The New Year lies before you,
Like a spotless tract of snow.
Be careful how you tread on it,
For every mark will show.
Not often enough, we MAKE them. Too often, we BREAK them. And rarely do we KEEP them. By “them,” I mean New Year’s Resolutions. This year, let our first resolution be to keep the ones we make. Why? Because they will transform ourselves into the person we want to become. If wine does it, why shouldn’t we also improve with age? Why shouldn’t we have something to look forward to?
Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves. When we keep them, we benefit in three ways. First, we prove that we have the power to change. Second, we prove that we can depend on ourselves by keeping our word. Third, we benefit from the positive changes the resolutions bring into our lives. To help us keep our New Year’s Resolutions, I’m including a few ideas that may not have occurred to you.
Are we created by our thoughts or do we create our thoughts? The answer is BOTH. You see, by default, the daily ebb and flow of events automatically generate our thoughts. In other words, we react to whatever happens, living on autopilot rather than by intention. The thoughts generated by the encounters we experience then automatically lead to feelings, behaviour, and consequences. However, if we remain aware of our thoughts, we can interrupt them and change them. Once we do so, our feelings, behaviour, and outcomes also change.
When we fail to control our thoughts, they control us, and we are then reduced to mere automatons, robots, or zombies. Most people, however, are neither zombies nor masters of their fate. They are somewhere in-between, controlling their thoughts at one moment and being controlled by them at another moment. The degree of success we experience in life is directly proportional to the amount of control we have over our thoughts.
For this reason, our second resolution for the New Year should be to increase our awareness and control of our thoughts. Let’s get a bit more specific. Our thoughts generally fall into two categories: positive or negative. They inspire us or diminish us, enslave us or set us free, empower us or weaken us. Moreover, since our mind, body, and spirit are integrated, what happens in one area of our lives affects the other areas as well. So, a negative thinker can end up with a broken spirit, sick body, and shattered dreams.
Now, let’s move on to another, but related, area. Let’s consider how the words and sentences we use can color or shape our perception. Our perceptions are important because they play a major role in the decisions we make. I’ll begin with an example. Mortimer is middle-aged and plump. So, he made the following resolution, “I need to lose weight, so I’m going to use this one-month free pass I received and workout several times a week at the fitness club.”
Although well-intentioned, his resolution fizzled out in less than a month. He quit exercising. What went wrong? Well, the words and phases he used were self-defeating. He started by saying, “I NEED TO lose some weight.” His statement may be factual, but the trouble is that words like I NEED TO, MUST, HAVE TO, SHOULD, or OUGHT TO automatically trigger a response of RESISTANCE. After all, we don’t like to do what we HAVE TO. We don’t like to be bossed around and told what to do, even if we are the ones giving the orders! So, rule number one, drop NEED TO and its variants from your self-talk because they are lead weights that hold you back.
Even if Mortimer had said, “I’m going to lose weight,” that also would have been self-defeating. Why is that? That’s because he would be focusing on the problem rather than the solution. Instead of thinking of what you are now (overweight), think of what you wish to become (slim). Suppose you wanted to quit smoking and decided to repeat several times a day, “I will quit smoking! I will quit smoking! I will quit smoking!” What would that accomplish? The only thing it would do is make you think MORE about smoking and increase your craving.
So, rule number two is, rather than focusing on what you DON’T WANT, focus on what you DO WANT. The importance of this rule cannot be overstated, for the only things we do are the things we WANT to do. It’s not about willpower, it’s about want-power. So, what is it that Mortimer wants? Did you say he wants to lose weight? No, that’s the wrong answer. He doesn’t want to LOSE weight because that involves the perception of LOSING the pleasure of eating. It also brings up an image of the EFFORT (ugh!) we have to make in order to LOSE weight.
Well, then, what is it that he wants? He wants to become more physically attractive, gain confidence, and increase his health, well-being, and longevity. Now, those are things to get excited about. Those are things to WANT. Now that Mortimer is thinking correctly, he decides to go a step further by dropping the word WORKOUT from his resolution. After all, no one wants to EXERT EFFORT or do WORK.
