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To Change Your Habits, Change Your System

January 29th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan


If you followed the advice in my last blog, "Look Back Before Planning Forward," you now have a plan of intentions/goals for 2019 along with specific actions that will help you achieve those goals. Bravo!





Often the work we need to do to achieve our goals involves changing our habits - either eliminating habits that work against our intentions, or creating new, more supportive ones. Either way, it involves change. And change can be difficult.





For example, maybe one of the things you want to do in the area of "eating healthier" is to limit dessert after dinner to weekends. No more weekday after-dinner sweets! But you've been having dessert after dinner since you were a kid. The meal just doesn't feel complete without it. How do you make that change (and stick to it)?





In his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear says, "Bad habits repeat themselves not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change...You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."





The human brain is wired for immediate gratification. You know that piece of cake after dinner isn't contributing to your long-term health ("a moment on the lips, a lifetime on your hips") but oooooh, is it good! As Clear says, "the consequences of bad habits are delayed while the rewards are immediate."





To break or establish habits and achieve your goals, you need to change your systems. "Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results," Clear says.





Our habits are behavior routines that have been repeated so often that they become automatic. To change them, we have to become aware of them and replace them with good habits.





Clear says that employing the first three laws of behavior change - make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy - will increase the chances of performing a new behavior. The fourth law - make it satisfying - will make it more likely that the new behavior will be repeated, and thus become a habit. When you want to eliminate a behavior, i.e, change a bad habit, you flip the process: make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult, and make it unsatisfying.





Turning the new behavior into a (good) habit comes from making incremental improvements every day. And the best way to do this is to add "a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to the ones that don't."





Success in nearly every field, Clear says, requires you to ignore an immediate reward in favor of a delayed reward.





"Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement." - James Clear





Till next time,





Karen


Goal setting, Life, Personal development

A New Year: Look Back Before Planning Forward

January 14th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan


Admit it. How many of you, as you rang in the new year, secretly (or maybe even publicly) said, "Thank GOODNESS 2018 is over!" or words to that effect?





Certainly, there were things in the past year we'd all rather forget. And yet, you are doing yourself a major disservice if you don't pause to reflect on - from a personal and professional standpoint - some highlights of your year. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What challenges did you overcome? What new skills did you develop? Taking stock of these items will not only improve your view of the past year, it will also help guide your thinking as you plan your goals, intentions, whatever you want to call them, for the new year.





So. Grab a tablet, a pen (or your laptop), and a beverage of your choice. Find a quiet place and allow yourself 30 minutes or so to list out the following for 2018:





What I accomplished





What I learned





A challenge I overcame and how





A new skill(s) I developed





Once you've made your list, give yourself some time to reflect on (and feel good about) all that you've achieved. Focus on the positive! Then, as you plan for 2019 (and you are developing a plan, right?) let your list help guide your intentions (that's what I like to call them) for the new year.





I think we've all figured out that New Year's "resolutions" don't work. They are typically too broad (lose weight, get out of debt, win the lottery) and not tied to specific actions or deadlines. Research shows that 80% of them are abandoned by February. So why bother, right? Wrong!





I suggest a different approach. First of all, keep it simple yet specific. Second, keep it balanced. Too often we focus so much energy on changing one aspect of our life that we totally neglect the other aspects. For example, there's that promotion you want, so you put 110% of your energy into doing the work, gaining the visibility, and finding the opportunity that will get you there. Pretty soon you're skipping the gym, eating junk food at the office for dinner, and saying "no" to time with family and friends. "Vacation? Not happening!" And do you get the promotion? Maybe. But at what cost?





Here's my guide for creating a simple plan that will help keep your life balanced and moving forward. It's called the Circle of Life. As you consider your intentions for 2019, think about the eight aspects of your life illustrated below. Where do you spend the most effort? As you look back on 2018, what aspect did you neglect or ignore? How will you change that this year?









Now make one or two intentions for each aspect. Make them simple, make them specific, and write them down! Include due dates wherever possible.





