Will 2012 be your year of living boldly? Here’s to New Year’s Resolve that Sticks!
Happy New Year!
You’ve likely experienced it yourself: You are brimming with resolve on December 31st, and by January 31st it’s nowhere to be found. What resolutions? The fact is, if new year’s resolutions were easy to maintain, we’d all be meditating daily, looking hot in our jeans, drinking 8 glasses of water each day, snacking on raw veggies each day, and free of credit card debt. There’s something about sticking with resolutions, and the changes they entail, that is a bloody lot easier said than done. But the truth is that we all have the ability to create the changes we really want and stick with the resolutions we make. It’s just that we don’t apply the strategies needed to see them through.
As you know, I’ve got a L-O-T of change ahead in 2012. Moving to a new country. Finding and setting up a new home. Managing my business across two hemispheres. Settling my 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, and finishing the book I embarked upon in 2011 (if not two of them.) Yep, when it comes to change, my cup runneth over in 2012!
Of course just because I’m a trained coach, doesn’t mean that I never get stuck myself. Or stressed. Or overwhelmed. But what I know is that using the right strategies can make the difference between success and failure, optimism and overwhelm, productivity and procrastination… wonder and terror! So I hope that as I do my best to “walk my talk” in 2012, that you will find the strategies below helpful in making the changes and taking the chances you want to make in the months ahead… purposefully, powerfully and courageously!
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. What do you care about most in life? Loving and supportive relationships, a feeling of health and vitality, being purposeful and passionate about your work/career, contributing to your community, adventure and fun, financial security, spirituality? Wanting to get back into your skinny jeans because you want to look hot is great. But that’s likely not gonna be enough when you face the temptation of hitting snooze or looking at the dessert menu. Connect to a deeper and more fundamental value: it’s really important for you to feel good in your body, have energy for your family and feel truly alive.
2. Write Down Your Specific Goal. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be able to succeed. Saying you want to lose weight or get fit or save money is too broad. How much weight? How much money? If you can’t measure it, you can’t track it and you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. That said, also be realistic – choose goals you know are realistic in terms of what you will do and the timing in which you will do it. Setting vague resolutions sets you up for failure from the start. Resolutions like wanting to ‘eat better, get fitter, be happier, relax more or have better life balance’ are doomed for failure because they lack specificity. You need to describe your resolutions in ways that allow you to track your progress and measure your success. For instance, to exercise at least three times a week. To lose 10 pounds. To eat breakfast every day, to leave work by 5.30 pm at least 3 times a week. Then once you’ve identified that specific goal, write it down and stick it in places you will see it often. (If there are images to help keep you motivated, put them beside it). Break your goal down into small ‘bite size’ actions and schedule time in your calender to take them.
3. Design a Supportive Environment. Your support systems and the environment you create around you can make or break your resolve. Create a progress chart, enlist the help of family or friends to hold you accountable, hire a trainer, create a blog. Just make sure your environment – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – is one that constantly keeps you living in alignment with your goals and vision. Never underestimate the power of your environment when it comes to achieving the goals that inspire you most and keeping your resolutions beyond Jan 31st!
Enlist friends, family or colleagues to help hold you accountable and encourage you. Avoid the company of those who don’t! Create a progress chart and give yourself rewards for progress. Join an online support group. Enlist an exercise buddy. Hire a trainer or coach. Create a blog. Just make sure your environment – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – is one that constantly keeps you living in alignment with your goals and vision. [pullquote] Our 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. [/pullquote]
4. Focus on one major resolution/goal/new habit at a time. 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. Or drain you after a while as you try to create too many new habits at once. Especially if you are not used to it. Or in great shape energy wise (keep an eye on what you eat, how much you sleep and the exercise you get). It may be better to just focus on your most important habit/resolution for January. It will be less of a drain on energy and focus. And you still have 11 more months to establish other habits you want to incorporate into your life. This may sound like a slow and boring way of going about things. But it’s whole lot better – and more effective – than becoming fatigued, feeling down on yourself for not being able to keep up with all your resolutions and finally giving up completely.
5. View failures as temporary setbacks that make your goal meaningful. Edison failed several thousands of times before he got the light bulb to work as he wanted. [pullquote]So realize that failure, or at least a lack of immediate success, is a normal part of the process. [/pullquote] It’s not your failures that will define your year ahead, it’s your response to them. So the best route is to keep going and gain understanding from your failures or mistakes. Social conditioning and homeostasis often seems to lead us to believe that if you fail you should go home and not ever try again. The most successful people have learned that failures and mistakes DO NOT DEFINE US, but rather how we respond to them. By learning from them and trying again. And again. [pullquote]2011 will pass no matter what you do. So if you fail or make a mistakes, so what? Learn from it, make adjustments accordingly then get back on your horse! [/pullquote]
6. Focus on the process. It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and think your resolution will be taken care of within a few weeks. In reality, however, things tend to take longer than we may have hoped for. Especially if you haven’t done anything similar before and lack actual experience to draw understanding from. Focus on becoming masterful in the activity or process that takes you toward your goal, rather than the goal itself. For instance, focus on the process of being able to jog a little bit further every time you go out for a walk, rather than being able to run a 10K. It doesn’t take away from your goal, it actually allows you to move toward it more effectively because you avoid feeling despondent with the size of the gap between where you are and where you want to be. With a realistic plan where you focus on consistent action it become easier to be more patient. You didn’t learn to walk or talk overnight, you didn’t get into that bad habit over night, and you didn’t end up 35 pounds overweight or $10K in credit card debit overnight. Creating new habits, learning new skills and making significant changes will also not happen overnight. Be patient and accept that all change, even change for the better, will take ongoing commitment, consistency and courage.
7. 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).
Life is short. Years pass quickly. What aspects of your life are keeping you from doing and being all you are capable of? Where are you ‘putting up’ with people and things that drag you down? Where are you selling yourself short and procrastinating on doing the very things you know would give you a richer experience of life? As I wrote in Find Your Courage, life shrinks or expands in proportion to our willingness to put ourselves at risk, to leave the past in the past and to boldly step forward in creating a future that honors who we are, and the dreams that inspire us.