Compare his original resolution with his new one. His original resolution was, “I need to lose weight, so I’m going to work out several times a week.” Mortimer changed it to, “I want to enjoy life to the fullest, so I’m going to take a few HEALTH (or FITNESS or LONGEVITY) BREAKS each week at the gym.” Can you see the dramatic difference? Can you see the change in perception?
Did you see what else Mortimer did? He replaced “several” times a week with “a few” times. Don’t you think repeating something a few times is easier than doing it several times? Many people mistakenly overreach in their resolutions. This leads to failure. It is not realistic to expect go from zero workouts a week to many a week. Going from zero to many is HARD. Going from zero to a few is EASIER. And the great news is, as Mortimer discovers how wonderful it feels to take “fitness breaks,” he will automatically be motivated to increase his visits to the gym.
After revamping his perception and thoughts, Mortimer is now in charge of his life. He even changes uncomfortable bodily sensations into positive thoughts. For example, although some newcomers get discouraged and give up because of the aches and pains that follow long, grueling ‘fitness breaks’ on the treadmill or Stairmaster, not Mortimer. He relishes the discomfort because it is a signal that his body is being re-sculptured, muscles are toning up, blood vessels are widening, his heart is growing stronger, and his general well-being is improving. He even rejoices when he has to slosh through a rain or snowstorm to get to the gym. “Wow,” he says, “the nasty weather will keep half the people away, so I’ll have all the equipment to myself. Besides, only the dedicated members will attend, so by joining them, I prove that I have just as much self-discipline as they do.”
Isn’t it amazing how we can change our lives by changing our thoughts? Shh, if you remain silent for a moment, you will hear the unlimited potential of the New Year beckoning you and saying, “Be careful how you tread on me, for every mark you make will show.”
Outline of New Year’s Resolutions Steps
1. Reflection. Before we can change our behaviour, we need to change our mind. And before we can change our mind, we need to be aware of the need for change. Often, we get so caught up in the mundane activities of life that we don’t see which way we are heading. What’s the point of traveling if we don’t know where we’re going? That’s why there’s a need for reflection. We pause to ask ourselves questions like: “Where am I heading? Did I accomplish everything I set out to do last year? What did I do that was right? What did I do wrong? What do I need to do differently this year? Awareness of problems leads to a desire for change and is the first step in getting back on track.
2. Conviction. Now that we want to change, it’s time to acknowledge that we CAN change. Reflect on the many accomplishments you have already attained. Remind yourself of your personal power. Use your achievements to inspire you to add new attainments to your list of accomplishments.
3. Resolution. After accepting that you CAN change, you’re ready to resolve that you WILL change. Focus on your determination and get your adrenaline running. Determination is the key to releasing your power. For as William Ellery Channing wrote, “A man in earnest finds means, or, if he cannot find, creates them. A vigorous purpose makes much out of little, breathes power into weak instruments, disarms difficulties, and even turns them into assistances. Every condition has means of progress, if we have spirit enough to use them.”
4. Commitment. You are resolved to act, so now make a commitment. That is, make a plan and take your first action steps. For example, if you’re planning to start an exercise program, take a tour of some facilities; select one, and sign up. Congratulations! Your exercise program will not only firm your body, but will make you firm and resolute. And when you are firm and resolute, you mold and shape your destiny.
5. Get excited. Turbo charge your emotions. Resolve is the poker that stokes the fires of enthusiasm and passion. When you’re burning with enthusiasm, you’ll find the way to succeed. The fire that lights your heart, lights the way. Someone else described it this way, “Paths clear before those who know where they’re going and are determined to get there.”
6. No pain, no gain. Don’t be afraid of ‘pain.’ The more you experience, the more you will delight in your accomplishment. Don’t let a little pain stop you, for as the Scottish Theologian William Barclay said, “All life is based on the fact that anything worth getting is hard to get. There is a price to be paid for anything. Scholarship can only be bought at the price of study, skill in any craft or technique can only be bought at the price of practice, eminence in any sport can only be bought at the price of training and discipline. The world is full of people who have missed their destiny because they would not pay the price. No one can take the easy way and enter into any kind of glory or greatness.”
