Yesterday I posted the first part of this article, so here is Part Two of my blog on New Year’s Resolutions. In Part One I explained some of the reasons why people fail to maintain their good intentions. Now I give you some tips to maximise your success this time around. If you are reading this having read Part 1, then congratulations! You have already showed some staying power!
So those tips….
1. Examine your motivation for change.
Are you just feeling full and bloated at this moment? Do you have a hangover from last night? Did your last cigarette give you have a hacking cough? Or is there a more enduring reason for your desire to change? If you can’t think of a better reason than the fact that you’re uncomfortable at this moment, then you’re better off not making promises to yourself that you probably won’t keep. However, if you are realistic and accept the responsibility of discipline required for change, your motivation will be sustained long after the discomfort from over-indulgence has passed.
2. Set realistic goals.
Habits and behaviours that are changed gradually have a greater chance of success.
3. Focus on the behavioural change more than on the goal.
For example, if you decide to control your eating, your goal for the day is not to lose a specific number of pounds, but to stick to your program. Such focus on your behaviour will help you feel in control of your life. You will gain satisfaction from making sensible choices several times throughout the day.
4. Learn to redefine physical sensations of discomfort.
Whenever we restrict ourselves, we have both physical and mental reactions. For example, a smoker feels bodily sensations when his nicotine level drops. However, he has a choice as to how he interprets these symptoms. He can define them as extremely unpleasant, or alternatively he can interpret them as his body cleansing itself of the drug.
5. Make tasks non-negotiable. People who are most successful at implementing such changes are those who make their tasks non-negotiable. For example, if you debate with yourself at 5:30 a.m. whether you feel like getting up to exercise, you will probably opt for staying in bed for another half hour. But if getting up for exercise is no more negotiable than getting up for work, then you’ll do it regardless of how you feel about it. The same goes for organising your closet or taking charge of your finances. One can almost always find an excuse not to do these things. However, if you make a non-negotiable decision that’s based on a sound logical reason rather than on how you feel at the moment, you will be successful.
6. Allow for imperfection.
No one is exactly on target all the time. In fact you should expect to falter every now and then. If you give in to temptation, do not use this as an excuse to abandon the whole program. Learn from your mistake and move on.
7. Do it now.
If you’re waiting for a more convenient time to begin behavioural change, it won’t happen. It’s almost never convenient to change ingrained habits. Now is just as convenient as any time.
Making changes to your life should not just be for the New Year. Try writing a 12-month plan. I will tell you why and how in another blog soon.
Good luck! If you need any support then you know where I am!
This is Part One of my blog about New Year’s Resolutions, Part Two will follow soon.
On January 1st, millions of people begin the annual ritual of New Year’s Resolutions. Memberships at health clubs and diet programs soar, whilst sales of chocolate and alcohol decline. People take a long, hard look at their spending habits as they sort through the January bills.
Yet despite all this good intention, most people will fail at their resolutions. Come February, most New Year’s resolutions will be a dim memory. How can such apparently strong determination fizzle out so quickly? What can we do to increase the likelihood that our desire for change will translate into permanent positive change?
Let’s first examine the psychology of the New Year’s Resolution. During the month of December people tend to overindulge in eating, drinking, spending money and neglecting exercise. Rather than moderate these behaviours, we promise ourselves that after the holiday season is over, we will definitely take control. In the meantime, we give ourselves permission to overindulge without guilt. Our resolve is at its peak when we feel full, drunk, or broke. It’s easy to think about going on a diet as we groan from a bloating holiday meal. It’s no problem to plan to quit smoking when we’ve just had a cigarette and replenished our nicotine level. At this point we feel confident about our New Year’s resolutions because we have not yet confronted any prolonged physical deprivation or discomfort.
In early January, we are often so sick of rich food and drinks, and feeling so sluggish from lack of vigorous physical activity that it’s not difficult to abstain from overindulgence. In fact, some people look forward to more structure and discipline in their lives. However, a few weeks into the new discipline, our appetites have returned, and we start to feel deprived. It is at this point that we are most at risk for reverting back to old behaviours.
Soon we start rationalizing that this is not a good time of year, what with cold weather and our numerous obligations. When spring comes, we’ll really get into shape. Thus, we make another promise to ourselves, and, now free of guilt, put off habit change for another few months. Chances are that when spring arrives, we will have another temporary surge of motivation, only to abandon it within a few weeks.
Why do people abandon their resolutions? One reason is that we become discouraged when results don’t come quickly enough, or when we find that we are not necessarily happier because of them. Behavioural change requires sustained effort and commitment. It is also typically accompanied by physical discomfort. For example, reducing food, alcohol or nicotine intake from a level to which you have become accustomed, results in cravings. Forcing yourself to get off your cosy chair to exercise is often difficult when you’re tired. And of course, it’s easy to procrastinate until tomorrow, so that you can rationalise not disciplining yourself today.
Therefore, if you are going to make New Year’s resolutions this year, be sure you are ready for the challenge. Read Part Two of this blog for some tips to maximize your success.
Escape the rat race. Is it possible? 5.45 am and I’m woken up by the piercing “Beep Beep” of my alarm jarring through my brain. I tried bird-song and babbling brooks but nothing changed the fact that it was 5.45 am and I had to get up, get ready, then go fight for a seat on the train to the City. I knew exactly (to the nearest centimetre) where to stand on the platform so a door would stop right in front of me, but the train was usually full already so my military precision was usually pointless.
