Friday, January 1, 2010

This Year I Will...

Here is a collection of ideas I've collected on making New Year's Resolutions

Ever wonder why fewer than 10% of us make New Year's resolutions that stick? According to M.J. Ryan, author of This Year I Will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution or Make a Dream Come True, we don't know how to get our brains on our side. She offers some basics about brain science.

- Your brain tends to want to do the same thing over and over, so lasting change takes lots of practice. It's not about getting rid of bad habits—pathways to current behaviors are there for life—but about building new, more positive ones. This process can take six to nine months.

- Your emotional brain—the part that seeks pleasure and avoids pain—tends to override the thinking part. To create lasting change, you need to get the emotions on your side and keep them there. One man who wanted to live long enough to retire to Hawaii quit smoking by hanging posters of Hawaiian beaches everywhere.

If you wish to make significant change in your life, add space wherever you can in your surroundings and in your mind. That's according to Kathi Burns, author of How to Master Your Muck—Get Organized. Add Space To Your Life. Live Your Purpose! "It could be as simple as cleaning out your desk drawer or spending a few moments each day in a state of non-thinking in prayer or meditation," suggests Burns. "When you do this regularly, you will have more space to think more clearly which will help you discover your purpose in life."

Burns advises getting rid of anything that does not serve who you are right now. "Muck is a powerful saboteur of creative expression and can become a roadblock to your success," she says, adding that it's not just about clearing clutter. "Spend time each morning clearing away the muck in your head with meditation or prayer. Then plan what you wish to accomplish that day before you begin working or checking emails," she advises. "Set your path before it sets you off your path of greatest fulfillment."

One of the biggest mistakes people make when making a New Year's resolution is actually making it a New Year's resolution in the first place. Did you know that over 80% of people who start something on January 1 fail? Don't be a part of this statistic.

Avoid setting resolutions during the first two weeks of the year. Not only are you fighting with the memory of previously failed resolutions, but it's right after the holidays. You're probably still eating unhealthy food, the weather is bad and you have to go back to the daily routine of work. Who wouldn't fail under these conditions?

Wait until you want to make a change. The energy of wanting to change is much stronger and more effective than the feeling that you should change because everyone else is doing it. You'll know when the time is right for you. Try it mid-January, when everyone else has already given up and you've settled back into your daily routine. Don't even call it a New Year's resolution. Just call it an intention.

We get what we focus on. As the end of the year approaches, instead of blaming ourselves for what went wrong in 2009—the weight we put on, the dreams we didn't pursue, the debt we racked up and so on—let's take a very different look back at the past year.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself that will radically change your view of 2009:

1) Whom did I meet this year who is now in my life?
2) What emotion really caused me to grow? Courage? Faith?
3) What emotion was I unafraid to feel? Fear? Sadness?
4) What am I most proud of?
5) In what area of my life did I really make some progress?
6) What did I do that completely surprised me and was unexpected to me?
7) Whom did I really help?
8) What is the biggest lesson I really faced?
9) What am I most grateful for?
10) What were the most fun times I had?

Be gentle on yourself and light on life.

How Really To Succeed at Your Resolution
Most of us fail at our resolutions because there's no cost or long-term pain or penalty if we don't. If you really want things to be different this time around, attach a penalty to not succeeding. Decide on a consequence that will "hurt" a little financially or emotionally, and be sure to let at least one other person in on your plan. (Accountability is a great motivator.) You can even put it in writing and sign a "contract."

Suppose you're determined to lose 20 pounds this year. Commit to giving $100 to the charity of your choice for each pound you don't lose. Or, promise to give away a month's paycheck if you don't leave the job you've spent years complaining about. Work with an amount that will have a significant financial impact without making you go bankrupt.

If you can't afford the financial risk, or if money doesn't motivate you, try something else. Maybe you dread the idea of joining a weight-loss organization or some other support group. Commit to signing up if you don't meet your goal. Only you know what works for you.

Family vs Change Team
Don't necessarily look to the people closest to you for support in making a decision about a major life change. Chances are good, they don't want you to change anyway. Take my family, for instance. As I joked during my keynote speech at Villanova University's 2009 Women in Business Conference, their attitude towards my changes—specifically, leaving a high-level corporate position to pursue my dreams—was far from supportive:

Dad: "You don't think there are enough books in the world?"
Mom: "Please give me grandchildren immediately and stop working."
Brothers: "Good, maybe she'll finally fail at something."

When it comes right down to it, the decisions are yours to make, alone.

The time to look for support, or what I call a "change team," is after you’ve made a decision. Then ask for help from the right people—those who want you to change, who believe you can change and who won't focus on how your change affects them. The real sources of help aren't the people who crawl in the hole with you and tell you that you're right, but those who see you in a hole, hand you a ladder and offer to coach you up.

© 2009 The First Thirty Days, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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