7. Persist. Simple persistence and perseverance are golden keys. Those who unfalteringly remain on target are assured of success. When Muhammad was told to give up his unpopular crusade, he said, “O uncle! I swear that if they put the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, I will not renounce the career I have entered upon until God gives me success, or I perish.” That was determination. Such determination is unstoppable.
Planning for Success
Before you start making resolutions, why not make plans? After all, your life can’t go according to plan if you have no plan. Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a traveler lost in the wilderness without a map. It’s time to map out your future, for success comes to those who plan. What happens to those who don’t? Well, Ben Franklin has the answer, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
1. A poor plan, however, can do more harm than good, so don’t act too quickly. For as Matthew Prior wrote, “Who walks the fastest, but walks astray, is only furthest from his way.” Therefore, take your time and be thorough. On the other hand, don’t get stuck in the planning stage. Don’t become paralyzed because your plan isn’t perfect. Just make sure you have a clear destination in mind and have listed all the steps you have to take to get you where you want to go. To help you get started on your way, here are some goal-setting tips.
2. Write down your goals. Doing so helps you to focus on them. As you write them down and refer to them in the future, they will clarify in your mind and lead to new insights. Always ask yourself what do you want from life, what is preventing you from getting it, and what are you going to do about it. Use the power of questions to develop your plan.
3. Define your goals. Get down to specifics. Be precise. Avoid vagueness. For example, “I want to be rich” is a poor goal because your subconscious does not know how to define “rich.” Your subconscious can be a powerful ally in helping you achieve your goals, but it needs to be told precisely what you want. “I want to earn more money” is another example of a poor goal. Why? Because merely earning one dollar a month more than previously would result in successfully achieving your goal! So once you did so, your subconscious may stop looking for more ways to earn money. Here is an example of a good goal, “I plan to earn $100,000 a year by age 40.” Make all of your goals equally clear.
4. Set goals that make you stretch. If you’re overweight, trying to lose one pound a year is an example of a poor goal. To be worthwhile your goals should lead to significant improvement. But don’t overreach either. Trying to lose ten pounds a week, for example, would most likely lead to failure. Far better to set your goal to one pound a week. Overreaching ends in failure, while goals that are too easy prevent growth. Strive for balance. Your goal should stretch you, yet be attainable.
5. How will you benefit from achieving your goal? Why is it important? Write down the answers to these questions and keep them handy. Why? Well, there are two voices in your head, and both are saying, “I want…” One is saying “I want to do what feels good” and the other is saying “I want to do what is best for me, even if I have to make an effort to do so.” Both voices are competing for your attention. One is focused on immediate gratification. It is the voice that urges you to avoid your responsibilities and seek pleasure. For instance, if it is time to go to the health club to exercise, the voice may say, “I can go next week. Instead of exercising, I want to watch TV, or go drinking with friends, or go shopping, or take a nap.” To avoid listening to the wrong voice, refer to your answers to the two questions mentioned above. Focus on the benefits and remind yourself why it is important to maintain your exercise program. Focusing on the reasons to change will help you to stay motivated.
6. Set deadlines. Without a date, it’s not a goal, but a wish. Each step you have to take to reach your goal should have a completion date. Each task is a mini-goal, and as one is completed, the next one begins. Each task or step you take brings you closer to your goal. As long as you keep taking steps, it is impossible not to reach your destination.
7. Subject each goal to a reality check. Are you fully committed? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to succeed? Do you understand that anything worthwhile needs some effort to achieve? Are you willing to pay the price? If not, instead of wasting time, switch to a goal that you can commit to.
8. Make sure your goal is measurable. That is, you need to have a way of measuring success. For instance, your goal may be to lose 1~2 pounds a week, drink 8 glasses of water a day, walk 10 miles a day, or read 10 pages of a book each day.
9. What are the obstacles you have to overcome? How will you overcome those roadblocks? What other hurdles could appear and how will you overcome them? Anticipating and preparing for the obstacles you are likely to face will increase your likelihood of success.