After this wonderful journey into the centre London listening to other people’s “tinny” music leaking from inadequate headphones and enjoying their wet umbrella’s slowly dampening my trousers and my spirits at the same time, I would spend the day working in my role as Claims Manager for a large insurance company. I really enjoyed my work but felt constrained by the out-dated philosophies and attitudes I saw everyday. Lunchtime was an oasis that I’d spend in the gym. Sound familiar? I am sure this is a daily routine shared by many.
That was then… But this is now. I am a Senior Business Consultant and I also specialise in wellness, presenting Pilates and functional training all around the world. I am my own boss in everything I do, and I really feel that I am making a positive difference to people’s lives, and I am living in the place that from when a was a small boy I dreamed of living.
“I would of course love to pursue my dream as a/an ………….. (insert dream job here) but I could not possible do it because (delete as applicable) I’m too old / of the mortgage / of the children / I’m not good at learning new things / I can’t do my own accounts / I have no marketing experience / any other excuse you can think of.” Other people keep the thought in their head that “I could give up this life I do not enjoy but when the time is right”. Of course the time is never right, but they get some comfort believing that they could if only… They are the same people who say they could give up smoking, they could give up over eating, they could start exercising, they could learn Spanish but surprise surprise, it never happens. There is always an excuse not to.
I lost my father a few years later, and that along with some other events gave me the final push to achieve my life-long dream and move to Barcelona. Another big challenge, another “out of comfort zone” experience. But as they say, that’s when we grow the most.
So how can we go from a life of “coulds” to actually taking action? It makes sense to have a gradual change, maybe pursing your new career in your spare time first, so you have the financial security of still earning money and also save some money. This does mean working long hours, but what better motivation than to know that one day you will have the career change you have always dreamed about. It’s not a compromise to start part time, it’s just sensible. As long as you have a plan, an end game, and you stick to it. Don’t end up doing two jobs forever!
It’s essential to have a plan. When I say that to people, they say “Aha, but you are Buddhist and you always say about living in the Now and not in the future” as if they have found a vital flaw in my philosophy. But I politely point out that with no plan, we have no direction. Planning per se is not a bad thing to do, but there are rules. One golden rule of planning is that plans change! So be prepared for that. It’s like driving on a long journey at night. We know our final destination (otherwise we would drive around aimlessly) and we have a map so we know where we are going and how we will get there, but at any one time we can only see 100 metres ahead of us. Maybe our route will change because of unforeseen problems, but we will be flexible and we will arrive at our destination. You do not need to be able to see your destination to get there. Enjoy the journey, one step at a time, but always knowing that you will get to where you want to be.
But you must be careful about your new career. Your business should be a means rather than an end, a vehicle to enrich your life rather than one that drains the life you have. The worst thing you can do is start working for yourself and end up working so hard and stressing so much that you hate your job! It’s such a common mistake, people see the romantic notion of being their own boss, but after the initial euphoria, they realise that they are working harder and longer than they were before. At least working for someone else they could leave work, go home and relax. But now their job is with them every waking hour, they live it. And the dream turns into a nightmare because instead of having a boss for your job, your job has become your boss! And it’s no fun. In fact it’s less fun than your old job working for someone else. You can’t take holidays because the work won’t get done. You can’t be ill, you can hardly stop to think. Your social life is nonexistent, yet you carry on thinking that your hard work will pay off one day. Maybe it will, but more often it won’t, and many people end up giving up and getting a “normal” job again. The important point here is that no matter what you thought before, your business should not be your life. Your business should serve your life, and not the other way around.
There’s a saying that great businesses are not built by extraordinary people but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. So how can an ordinary person do extraordinary things? By having a system and a plan. Again it’s the “p” word. Have a plan and stick to it! Things will change, but always know where you are aiming to get and how you will get there. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Friends and parents will help of you ask. They will see the changes you are trying to make and if they are really on your side then they will help. And of course, make sure you have the support of your partner. It sounds so obvious and yet I know many people who think they can make such a big decision on their own. You must expect hard times and up and downs. It’s normal and natural. Remember the old cliché, we grow the most when we are out of our comfort zone. I can confirm from experience that this is so true! So much so that I try to stay out of my comfort zone as often as possible.
I could continue writing for pages and pages about Business Plans, marketing, SMART targets, feasibility studies, SWOT analysis/matrix etc etc, but that is not the point of this article. The point is to show you there is another way. You can change your life. You control and create your own Universe, you really do. You always have a choice. Always. Every journey begins with the first step. But it will never begin unless you take that step. I’m not special. If I can do it then so can you.
6.00 am and I’m woken up by my alarm. I still get up early and I work very hard, but now it’s very different, it’s my choice. Maybe I will go for a run on the beach or an early morning swim before I start work and before the rest of the world wakes up. That’s the difference now. Choice and control. And it’s a great difference. I still regularly go into The City and I deal with my old contacts, but now it’s for my own company so it’s on my terms. It feels a very different place.
The moral of my story in 11 words? It’s not too late, you have the rest of your life. And if there is any way I can help, then please just ask.