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New Year’s Resolutions 2.0

mountain reflection

You know how the first few weeks of a New Year start off all bright, bubbly and full of hope? And then gradually the year starts limping just a little, a tad lost, trailing off into a slightly confused muddle of half-finished projects and abandoned goals?

OK, who among us can’t relate to this situation … at least a little?

But wait! It’s only days into 2013 and your throttle is still likely on that full speed ahead setting. Let’s not waste it. All you need is a little support, some new structures and a few good ideas. In fact, as a longtime coach I’ve seen many a strategy for making and keeping resolutions. And yes, of course we’re all different. Still there are striking similarities among those that tend to keep moving forward and those that don’t.

From my experience with my own personal changes, and my work with clients for over 20 years, success with goals and personal change happen on the inside first. Or, the other way of thinking about this is that the mind often gives up first.

I’m offering three tips for successful change based on how we set goals and commitments, how we think about change, and how we evaluate our success.

Forget The Saint or Sinner Act

Yes, I’m talking about that frustrating fluctuation thing. As saints we try to do everything at once, and perfectly. We squeeze a 200 lb. to-do list into that poor and bulging 5 lb. sack. You know what those Herculean plans look like: exercise every day, do yoga, cook more at home, more life balance, lose weight, drink less alcohol … you know the drill.

And then . . . when this plan simply implodes on itself (just like a fad diet) sometime in late January, we shrink toward the dreaded sinner side of the cycle. That’s when our Superwoman or Superman outfit begins to fray at the edges and we sulk off muttering to ourselves, hey, why should I even try?

The answer? Forget those saint/sinner extremes, just keep it simple.

First, pick only one to three specific, measurable behaviors that you believe will get you a significant ROTI (Return on Time Investment), and are actually doable in your current schedule. Secondly, recognize that no change process is linear. Change is a dynamic process always involving a step back for every few steps forward. It is a natural part of the change process to fall down. It’s only unfortunate when we allow that movement backwards to squash the whole effort. Those that have learned to master the change process know to just pick themselves up and take the next action step forward. That’s right. Just start again. When it comes to successfully and permanently making personal change, it’s more skillful and motivating to measure our success by how far we have come, not by how many times we fall down, or how far we still have to go.

Watch the Self-Talk

Most of us harbor a negative inner voice, some call it the judge, the nag, the dark side, the evil one, the critic, the grinch — it goes by many names. In fact, that nagging, negative, judgmental inner voice is often our greatest obstacle to making desired change. Therefore, success at making personal change requires becoming very skilled at taming that voice. In fact, in my work coaching clients, we often spend time strategizing and planning action steps for taming that voice. Start by naming it, then beginning a dialogue with it. Don’t be afraid to talk back to that voice. And finally, begin cultivating a new voice that is the champion for your inner self.

It Don’t Mean A Thing

OK, so you’ve decided on a personal change that offers leverage and you’ve built a plan that’s perfect. So why aren’t you feeling better? In the words of jazz immortal Duke Ellington, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

In other words, if your New Years resolution does not jive with what’s in your heart, and therefore what you’re naturally drawn too, you will never be able to sustain the change. Oh yes, of course, given enough fear, you can fake it for a while, maybe a long while. But at such a great cost to your body, mind, heart and spirit. Be sure the change you say you want to make is consistent with your heart and spirit, and not just a “should”. Better to treat your body, mind, heart and spirit as if they really mattered. Why? They really do! Oh yes, and Happy New Year!