10. Plan your work; then work your plan. If your plan is completed, carry it out. Put it into action. Implement it. No matter how small, do something each day to bring you closer to achieving your goal. Check off each task as you complete it. Seeing your own progress will inspire you to continue.
11. Regularly monitor your progress. Life is synonymous with change. Expect the unexpected. Changing circumstances may make it impossible to stick to your original plan. Remain flexible. Look for options, solutions, and opportunities. If you can’t do the best thing, do the next best thing. Adjust and adapt your plan when necessary. You can change your direction as often as you wish, as long as you keep moving forward (closer to what you want or what is possible). Review your goals daily to remain focused on them.
12. Persist. If you persist, it is impossible to fail. In fact, failure doesn’t exist, only learning experiences exist. If you learn from your mistakes, they become stepping-stones to success.
Refining Your Plan
Here is how to put the finishing touches on your plan and ensure success..
1. Review last year by asking yourself the following questions.
“Did I make a commitment or merely have a wish? Did I overreach; bite off more than I could chew? Was I sufficiently motivated? Do I understand that motivation is mentally experiencing the benefits of our goals before we achieve them? Do I realize that by regularly visualizing the benefits in my imagination, I will become energized and inspired to take action? What did I do wrong last year and how can I correct my mistakes? Were my resolutions something I wanted to do or was it something I was pressured into? Were my resolutions believable? Were they meaningful enough to inspire me?”
2. Learn from your mistakes. When you do so, you stop thinking of yourself as a failure and lose the desire to quit
3. Create a “Victory Journal” and list your 2016 successes in it. Add a new list every year, so you can try to better your performance each year.
4. List the goals you wish to achieve this year.
5. Prioritize the list in order of importance.
6. Break down the first item on your list into the steps you have to take to reach your goal.
7. Schedule the steps you need to take in your calendar.
8. Implement your plan by starting on the first item.
9. Don’t just start, but, follow through on all the necessary steps.
10. Celebrate your successes and reward yourself.
The Rules of C(huck)
For maximum success, follow these “C” rules:
1. Work your plan constantly, continually.
2. Be consistent, stay focused.
3. Apply concentrated effort.
4. Remain committed.
5. Take considered, careful, and calculated action.
6. Confirm that you are taking the right steps by monitoring your actions.
7. Be conscientious; do the right thing because you are the beneficiary.
8. Your success is more important than fear, so don’t let it block you. Stay courageous.
9. Avoid wishy-washy, ambiguous action. Take clear action; precision is called for.
10. Work toward completion, carry through.
11. Don’t be afraid to be conciliatory or to make concessions, for half a pie is better than none.
1. Don’t let brick walls (obstacles) stop you. Rather, welcome them, for they weed out the weak hearted and prevent your competitors from succeeding. In a word, they allow you to prove you have the commitment others lack.
2. If you find yourself getting stuck because of a lack of willpower, read this article.
3. Stop making excuses and take responsibility for your life. Remember, you are the CEO of YOU Inc. Your future is created by the decisions and choices you make.
4. If you run too many computer programs at the same time, your computer will slow down and grow ineffective. Those who have that problem can install more RAM and improve the performance of their computer. However, we can neither buy nor install more memory for our brain. Trying to remember the countless tasks, projects, and responsibilities we have will result in mistakes and failures. To take full advantage of the processing power of our brain, write everything down. And once you have done so, schedule time to regularly review your notes so you can remain in control.
5. Remain focused on what is important. Don’t be led astray by distractions. Often ask yourself if what you are doing is in your best interest.
6. Impatience is the ruin of many. Often, people give up when they would have succeeded if they had only persevered.
7. When you, your work environment, or both are disorganized, productivity falls and opportunities are lost. If you need help in this area, your local bookstore or library can provide books that will guide you to an organized life free of clutter and distractions.
8. Even the best of intentions can be defeated if you lack the energy to work effectively. To prevent this from happening, eat balanced meals, exercise, have sufficient sleep, and practice relaxation exercises to reduce stress.
