So you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to change some parts of your life. Perhaps you want to save more money to buy a home/a car/a personal treadmill. Maybe you want to exercise more, get a social life, or meet your dream partner.
A year on, and you find yourself in the same condition you had when you had made the original plan. How, you wonder, did an entire year go by and the only change in your life is that you’re one year older?
Probably the most difficult part about making changes in our lives and work is getting started. Making a plan is relatively easy: people often jot down a few things they’d like to achieve, and then set aside the post-it note they’d written their thoughts on. Eventually, that action list becomes a wish list.
There are a few things you can do to help you kick-start and maintain momentum to help you realize the changes you’d like to make in your life:
Keep the Plan simple
Keep the Plan clear and present
Make appointments for yourself
Keep a journal of successes as matched against the plan
Self-talk yourself out of your personal gravity well
Some people like to make elaborate plans. They believe the act of making the plan shows their commitment to realizing the goals in their plan. It’s much easier to integrate a few minor activities into our daily schedules than many life-altering actions. We have to practice how to practice. Start with the small stuff, then work your way up the scale of change to grow the scale of your successes.
When you make your plan, try to stick with three or four new habits you would like to integrate into your life. Write the plan out on an index card in letters large enough to read from arm’s length. Tape the card to the mirror in your bathroom or put it front-and-center on your refrigerator to help you internalize the goals.
Schedule the activities into your calendaring system. Block the time off for coworkers, family, and friends to know you are unavailable during those times. You do not have to be specific to others about what you are doing at that time. Keep the blocks of time small at the start until you perform the prescribed activity naturally. Expand the time, if you feel necessary.
Take a few minutes each evening to record how you met your objectives for the day. Focus on the successes. Ignore the lapses in following through on the activities on your list. You want to condition yourself for how success feels and how you want more.
Often, we are our worst enemies when it comes to realizing our personal goals. We fortify our lack of motivation and self-doubt with negative self-talk.
First, catch yourself when you are having a conversation with yourself. Note whether the discussion you’re having in your head is helpful or detrimental to your realizing your goals. If the self-talk is not helpful, switch to talking about how proud you are about your most recent success. Take that feeling and talk to yourself about how great it will be to repeat the success or that of another activity in your Plan.
Give yourself a little reward whenever you have a success that moves you closer to realizing your goals. Something as simple as treating yourself to a fancy cup of coffee, buying a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing for purchase, or inviting yourself to a night out boosts your motivation to reach for the next success.
It’s far more natural for humans to wait until circumstances push them to change than for them to initiate change on their own. So consider yourself in exalted company with each success you have when you’ve initiated your own changes. And pay yourself a hardy congratulations for a job well done!