolutions: Most of us fail miserably! We give up by February and have returned to our old habits. Why is that?

The Best Predictor of Behavior Today is Yesterday’s Behavior

Yes, we are truly creatures of habit. Perhaps we can state this more accurately by saying we are victims of our neural programming. Our normal, daily behavior patterns have these neural pathways that are like a six-lane paved highway, well-used, and open for busy. We can cruise down these highways without difficulty. (Now, at the end of the road, we may not find it rewarding, but the drive was easy.)

Changing an old pattern of behavior is choosing to take an exit off the easy highway, and now we must cut a path through the jungle. We do so because we have a goal, or intention to make a change. The going is tough on this new path. But we do it, and we get to the end of the road today (after all that work), and the goal we seek often seems not a bit closer. While we made headway, often the important goals remain a distant vision after all that work. Thus tomorrow, it makes it easy to simply stay on the familiar, well-worn highway rather than sticking to our plans.

Thus, when we consider this simile as a way of understanding human behavior, we can see how difficult it is to change our habits- even when those habits bring pain or suffering our way. Since this tends to be true for everyone with a human brain, how best to stick to our goals or intentions next year?

Three Keys to Walk the Talk in 2020

1) Talk is Cheap, So Please Stop.

We live in an evolving world where more and more ‘talk’ is available. Talk seems to be ‘valued’ in a disproportionate way, on social media, talk radio, and TV. Many of these ‘talkers’ have never done little other than talk. They know nothing about the walk, so to speak.

Why bring this up today? Because this talk seems to encourage a culture where we can delude ourselves to think that all this talk has value. Most does not.

Whether it’s talking to friends, colleagues, or to your family, I vote to stop giving advice to others and to yourself. Stop being the expert on what others should or should not do. And make sure your husband, wife, and children are included in this often-incessant advising, coaching, and opining on their lives. Then finally, do the same for yourself.

Limit the talk, so there is time to focus on your walk. Change, new habits and growth all emerge from the action, not more talk.

2) Simply Resolve to Do It…One Habit at a Time.

It’s important to keep it simple, and not start six things at once. This is a proven path to failure. So, pick one habit, and resolve to bring that habit into your life.

Resolve is defined as ‘deciding on a course of action.’ So, in many ways, you find here the secret juice is right here. There is a decision, and there is a course of action. Both are required in bringing your New Year’s Resolution to life.

Many of you know right now what the decision needs to be, and perhaps you even know the course of action. If not, decide on one. It doesn’t have to be the perfect course of action, but just make sure it has an action attached to it. Limit the talk to research and discussion on the ‘course of action’ to get your new habit ingrained in your life.

3) Visualize It. Plan It.

Few things emerge without a vision, so spend one minute each morning on your vision. First, devote 30 seconds to visualizing your efforts TODAY to walk the talk. This is you bringing the new habit into your life today. The next 30 seconds are devoted to your ultimate vision, where this new habit will take you. The ‘why’ behind all the effort is the source of your daily inspiration and is best nurtured with a few moments of visualizing your goal at the end of the road. This will get more and more clear with practice.

Next, if I can’t find your new habit in your calendar tomorrow, it probably isn’t going to happen. If there isn’t a time and place already designated for this new habit, then we are just dreaming again. So be real with yourself. If this is important, get it in the calendar in a way that forces you into compliance with your own intentions.

Please know that you can do this if it’s important to you. But that often isn’t enough. This quick start game plan will help if you keep it simple. Stop talking. Start doing…today!