Do you want something new in the New Year? Then start. Take one small step in a new direction. Tomorrow, if that is still the direction you want to pursue, take another…or change direction. But take the step. Every day is a choice, the most important one of your life. Choose your direction. Live your choices.
Typically, my blog starts with a quote. Sometimes, I stumble upon one and it inspires me. Sometimes, I search for quotes that fit what I know I want to say. Today, I looked at quotes on New Year’s Resolutions. I love the idea of choosing new directions for a new beginning. It feels to me that this is what New Years gives us. We blow into noisemakers at midnight and proclaim new possibilities. In the end, I wrote the quote above because I know what I most need to hear.
I have always set goals, and I have accomplished a lot of them. But wow…New Year’s Resolutions…I stink at those. Perhaps, you do, too. So, here I am looking another New Years in the face, and I want it to be different this time!
Those of you who follow me know that I have gone back to writing as an avocation after years in social work and teaching, supervision and counseling. Many times those pieces of me intersect and today is one of those occasions. Someone said we learn best from something we already know, so…
I learned a long time ago that drastic, radical change can be life-altering, but it is rare. We all know someone who has done it: stopped smoking cold-turkey, dramatically changed their diet and exercised losing lots of weight, changing careers or life directions like Paul on the road to Damascus. I think that’s how we think we will accomplish our New Year’s Resolutions. We see Resolutions as all or nothing. So, we fail.
Only 8% of people report actually keeping last year’s resolutions. Yet, optimism that this year will be different will lead 45% of us to make a new resolution and hope that miraculously things will be different.
I’m not sure if we are hopefully crossing our fingers, or lying to ourselves. So, this year instead of magical thinking about how change works, I’m going to remember the principles of behavioral change:
Work at it a little everyday: True change isn’t just desire. It’s more than commitment in the moment…or for a few weeks. True change needs work. New directions have to be pursued over the long haul. They are journeys of thousands of days spent walking in a different direction…one step at a time. They require a conscious daily choice to maintain a new course so the natural tendency to drift doesn’t seep in and return us to where we started. They need daily practice until they become the new normal, a cultivated habit. This can take months.
Think of small steps to success: The good thing is that even baby steps lead to walking, then to running and climbing, if we keep taking them. Not having to do it all in a minute means we can do it. Small steps are possible. Completely change my diet…or forego seconds and eat smaller portions. Lose a 100 pounds, or substitute fruit for deserts or snacks. Join a gym and exercise every day, or spent 10 minutes stretching after a shower. Try to lift 200 lbs., or lift 20 until it’s easy, then 30 until it’s easy, then 40… Run every day or go for a walk with your dog to the park several times a week.
Pace yourself: We don’t have to jump into everything full force, but we can find small doable steps set in a realistic time frame. Perhaps even research it (i.e. what is a realistic weight loss per week) Then, add on more time. If 1-2 pounds is realistic (looked it up!) then be patient with 1-2 every 2 weeks. It may seem slow when we want a result immediately, but we are more likely to achieve small steps to our goal, so slow down the pace and if you exceed it – celebrate!
Create accountability: Success is more likely if we hold ourselves accountable. So start by creating a notebook for your achievements, making a list of the steps to success. Then you can tick off your list until you reach your goal.
Prepare for failure: Understand you won’t always succeed. If you have been too ambitious, adjust the list. Don’t quit, just make the steps smaller, or less frequent, but keep walking!
Last but not least: Don’t try to do it alone. Tell people what you are doing and have them help you stick to it, ask you about it, encourage you, or perhaps even join you. This works brilliantly with AA or Weight Watchers, but can be done with a friend, as well.
So, why did I write this? To motivate myself as well as others.
What is my big resolution? I’ve had it a while and not achieved it yet: Get my book published. That’s ok. It is a much better book now. When I first started, I thought I’d get it published by the time my granddaughter was the same age as the main character (who is modeled on her somewhat.) That will happen this year. So what will my small steps be? One contact a week. One agent, one query, one submission, one more version of my synopsis or query letter.
Step by step, let’s walk this life journey together. I know I am motivated to finally achieve my resolution this year. I promise I will try to encourage you to achieve yours and I hope you will try to encourage me. We can do anything together.
Happy New Year friends!