Christmas is round the corner. And after that comes the annual New Year resolutions usually in the form of “I’d like to do xxxx more of this, or xxxx less of that.” And after that comes the other annual, “oh I tried but I didn’t have time, I’m so busy or xxxx just wasn’t for me.” And we continue in this cycle of wanting to change, improve, rewire but doing nothing meaningful about it. And just getting more and more frustrated. Does this sound familiar?
Real change, changing of habits and old ways is not easy. And we know, we’ve tried. Sometimes we were successful and sometimes we weren’t.
It’s so exciting and satisfying when we take those initial steps towards change, we are motivated and driven and feel pleased with ourselves for “putting ourselves out there”. And then....and then our motivation lessens, the “results” of our efforts are harder to see and the journey to change becomes more of a mountain trek than a country stroll. So we stop.
Again sound familiar?
And you. So what if you stop trying to change? You’re a busy person, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You need your rest time, you need your time with your friends and family. You need that Sunday morning lie in. You need that whole Saturday afternoon in the pub. You need to watch all of that new TV series in a weekend…..
….the list goes on. So my question is, how satisfying and fulfilling where those “distractions”? Where you able to enjoy them completely without thinking that you could have used your time a little more effectively? How will those “distractions” serve the change and your future plans? I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying you don’t need to relax or truly switch off. But what I would like to highlight is that habits are hard to break. They require work. Dedication and time.
Taking the first step towards change is easy because it’s not a habit. It’s just an activity, over a short period of time. It is when you need to take steps 2 and 3 and so on that you’re starting to make new habits. And that takes real effort. Real self-discipline. Real want. This is where the going gets tough.
So how can we help ourselves stay the course? We are motivated to change. But it’s the turning intention into action part that we find difficult. Here are 5 ideas that might help turn your desires into reality. The answer is within you, you know your way. And you know that the “success” of the year ahead lies within you, if you really take action on it. How brilliant would it be if by this time next year if you could say to yourself that you’ve learnt more than ever, really pushed yourself and that you’re excited to move into 2020 because of your actions in 2019.
1. Be realistic and plan. OK, so it’s not the sexiest or most original idea. But how successful have those outlandish suggestions been for you? Have you been able to stick to the more extreme action plans? But let’s be clear; being realistic doesn’t been being lazy. It just means plan and break your projects down accordingly. Be aware of your real capacity. Split your overarching plan into weekly or monthly tasks. You will be less daunted by the task ahead, more likely to do the small actions and when you review your actions you will be able to see their collective progress.
Just like training for a marathon. You set small goals and build on those miles. Mile by mile.
2. Be consistent. Your plan to move forward has to be linked with realism. To make a real new habit, you must do it consistently. Habits are something that we do automatically. They are actions that we have committed repeatedly to over a period of time, so that now the non-completion of the action is more difficult than not the action.
For example, you’ve been working on being more approachable and communicative at work. You’ve seen the benefits and your relationships with your colleagues have improved. And then one day, you return to your old ways. You leave work feeling down and frustrated. The next day, start afresh and with a smile on your face. Both you, your habit and your colleagues will forget about the slip up. Just show yourself and those around you that there is a new consistent.
3. Link an established habit to a new habit. Swap that gaming app you play on during your commute with a language app. Do your morning stretches after brushing your teeth. Read on the kindle app on your phone before bed instead of scrolling Instagram (well actually a book is better for bed, but we’re being realistic here too!). You get the idea. Start small and link it to something that is already established, meaning that you’re more likely to A) remember to complete the action B) keep the habit consistent.
4. Remind yourself why you want the change.You are going to the gym on these dark and cold winter nights because you want that warm internal glow that you’re looking after your health. And you want that spring in your step when those jeans are a little looser. Whether it be by leaving yourself notes around the house, putting daily reminders on your phone of how you want to feel or changing your phone’s wallpaper to a motivational photo...you know how to motivate you. So prepare for being unmotivated, and then motivate yourself with the end goal to keep you going.
5. And finally, what would you feel like if you didn’t even try? Remind yourself of that possibility that in a month, what if you hadn’t taken any actions on that project. You hadn’t moved forwards. You hadn’t even tried. How would that feel? When in a year from now when you are staring down the barrel of 2019 and the movement you had wanted to make had been minimal. How will that lack of action sit with you? We can say I’ll do it tomorrow forever. Or we can roll up our sleeves and move forwards. Because there’s nothing like having a little bit of success to motivate you into having more success.
These ideas may or not may work for you. Perhaps you have another trick, and that’s great. My real aim here is to encourage you to take that action. Stop finding excuses. I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me this year in a professional capacity, saying they’ve been trying to take action for so long and they are finally finally ready to take action (and then some still find excuses to not move forward). One of my clients had been trying to change their ways for a decade!
So my Christmas present to you all is encouragement and focus. For you to go ahead, take those first and second and third steps and for you to really focus on what you want and you go for it, for real. Put your head down, and move forward step by step. And then after a little while, you look up, and see what you’ve already achieved. And then with more motivation than ever you put your head down again and you walk a little faster, with larger steps. And by the time you are running, you can’t even remember why you stood still for so long.
Here’s to a happy festive holiday and to an even happier 2019!
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