9. The average person does not follow a success system. Any system will do in the beginning. By system, I mean a guide to success which can come in the form of a book, audio program, or seminar. The advantages of following a system include being introduced to ideas and practices that would take many years to learn by yourself. Studying a program also keeps you focused on success and reduces the likelihood of failure.
10. Ultimately, the major cause of success is action; it is the key to transforming a wish to reality.
11. The best of us occasionally trip and fall. Expect a relapse; don’t be surprised by it. Just because you slip back into a bad habit, it is not a reason to stop trying. Rather, it is a sign to remain alert. It is also a reminder to monitor your progress on a daily basis. This way, if you do slip, you will lose only one day.
12. Avoid behavior, people, and places that may lead you away from your goals. Keeping a resolution is difficult enough; don’t add to your problems by exposing yourself to temptation.
13. Work with goals that depend on your efforts rather than ones that lie outside of your control.
14. Like stars to a mariner, your goals should guide you, not govern you. At times, life plans more for you than you do, so don’t keep your eyes too firmly fixed on the goal or you may miss a greater opportunity. Remain open and flexible.
15. In his 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs made a memorable statement, “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.” He was referring to the fact that life refreshes itself, brings in new blood and new ideas by eliminating the past and creating a future with new generations. I also find death to be a great invention of life, but for a different reason. I find it to be the agent of change because as we feel the breath of the Grim Reaper, we are spurred on to take action while we still have time. For this reason, I believe it is a good idea to remind ourselves of our mortality on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting a morbid fixation on death, but just enough awareness that we are motivated to act now.
16. You might have heard people say, “I can’t make resolutions and keep them.” Sorry, that’s not true. You see, they ARE making resolutions and KEEPING them. The only problem is their resolutions are negative, for example, “I CAN’T lose weight. I CAN’T quit smoking. I CAN’T wake up on time.” The list goes on and on. They are amazingly successful at keeping their resolutions. Unfortunately, their negative resolutions bog them down, limit their capabilities, stunt their growth, and diminish their happiness. Since we all make and keep resolutions, the questions we want to ask ourselves are “What resolutions do we want to make? Will I resolve to become MORE than what I am today or will I resolve to become LESS than I am capable of becoming?” The choice is ours. If we’re now in a mess, why despair when we can repair? We should be looking forward to the New Year. It is the perfect time to initiate changes in our lives.
17. Don’t set your goals in stone. Rather re-evaluate them from time to time. Circumstances change. Ask yourself if your goals are still aligned with your dreams and the times you live in. Do they still excite you or do you have new interests that clamor for your attention?
18. If we make a resolution, we are resolving to do something we are not yet doing. Why aren’t we doing it? There must be reasons. It may be difficult to do, involve some efforts we have to make, or sacrifices we have to carry out. So, expect resistance. Prepare for it. Accept the short-term pain for the long-term gain. After sticking to our resolution for a month or two, it will become a habit and much easier to carry out. So, it will no longer be a matter of working harder, but of developing good habits, which will propel us forward. Keep your eyes on your goals and anticipate the success that is yours.
19. Don’t become unrealistically ambitious. True, it may be great to improve your golf game, lose weight, hang out more with your friends, take a computer course to improve your productivity, learn ballroom dancing, make a rec room in the basement, and design a flower garden for your backyard. But wait a minute! Do you have the time? Don’t engage in wishful thinking. Instead schedule each activity so you know exactly how much time is available. And don’t forget to include extra time for the unexpected.
20. If you wish to experience a truly successful 2018, abandon the notion that “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one (y)ear and out the other.” Rather, follow Ben Franklin‘s advice, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”
21. “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” (Neil Gaiman)
Isn’t it amazing how we can change our lives by changing our thoughts, feelings, and behavior? Shh! If you remain silent for a moment, you will hear the unlimited potential of the New Year beckoning you and softly asking, “Are you preparing to make and keep resolutions that will allow me to create a better you?”
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Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Lifeby Gretchen Rubin
Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You: A Journal Diaryby Robie Rogge and Dian Smith
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