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Cancel New Years Resolutions

1 January 2014

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The older I get, the less I believe in the idea of having New Years Resolutions.  In fact, I now actively discourage people from even trying to set them.  They don’t work.   And the reason they don’t stick in the long term is that they are built on a very unstable (and fleeting) event – the turn of a calendar from the month of December to January.

When you think about it, we should not have things that are important to us hinge on such a superficial basis as the turn of a page. If there are things about our work and personal life that we want to change we should deliberately decide to make the change, prepare ourself the best we can, and then set a date for the beginning of the new behaviour.

Here is a simple 7-step process you can use to bring about important changes in your personal and/or professional life:

1. Make a list of three things you would like to change in both you personal and professional life.  Generally those things that matter most are not once-off events, but new behaviours that you do repeatedly and with a consistency that it becomes a new habit for you.

2. From the list of three, select the one that is most important in each of personal and professional areas.  You’ll know the most important ones because the doing of it (or not doing) will create the most impact.  Generally, this will be at least 3 or 4 times more impact than the remaining two on your list.

3. For the change you have selected, take some time in a quiet place, and with a pen and paper (perhaps a journal), make a list of all the good reasons why putting the new behaviour in place will make such a difference.  For what reasons will things be better?  What will your life look like?  How good will you feel with the new behaviour firmly embedded in your daily life routine?

4. With the change isolated, plan to make it happen.  This may involve some preparation on your part, the getting of some resources, or making changes in other aspects of your life to give yourself the best possible start.  It’s also a good idea to pick a specific date for the change to “go live.”  Perhaps pick a date in mid to late January or in early February so you have time get the possible start with the new behaviour.

5. When the date comes, make sure to deliberately plan in your weekly 7–day planner for the doing of the new behaviour.  Even if it only takes 5 minutes, the recording of it in your planner will make sure it is at the top of your mind and therefore far more likely to be done.

6. As you successfully execute the new behaviour, experience the benefits of the new behaviour and formally record in your journal the benefits you are actually getting.  When you experience benefits, you will want to continue, because the not doing of the new behaviour is a loss to you.

7. If, for whatever reason, you start to slip with the new behaviour, don’t beat yourself up, instead, go back to your journal, re-read the benefits, and make a plan to resume the new behaviour as soon as possible.  Get back on the horse!  Remember what you are trying to do is establish a new habit, so it becomes ingrained in your daily life.  It’s a bit like the habit of washing your teeth – it’s something we do out of habit, and because it’s so routine, we would not consider the non-doing of it.

Once you have firmly established the one change that is the most important, go back to your initial list, choose the next high impact change, and begin working on that in the same way.  It’s far better to focus your attention of one change at a time, beginning with the most high-impact and staying with it until it becomes normal for you.

As you begin to make changes, I wish you well, and I am reminded of the words of George Bernard Shaw:

People are always blaming their
circumstances for what they are.
I don’t believe in circumstances. 
The people who get on in this world are the people who get
up and look for the circumstances they want;
and if they can’t find them, make them.

-- David Keane