Slipped Up? Now Get Up & Stay The Course!
It’s mid January. Far enough in to the new year that some people have already fallen off the band wagon on their new year resolutions. If you’re one of them, commiserations. Just know this: you aren’t alone.
I resolved late last year that I was going to write in a gratitude journal more often. Like every-single-day. Then last night I realised that the last time I got it out was over a week ago before I flew back to Australia from the USA (travel does that!) While I could sit here beating up on myself (or making excuses), I also know that my ‘setback’ is something many others have also had by now (only 10% of people ever stick to their new year resolutions!)
The truth is that starting new habits, and changing old patterns of behaviour, is hard. So too is staying the course toward big goals – particularly when you’re not quite sure how to achieve them! Heck if it were easy to start getting up an hour earlier every morning to exercise, eating only clean foods or carving a half hour out of your day to meditate, everyone would be doing it.
It’s for this reason that I want to share with you some strategies to help you make changes that stick and to ‘get back on the horse’ if/when you fall off. I hope a few will hit home and help you make the year ahead that much better and bigger than it would have been otherwise.
1. Decide what you want (like what you REALLY want!)
You wouldn’t start out on a journey with no idea where you were going. Likewise you need to set your compass (or GPS!) on whatever it is that you truly want. I mean, how can you create your ideal ‘dream life’ if you aren’t sure what it actually looks like. A lot of people I speak to have no idea. So before you do anything else, give yourself some empty time with a blank page to map out what a truly extraordinary life looks like for you – physically, financially, spiritually, emotionally, in your relationships, the work you do and the impact you make. Creating an inspiring vision for the future you want provides a compass to guide you forward – what to steer toward and what to steer away from. As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up someplace you don’t much like.
2. Know your big ‘Why’!
The reason a lot of people don’t stay on course toward their goals is because they haven’t linked them to a big enough “Why.” So get crystal clear about why it is so important for you to do whatever it is you’ve committed to. What lies at stake if you don’t? If it’s not meaningful enough, you won’t stay the course when the going gets tough or life gets in the way. My ‘Why’ behind my gratitude journal is simply to help me become a more grateful person and to make focusing on what I do have (over what I don’t) my habitual ‘default’ mode!
3. Step into action (even if you’re not exactly sure what you’re doing!)
It’s easy to live with excuses and justifications about why you can’t do what you want, at least not now. Maybe later. Next year perhaps. But inaction exacts an increasingly steep toll on our lives. Nothing is a more powerful antidote to fear than action. Daily action. Massive action! Start talking to people. Extend an invitation. Risk a rejection. Ask for an introduction. Introduce yourself to an influencer. Offer your services. Get your finances in order. Ask for help. Learn a skill. Read a biography. Hire a coach. Join a group. JUST DO SOMETHING. Every. Single. Day. Above all, don’t wait until you know everything before you do something!
4. Reframe problems.
So you’ve got problems – the tough economy, a difficult boss, your company’s culture, unsupportive family, too little resources/education/experience/finances (or lack thereof). Join the boat! It’s not your problems that keep you from creating what you want, it’s the story you tell yourself about them. Likewise, when you encounter a set back or slip up (like me and my journalling), don’t make up a story that you’re doomed for failure or don’t have the discipline or smarts or _______ (fill in the blank) to succeed. That’s just a big bloody story. Rather decide you just haven’t mastered it yet, and get back to work. Life will always present problems and setbacks. Don’t let them define you.
5. Watch your words. Rewrite your (limiting) stories.
You don’t see the world as it is, but as you are. Accordingly, the words you use to describe your present, past, or future create the reality you inhabit. If you cast yourself as a helpless victim, you’ll be just that. If you cast yourself as the master of your fate, you’ll be that too. If you’re constantly talking about the all the risks, you’ll live forever in fear. And if you label yourself hopeless or disorganised or lazy or too timid that’s exactly who you’ll be. So choose your words wisely and tell stories that fuel bravery and expand what is possible for you, not shrink it.
