New Year, New Challenges

So, here it is, the first day of a new year! I hope you all celebrated safely and happily yesterday, and are ready to face this year with a lot of energy and positive attitude.

One thing that usually doesn’t last for much longer than the fireworks on New Year’s Eve are the New Year’s Resolutions. Most common is to set one’s goals way too high, i.e. “I’m going to run a marathon this year although I’m not a runner”, or “I’ll stop smoking today, cold turkey”. Recognise yourself? Don’t worry, most of us have done the same, at least once or twice.

But why is it then so difficult to make that change in your life? I read a wonderful seven point guide on how to reach that change, and will gladly share it with your here:

“”Fear is like a virus that wrecks havoc in our lives. It develops into mistrust, anxiety, worry, hopelessness, and other negative emotions. It paralyzes us and hinders our progress in life. When fear grips you, you become powerless. It’s the greatest obstacle to personal success.”  

Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to overcome these challenges and increase your chances for success.

1) Know thy enemy.

Because the resolutions we tend to make often reflect a significant and unfulfilled challenge in our personal or professional lives, something we’ve wanted to accomplish or change for quite some time but weren’t able to because it was either too challenging or too complex (i.e, losing weight, improving a relationship, saving money, getting fit), they can be a cunning enemy in the battle for self-improvement. Trying to accomplish a gargantuan task that you haven’t been able to accomplish all year (or maybe even longer) is obviously not the kind of kind of thing you’re going to be able to do within a month. If it was that easy, you would have done it already.

2) Set realistic, achieveable resolutions.

While this may sound like common sense, all too often the resolutions we make are nonspecific, ill-defined, and/or easily complicated by a variety of factors that aren’t necessarily within our control. “I resolve to be happier.” I resolve to get fit.” “I resolve to have a happier marriage.” When we make such resolutions, we significantly reduce our likelihood of accomplishing them. 

3) Don’t view resolutions as all or none.

Rather than view a resolution as an “all or none” goal that you either accomplish or you fail at, try to reframe resolutions as smaller, more realistic tasks that, over time, will eventually get you to your ultimate goal. For example, a very common resolution is to get out of debt. The problem is that it’s too vague, ill-defined, and lacks any sense of time, which are all qualities that set resolutions up for a rather quick and untimely death. To breathe life back into your desire to change, you need to make smaller resolutions that are precise, well-defined, and time-sensitive, tasks that will bring you closer and closer to your ultimate goal. For example: “I will bring my own coffee from home and stop going to Starbucks every morning before work;” “I will use the money I save by not going to Starbucks to add $100 to my minimum payment on my VISA account every month.” Both tasks are realistic, measurable, and achievable.

4) Reward yourself for small steps. 

It’s important to reward yourself as you make progress rather than waiting until the ultimate goal is completed. For example, if your ultimate goal is to lose 20 pounds by [fill in the blank], it will be a lot easier to accomplish if you reward yourself in some way as you make progress toward that goal instead of waiting until you drop the whole 20 pounds. High-achievers are notoriously bad at rewarding themselves for a job well done. Even if it’s just a pat on the back, positive reinforcement can serve as a great motivator to push you along until you reach where you want to be. 

5) Don’t resolve to change what you can’t control.

Another way to improve your chances for success is to make sure the tasks/goals you set for yourself are within your control. You may be able to control a lot of things, but ultimately you can’t control what other people do. So instead of setting a resolution like “I’m going to get a raise before the end of the year,” try framing the goal in terms of specific things you can do at work to increase your chances for getting a raise.

6. Share.

Although high-achievers tend to have a “do-it-yourself” mentality that makes them reluctant to share their wants/needs or to ask for help from others, when it comes to making long-term changes, not sharing can be short-sighted. Making your resolutions public is not only likely to increase your motivation to succeed, it also helps family and friends know what you’re trying to accomplish so that they can provide support and encouragement along the way.

7. Reduce your fear by embracing the positive aspects of change.

It’s easy to get side-tracked by “what-ifs.” “What if I fail?” “What if I can’t do this?” “What if I do this and don’t like it.” But living a life of “what-ifs” can be crippling. Not only that, it’s not possible to live and not change. Change is constantly happening within us and around us. In fact, change is the foundation of life as we know it. It’s what keeps us interested and invested in life. It improves our well-being and makes us more adaptable. Without change, we become stagnant. We don’t grow personally or professionally. So why not embrace it?

Resolutions have the power to move our lives in new and more positive directions. The key is setting them up in a way that optimizes your chances for success.”

(This article was written by Sherrie Bourg Carter in 2011, and published on Psychology Today)

What change are you waiting to do or make happen? I’ll be happy to help you, just contact me!


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