New Years Here I Come!
The road to self improvement is paved with many of my good intentions. I’ve intended to make good on a litany of my shortcomings for years. Each January I try. I’m very good at trying. Being trying has been singled out as a personality trait of mine. Is that bad? Perhaps, personal fortitude is not my birthright. I’m not like most people – hard things challenge me. I am worthy of a free pass, don’t you think?
Should I should accept my fate, accept that I am who I am? Perhaps my inability to complete a personal challenge is an eccentricity, not a character flaw. Maybe “he meant to” is not a condemnation but an epitaph to be borne with pride. Then again, maybe I’ll win the lottery and marry Benedict Cumberbatch.
Blame the Babylonians. They were the first, those many centuries ago, to decide that the arrival of the New Year was a time to seek out self-improvement. It was thought that the way you spent New Years Day was the way the rest of your year would play out. Of course, back then the calendar was different and New Years came in March. Going back to the gym must have been easier with the promise of spring rather than frostbite in the air.
So for whom am I seeking this Holy Grail? Is it for myself, an imagined partner or for the attention of that new barista? Should I be embarrassed that I get winded each time I roll over in bed? Am I less than myself?
If I’m honest, I want this. I’m doing this for me. And so to work.
The honest assessment begins. Maybe I know more than I think. I may be full of sound and fury but I’m not an idiot. I’m somewhat self-aware, with a degree of sense. I offer great advice, I’m told. I’m successful at my job. I have skills assessing a business situation and prescribing a course to meet a target. Suddenly, I know what’s necessary. I don’t need super human strength. I need a plan.
I need a plan and a vaccine against guilt. Guilt may prompt self-improvement but it also it’s enemy. Guilt is counter-productive since the whole point of a resolution is to make positive change. “Fight the guilt. Let change be your motivator.” Yah, me! I’ve found my mantra.
Using my work skills I arrived at my approach and after a quick check of the self help literature I found my instincts were on the mark:
- Choose the right resolution. Identifying the “why” helps you avoid setting goals for the wrong reasons. Goals shouldn’t punish.
- Be specific – by making your resolution specific you increase your chances of achieving it. Avoid statements like “I’ll never do___ again.” Don’t frame your resolutions in absolutes. Instead of vowing to “do more” or “live at the gym” you might say, “I’m going to the gym twice a week” to start, or “I’ll add 20 minutes of cardio each visit.”
- Be realistic – don’t let the champagne give you a false sense of confidence. Don’t try to “fix” everything at once. You’re a work in progress, not a deadline to be met. While it may be tempting to take on the world, remember that the more realistic your resolution, the more likely you’ll be to keep it. Be realistic about time, energy and resources you have available. Your life will still need attention while you’re under construction. Don’t over stretch.
- Develop a plan – you wouldn’t announce a merger or launch a new product unprepared. Resolutions fail because they are just a goal without a plan. Plan, plan but before that – plan!
- Break the process into small steps and write those steps down so you can monitor and assess your success. Use your day planner to track and record it all.
- Take responsibility for yourself – seek help and support from support groups and friends if you like, but remember that ultimately you’re doing this for you. Don’t let a friend’s failure become your excuse to give up.
- Mistake? Forgive yourself and move on. You will stumble that’s OK. You may need to modify your approach or, even rethink the goal altogether. That’s fine. Let failure be part of the process, not your excuse to quit.
It might be easy to blame the Babylonians, but if it were easy, what would be the point?