You are an AMA reader – you are smart and you’re busy. You don’t have time to waste; you have things to do. But you also know that you need to make some changes…changes that would help you to do, be, and feel better about how you spend your time or your money…the quality of your health, your relationships, your reputation …what you want to do and who you want to be in life.
I could make this a detailed and lengthy post and give you all kinds of wise and thoughtful encouragement and points to consider, but like I said, you’re busy and you’re smart so I’ll get to the point.
January 1 has come and gone, and if you relate to the 45% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions it’s about this time of the year that you are feeling a bit guilty or disappointed with yourself that you haven’t stuck to your resolutions as intended (perhaps even the same resolutions that you had planned to complete last year). If it makes you feel better, you are in the same boat as 92% of other Americans who started the year with dreams and high hopes of a better year but got too busy and too distracted to stick with it.
The way I see it, if you want to make 2014 a better year, you still have lots of time you can use to get, do, or be better. It’s never too late to act better.
To achieve something we don’t already have, we have to do things we aren’t already doing. However, a change in your thinking is what will help you create change in your actions. What you think about influences how you feel, and how you feel will determine how you act (what you do). In other words, what you do or don’t do is determined by your thinking and state of mind.
Here are some of the thinking and acting (mental and physical) strategies and practices I have learned and use to help me to keep improving so I can do and be my best.
1. Be specific about what it is you really want to be or accomplish. What does successfully achieving the goal look like? What does it feel like?
2. Don’t keep it in your head. It has to be written to count. Write it down and keep reminders of your goal in places you will see every day – a simple sticky-note on your computer, bathroom mirror, refrigerator or car visor, or in your purse or wallet; an app or screensaver. With all of the distractions in our lives, it’s easy to forget where we were going.
3. Tell someone, be accountable, don’t go it alone. The main reason this works is because we tend to work a little harder in order to keep from letting someone else down or admitting that we didn’t do what we said we would do. There is undeniable proof that accountability works. Vulnerability may not be your thing, but do it anyway.
2. Don’t make a “resolution” – make a promise. There is something more sacred about a promise than a resolution. For example, “I promise to make the time to fit in regular exercise at least 3 days a week.”
4. Make a list of reasons (try for at least 20) for why this new promise will improve and/or make a positive difference in your life.It’s not what you do but why you do it that matters. For example: Regular exercise helps keeps me in a better mood around my family and co-workers; Regular exercise helps me sleep better; Regular exercise helps me look better, and when I feel I look better, I feel more confident, etc.
5. Have a mantra, motto or theme to repeat and declare for every time you don’t feel like doing something that you had committed or planned to do. (Share this with someone who is supporting you.) My theme this year is “Be Brave.” “Brave” to me this year is joining (and pre-paying for the year) for cardio and yoga classes; willing to be vulnerable; saying no to things that aren’t good for me and saying yes even when I’m scared.
6. Count and/or use numbers to break down what you are doing and to measure your progress. If your goal is to clean out your inbox, commit yourself to clearing out 25…then add 25 more, etc. until you have done your best with your given time. If you are on the treadmill and about to give up, commit for just 60 more seconds, 100 more steps, etc., keep repeating until you reach (or exceed!) the goal with which you began. When making a list or using a calendar, numbers also make it easier (and fun to check off!) when tracking and measuring your progress.
7. Do what you can do instead of doing nothing because of what you can’t do. If you find yourself unable to follow through with one of your action steps towards your goal, decide on what you can do and just do that instead of doing nothing. For example, “I can’t make 10 sales calls today, but I can make 5.”
8. Refocus and reboot when needed. If you backslide for a week or two, okay, it happened – reboot and get back on track.
Don’t underestimate feedback. As Marshall Goldsmith said, “People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”