What courageous changes will you make in 2012?

What courageous changes will you make in 2012?

Plenty of change lies ahead in 2012.  For you. For me. For people around the globe. That you will experience changes, and need to face new challenges, is a given. Whether your experience of them is one of wonder or terror, enthusiasm or despair, is a choice.  So when it comes to the spirit in which you will step into the year ahead, where is your life in 2012 calling on you to be more courageous?

You’ve likely experienced it yourself: Brimming with resolve on December 31st as you boldly declare the goals and changes you plan to make in the year ahead, and by January 31st that resolve is evaporated into the crisp winter air, nowhere to be found.

New Year Resolutions? Bah Humbug. What knucklehead came up with the idea anyway?!

There’s a reason less than 10% of people ever see their new year’s resolutions into reality and end up stuck in the same ruts year after year:  Change is difficult.  Heck, if it were easy to keep our resolve, and stick with the changes we commit to making as we sip champagne on New Year’s Eve, we’d all be meditating daily, looking svelte in our jeans, drinking a gallon of water daily, snacking on raw veggies and free of credit card debt.  The truth is that we all have the ability to make important changes in our life, and to keep our New Year’s Resolutions (assuming, that is, that we didn’t make them in a drunken stupor).  The problem is that we often lack the strategies needed to see them through.

I’ve got a L-O-T of change ahead in 2012.  Moving to a new country (Australia, here I come!). Finding and setting up a new home. Managing my business across two hemispheres. Settling my four kids into new schools. Making new friends.  Building new business networks. And in the midst of it all, enjoying the process (i.e., not getting stuck in “overwhelm”), staying fit(-ish), and finishing the book I embarked upon in 2011. Yep, when it comes to life changes, my cup runneth over in 2012!

There’s a science to success when it comes to achieving goals and making important life changes.   Using the right strategies can make the vital difference between optimism and overwhelm, productivity and procrastination, resignation and resilience… success and failure!  So I hope that as I do my best to “walk my talk” in 2012, that you will find the 8 strategies below helpful in making the changes and taking the chances you want to make in the months ahead… purposefully, powerfully and courageously!

8 Strategies to Successful Changes in 2012 and far far beyond!

1.   Connect to Core Values. Most people like the idea of looking better, getting richer and feeling happier.  But if you are going to stick with a resolution that requires changing a long-held habit of thought or action, it has to go beyond superficial desires and connect with your deepest values. When you have a deeper sense of purpose, it compels you to dig deep when the going gets tough and stay the course – no matter what hurdles you have to jump.

2. Be Specific.   Resolutions to ‘eat better, get fitter, be happier, relax more or have better life balance’ are doomed for failure because they lack specificity. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be able to succeed.   Describe your goals and resolutions in ways that allow you to track your progress and measure your success.

3.   Design Your Environment. Your environment can be a powerful source of support.  It can also be equally powerful in sabotaging your resolve if you don’t attend to it. Create a progress chart, enlist the help of family or friends to hold you accountable, hire a trainer, create a blog.  Design your environment so that it’s hard NOT to do what you resolved to do. I always lay my workout gear beside my bed at night to make it that little bit easier to get dressed when my alarm goes off at 5:30am.  I also enlist my husband, who gets up at 5:15 (yes, he’s even less sane than me) to make sure I don’t press snooze!

4. Center Your Resolve. Being ambitious is great. But trying to do too many things at once can make you so unfocused that you just bounce around like Tigger. Besides, you have the rest of the year to pursue other goals and changes. Set yourself up for success and start with just one major undertaking come January 1st.   Then break that goal down into small bite size steps.  Small steps, strong start!

5.   Write it Down. Don’t just think it, ink it!  A Stanford study found that when people wrote down their goal, it increased their odds of accomplishing it by over 70%.   But don’t just write down the specific goal, write down how you will feel when you’ve accomplished it.  When you have finished penning your desires, jot down on sticky pads the words that inspire you most about your goal and put them around your home/office to remind you of why you are committed to doing what it takes to bring your goal into reality.

6. Reframe Failure. Your failures will not define your success in the year ahead, but how you respond to them will. Social conditioning too often leads us to believe that if you fail you should go home, hide your dreams under your bed, and never let them see daylight again. Don’t make a failure mean more than it does. You tried something, it didn’t work out as you wanted. Period. Reflect on the lesson your failure offers, making adjustments accordingly, then tap your inner John Wayne:  saddle up again and climb back on your horse!

7. Focus on the process. Psychologists have found that it takes at least 30 days to firmly establish a new habit of thought or behavior. It’s easy to get caught up in an initial wave of enthusiasm, certain that your efforts will meet with early success, only to come crashing down when they don’t.  Rather than focus purely on the goal, direct your attention toward becoming masterful in the activity or process that takes you toward it.  For instance, if you want to become more fit, focus on being able to jog a little bit further every time you go for a walk, rather than being able to run 5 miles by day five. Remember, small steps. If you stick with the process and embrace the learning that process entails, you will meet with success. Promise!

8. Do One Thing Every Day.   Make a commitment that every single day you will do one thing, however small it may seem, in the direction of your vision.  Okay, so you didn’t get to the gym like you’d planned.  How about 5 minutes of stretching?  Life rewards action.  And while some actions may not seem all that significant, when you take any action that serves your greatest good, it sends a message to your sub-conscious that you are still in the game, and that change is still in progress (however slowly).

Making changes to any aspect of your life demands focused effort, perseverance, and a good measure of boldness. But no more than already you have within you, just waiting to be channeled toward an endeavor that truly inspires you.  As I pursue my goal to spread my message of courage more widely around the globe, I challenge you to step beyond the doubts, excuses and stories that have kept you from experiencing the best of who you are, trusting in yourself more deeply, and boldly stepping into a future that honors your greatness.