A New Year is, when it comes right down to it, arbitrary. In truth, it is nothing more than a changing date, another day passing. Yet the significance we attach to the changing of the year affects all of us more than any other day passing. The reason for this? It reminds us to look backward at the past year and to look forward into the next year. We tend to think back over all the change brought by a single year and to honestly reflect on our life. We also feel that a New Year offers us the chance to do something differently, to move forward to our next goal in life, or make little corrections for the course we are currently on. I think that we need more “New Years” throughout the year. We need to set aside time to reflect on our lives and look at our future regularly instead of just once every year.
We often overlook the little things that have added to our success. We get so focused on whether or not we have achieved a big goal that the small accomplishments get forgotten. By making a commitment to think about our lives more than once a year we will have the opportunity to remember and celebrate everything that has occurred. Some people manage to do this every night in a journal, most of us however only manage to do it every couple of months or after we have accomplished a big goal.
This year, I challenge you to set a “New Year’s Resolution” and capture the energy of the New Year each month (or more). Set reminders in your email or write it down on in your day planner. Since taking the time to write something down is so powerful I suggest getting a new blank book that you dedicate to this practice. Start with your reflections of 2009 and your goals for 2010. Then once per month notice the little things you have done to accomplish those goals and any other successes you have. This practice will enable you to notice that you have smiled more in the past month, or that you haven’t been sick. You will be able to focus on how many positive health choices you have made rather than thinking about how far away you feel from your major goal this year. Think about your professional life too. Even if you haven’t earned a promotion, what have you been able to do? Did you accomplish a major project? Have you taken on a new responsibility. With family have you and your teenage daughter had a heart to heart recently? Have you taken the time to help a young child with a project or have you done something to support those children that have left the nest to pursue their own dreams? What has changed for you in the time since you last wrote in this journal?
This practice, more than any other, will keep you focused and grounded throughout the year and will keep you in the moment by reminding you of those special moments. I look forward to sharing with you in all of your successes in the new year.
Get your journal, set your dates and send me an email with your commitments. I will be available to you throughout the year as you continue on this practice and will hold you accountable to it. At this time next year, you will have a record of 2010 that will serve you in 2011 and beyond!
“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.
It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
~Antoine De Saint-Exupery
I have noticed that when we set out to make big changes in our lives we instantly start with the big steps. If we want to be happier we consider major changes in our family or business lives. If we want to get into a better financial situation we tend to drastically overhaul our budget or if we want to get healthier we throw away all of our junk food and vow to only eat salads from now on. While making all the changes we want to see at once would be awesome if we could manage it, in truth we actually tend to set ourselves up for failure. The change seems to large to comprehend so we procrastinate instead of starting it, or we beat ourselves up the second we deviate from the plan. Quite often the only thing we end up with is a heavy sense of guilt at our failure.
Many reasons exist for this type of goal setting. For the go-getters among us it seems perfectly natural to visualize the end result and then begin implementing the changes that will have to be made immediately. Others may tend to jump headfirst into the process only to find that they lack the energy to see it through. Encompassing all reasons however, is the inability to think in terms of exponents. Our brains are not set up to easily see how small changes can build into the large change we desire. For example, we know that skipping the $2.00 cup of coffee from the coffee shop everyday could save us over $700.00 per year, yet when writing our budget we tend to focus on the $2.00 instead of seeing the $700.00. In setting the goal of spending more time with the family we tend to get ambitious and plan for big activities once a month instead of setting aside one or two nights each week to eat dinner together which would ultimately lead to a higher number of hours of family time.
Part of the reason we resist thinking small comes from a belief that if a goal doesn’t seem somewhat impossible it is probably not worth it. We want to embark on a course that sets us up for a huge accomplishment that everyone will notice instead of minor achievements. The rub here is that it is the accumulated effect of these minor achievements that makes the huge accomplishment possible. Think about that big hairy goal you have in the back of your mind, the one so large you can’t even figure out where to start. Now, think small. Decide what one thing you can start doing today to achieve that goal and start it. Now consider the difference you will be making toward that goal over a defined period of time and keep that accumulated total in mind to motivate you. For example, if you reduce the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day by three, then you will have smoked 1,095 fewer cigarettes in a year. Replace one fast food meal with a sensible salad every week and you will have cut an average of 4000 calories every single month. That’s a pound per month from one small change. Remember that it is the end result that counts, not how many small steps you take to get to the finish line!
Send me an email with your big goal, the one small thing you will be doing to work toward it and what the accumulated impact will be a year from when you start. Tell me how this information makes you feel about achieving that big goal? Does it suddenly seem in reach when it didn’t before?