6. Find your ‘A team.’
In my interview with seven times world champion surfer Layne Beachley, we discussed about how important it is to surround yourself with the right people (and avoid the wrong ones which Layne calls “Dream Thieves.” That’s because, for better or worse, the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the expectations of the people around you. It’s hard to dream big and take risks to make them reality if everyone around you is content with the status quo. So if the people you’re hanging out with aren’t encouraging you to pursue the goals that excite you and bringing out your best then its likely they are derailing you from moving toward the very things you want most (your ambition may well be threatening to them!) The solution: move on! Hanging out with “friends” you’ve outgrown from some misguided sense of loyalty serves no-one. Rather be intentional in spending more time with the kind of people you’d like to me more like; people who won’t settle for mediocrity and who want nothing less for you! As I wrote in Brave, “Walk with giants. They’ll make you grow bigger.”
7. Stay focused on the main game
As you would have read in my recent new year blog, life is full of distractions and unless you’re deliberate in how you spend your time, you can easily find yourself ‘majoring in the minor activities of life.’ Unless you prioritize your time, other people’s priorities will consume it. So schedule in your ”MUST DO” activities into your calendar – exercise, family, reflection, planning and the rituals to achieve your ‘peak state.’ Assuming you’ll just find the time amid the busyness of your life is fanciful thinking. If you’d like to print out my First Things First worksheet, you can access it here.
8. Make fear your ally.
None of us are immune to an inner critic who is intent on keeping us just where we are, no matter how miserable we feel. Our inner critic is driven by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of success. Fear of not being enough. However we have to be careful not to cast fear as ‘the enemy’ when in fact, if fear wasn’t wired into our DNA we humans would have been eaten by predators many millennia ago.
Rather than vilifying fear, we need to harness its energy and make it work for us. We can do that by focusing on what might happen if we don’t risk failure or rejection or not being enough! Psychologists call this “Neuro-Associative Conditioning.” In my own work, I call it ‘Flipping Fear’ to turn it into your ally. You can do this by stepping into your future self and imagining how you’ll feel in the years to come if you let the fear that’s undermined your actions to now continue to pilot your life. Get really present to how it will cost you. Visualize yourself staring at yourself in a mirror 1, 5, 10, 25 years from now if you’ve let it continue to keep you from stepping up to the plate in your life and doing whatever it takes to achieve what you want. Fear regret more than you do failure.
9. Keep your wheels aligned!
A car that gets regular tune ups will go further, on less gas, and handle bad roads better. Likewise when you’re regularly investing in whatever keeps you in your own ‘peak state’ (body, mind and spirit) you’ll get more done and bounce back from setbacks faster.
The question is: What will it take to be in your ‘peak state’ every day?
How could you start your day more purposefully so you can be more focused through the day? How can you look after your body better, in ways that optimize energy, process stress and sustain energy? What new habits can you nurture that replace old destructive habits of thought and behavior? It’s the small things you do that few see which create the big results everyone wants. Above is a video I created with five rituals that I’ve found help me be in peak state! You can also read my blog on my top five daily rituals.
As an aside, I’ve put my gratitude journal on the desk in front to remind me to use it! (Feel free to hold me accountable!)
10. Adjust course as you go.
Think about it like you would if you were flying a plane from Melbourne to LA (a flight I’ve taken dozens of times!) Most of the time the plane is actually off course by a few degrees. It’s the micro adjustments the pilot makes en route that enable it to land in the right place. Likewise, keep your eye open for how you need to be adjusting your approach as you navigate your way from current Point A to desire Point B. If you aren’t getting the results you want, change what you’re doing. Anything else is a surefire recipe for landing a long way off course from your intended destination. Successful people are continually monitoring their progress and adjusting what they are doing to adapt to the opportunities and challenges as they come upon them. They also don’t let setbacks and failures stop them. They learn the lessons, change their strategy, and press on. Follow their lead!