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How to prepare your nervous system (and teams) for new goals

New year, new me. And even though that sounds positive, clinical psychologist Beth Kurland notes that 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions feel like they’ve failed within the first few months. According to her, the big obstacle that people don’t account for in behaviour change: their autonomic nervous system (ANS).

“Below the surface of awareness, through a process called neuroception, our brain and nervous system are constantly scanning for cues of threat/danger or for cues of safety. When there are more cues of threat, our ANS goes into protection mode.”

And while this reaction would be useful in the face of real threats, this protection mode (leading to stress and/or shutting down) is counterproductive when you try to adapt to change in a relatively safe context. For example undergoing changes at work or setting new year’s resolutions.

So how can you prime your nervous system for change? Or help team members/employees adapt easier to changes?

1. Frame your goals in a positive way

How we formulate our goals is important for our nervous system. Something like ‘I want to lose weight’ can feel threatening and constricting, whereas ‘I want to have vibrant health and energy and nourish myself with healthy foods’ feels far more positive and calming, even though it’s basically describing the same thing. But this framing is important because it shapes your attitude towards your goals.

2. Frame your goals in a specific and predictable way

Vague and broad goals can feel daunting. For example, setting the goal to exercise every day is not specific at all, it leaves much for your brain to anticipate. While picking out a specific 15-minute exercise video, picking out your workout clothes already and deciding to do it first thing in the morning is far more predictable, safe and concrete. Hence, it is far more likely you’ll feel positive and confident about it and more likely you’ll follow through.

3. Make a plan to deal with obstacles

Life is unpredictable. Whichever challenge you set yourself, you’ll undoubtedly encounter obstacles and setbacks. Instead of seeing obstacles as intimidating and vague threats, it is productive to anticipate whichever you can think of and formulate a way you’ll overcome them. This way you will feel more prepared, confident and safe pursuing your goals.

Especially in times where the pace of change is faster than ever before, it is beneficial (both as a person and employee) to be adaptive. Growing as a person requires setting yourself goals, while a fast-paced job market requires many of us to adapt to our circumstances and constantly learn new skills. Hence why learning smart ways to prime your nervous system and master change is essential nowadays.

Read the full (and more detailed) article here.

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Douwe Knijff

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Kim Pillen


Before Kim Pillen started as a trend consultant at TrendsActive, she worked for four years as a creative strategist at Dept. For brands such as Philips,, Beiersdorf, JBL, and the Consumers’ Association, she built (online) campaign, brand, and social media strategies. After four years, she decided that she wanted to better understand people and society in order to advise brands more effectively. That’s how she ended up at TrendsActive. Here, she can do what she loves most: digging into people’s needs and then working with brands to see how and where they can be relevant and meaningful.

Douwe Knijff


Douwe is fascinated by how people work. With a background in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (Bachelor) and Psychology (Master) and an analytical mind he tries figure out how societal shifts manifest themselves through social culture and human behaviour.

Aljan De Boer

Keynote speaker

Aljan has been widely recognized as an inspiring professional speaker on the critical trends that will shape society in the decades to come. He works as the Head of Inspiration at TrendsActive, a trend consultancy from the Netherlands using social science to human-proof business decision for brands like

  • Disney
  • Vodafone
  • Hugo Boss
  • ASR
  • Rabobank

Next to his role at TrendsActive he is the Community Director at the Institute for Real Growth where he inspires and connects a global community of +400 CMOs.  

He has been on the board of the Dutch Platform of Innovative Marketing for almost a decade. Regular speaker and moderator for the Dutch Marketing Awards and 3 times winner of the best of MIE. 

Kees Elands

Founder & Strategist

Kees his purpose is to help ambitious leaders and brands to human-proof their business. In 2003 he founded TrendsActive, a trend consultancy enabling brands to become more human centric.

Kees consults global brands like

  • Disney
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Asics
  • Discovery Channel
  • Swiss Life
  • Vodafone

and many more.

Next to being the founder of TrendsActive, he is also initiator of the first academic trend master for executives at the University of Utrecht and is initiator of various trend studies and white papers on subjects like trust, meaning, visual culture & generations.


Kees Elands

Founder & Strategist

Kees Elands

Founder & Strategist