The New Year is almost upon us, and for many people that means making resolutions, giving voice to plans and ideas that they want to realize. The transition from the end of the old year to the beginning of the New Year is a popular time to make resolutions. There is a collective sense of a new beginning, and of a clean slate upon which the future can be written.
In anticipation of the New Year, and in the spirit of turning a new leaf, we give voice to our aspirations, and tell friends and family " this is definitely the year I stop smoking", "no two ways about it, this is the year I get in better shape, abs of steel", "this is the year I start putting money aside for retirement". Any one of these goals in itself is a worthy objective. But for many people the distance between giving voice to these objectives, and bringing them to life can be great.
Making change in one's life and changing habits can be very difficult. By following a number of proven practices we can improve the odds in our favour and make progress on our goals for the New Year or at any time. The following practices can usually be found in the playbook of those who have succeeded in making their plans and ideas come to life.
(1) Mindset Realize that achieving goals takes effort and perseverance, and that failure is part of the equation. Failure provides feedback, and an opportunity to re-group, fine-tune, and adjust. Know that there are other people that have accomplished the same thing you are trying to do. Don't hesitate to search them out and ask them how they accomplish their goals. Find out what support groups are available in your areas of interest and be kind to yourself when things don't go as expected. When it comes to changing habits, adopting new habits usually takes about three months for a change to become routine.
(2) Set Pen to Paper Antoine de St Exupery, author of the world renowned book The Little Prince once said that " A goal without a plan is just a wish." Studies have shown that when we write down our goals we increase the chances of bringing them to life. Taking time to define the goals we want to achieve, and laying out the reasons or the "whys" behind the goals will help add clarity to the actions needed, and it will fuel motivation. Writing down in detail the things we want to accomplish provides a starting point for action and creates a physical reminder of why we are doing things. If the goal seems out of reach, break it down into more manageable smaller parts and focus on each part until completed. Use a planner or a journal to record your goal planning strategies, block off time in your schedule for goal related activities, and keep track of your progress. Make sure to celebrate and to reward yourself for the small wins that move you closer to your ultimate goal.
(3) Set Yourself Up for Success Creating a healthy and supportive environment for achieving your goals is crucial for your success. If you are trying to lose weight for example, remove all of the unhealthy foods from your home and replace them with healthy alternatives. Make sure to examine how you spend your day and identify the times, places, and circumstances when you are most vulnerable to falling back into the routines you are trying to break. Create an alternative strategy for these times that have the potential to throw you off course.
Be realistic when setting goals. It is often easier to focus on and accomplish one goal before moving on to tackle others. The point is to allow yourself the "breathing room" you need to focus your efforts and optimize your overall chances of success.
Join a support group. Subscribe to a magazine that focuses on the subject matter. Enlist friends and family to join you in the journey. Create reminders in your home, and on your phone to reinforce the habits you are trying to adopt. Use current technology/apps if you find them helpful.
(4) Take Action It is easy to postpone taking action on personal goals for many reasons, and it is not uncommon to talk ourselves out of taking action altogether . We promise ourselves that "when this happens then I will do this...", and time passes, the goal is left unchallenged, and the ideal conditions we were looking for never show up. Starting something new can be a challenge, but it can also be exciting. There is no time like the present to take action and to start making small steps towards a goal. Over time these small steps accumulate, gain momentum, and have the power to change lives.
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