Once you've created your plan, keep it visible. Put it someplace where you can see it every day. Schedule time on your calendar once a month to assess how you're doing. Pay attention to what's getting out of balance, e.g., when work is eating into your intentions in personal growth or friends/family. Make some adjustments to get back on track.





Taking a look back before moving forward and being more intentional about creating balance in our lives are components of my GET REAL philosophy. So often we burden ourselves with what others tell us we SHOULD do - "find passion in your work," "lean in," "keep climbing that corporate ladder," - that we lose sight of what we WANT to do. We are so focused on the destination that we miss the view along the way.





Here's to an amazing and balanced 2019! I'm declaring it a year to GET REAL! Stay tuned for more GET REAL developments.





"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." - Neil Gaiman





Till next time,





Karen


Goal setting, Life, People, wellness, Work-life balance

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Resolve or Evolve? Time to “Shake It Up”

January 10th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Circle of Life.FINAL

Chances are, you’ve spent some time since January 1 thinking about and/or talking about what your “resolutions” are for 2018. Admit it. It’s something we do automatically every year. And although some of us may have the same set of resolutions every year – lose weight, exercise more, drink less, earn more, travel more, work less – we are confident that THIS will be the year we keep them. But the fact is, it’s estimated that by February, 80% of resolutions have dissolved. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

Too often we focus so much energy on changing one aspect of our life that we totally neglect the other aspects. For example, there’s that promotion you want, so you put 110% of your energy into doing the work, gaining the visibility and finding the opportunity that will get you there. Pretty soon you’re skipping the gym, eating junk food at the office for dinner, and saying “no” to time with family and friends. “Vacation? Not happening!” And do you get the promotion? Sometimes. But at what cost?

There is a better way. We need to “shake up” our approach, put balance back into our lives, keep it simple, and, of course, insert some fun!

Let’s do an exercise. Close your eyes. No wait. Read this first. Then close your eyes. Imagine you are standing in the center of a circle – the circle of your life. There are eight sections in the circle, each representing a different aspect of your life:
1. Career/Business
2. Financial
3. Friends/Family
4. Health/Fitness
5. Personal Growth
6. Play/Fun
7. Significant Other
8. Spiritual

Now. Think about your life today and where – in that circle – you spend the majority of your time and effort. Is it in your career or business? Probably true for many of us. Is it worrying about your financial situation? Is it at the gym trying to forget about your career and your financial situation? What other aspects of your life are you neglecting in the process? Is your circle leaning significantly in one direction? Time for a change. If you truly want 2018 to be a better year, you need to get your circle back into balance. Here’s how.

1. Assess. Think about each of the eight aspects and how much attention you pay to them. Then rank each of them from 1 to 10 with 1 being “I pretty much neglect it” and 10 being “I spend most of my time and effort here.”
2. Review. What patterns do you see? What has been the impact – on you, on the neglected areas?
3. Recharge. Change the “out of balance” pattern by creating one or two SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) in each area of your life. These are not New Year’s resolutions that will dissolve by February, but reasonable goals that will help you pay attention to ALL aspects of your life.
4. Commit. Write the goals down. Put a due date on them. Share them with someone who will keep you accountable. Better yet, find an accountability partner who will recharge their circle of life and then you can keep each other accountable. It’ll increase the fun factor, too. And need I say that the fun factor is verrrrrry important?
5. Maintain. Keep checking your balance throughout the year to ensure that it doesn’t get off kilter. There will be times when you need to focus in one area more than the rest. That’s natural. But assess, review and recharge on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t let that one aspect of your life cause you to sacrifice the others.

Don’t resolve, evolve!

Here’s to a balanced and AMAZING 2018! I’m declaring this The Year of Shakin’ It up!!

Till next time,

Karen

Goal setting, Life, Personal development, Planning, wellness

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Year of Possibilities: Let’s Check In

July 12th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

Earlier this year I declared 2017 the “Year of Possibilities” and I challenged you, dear readers, to keep your eyes, ears, and heart open for wonderful possibilities that might be in store. And if you’ll recall, I also challenged you to set a goal around a possibility that you wanted to turn into reality. By June 30, 2017.

So. June 30, 2017 has come and gone. How are we doing on that goal? Did you achieve it? Did you forget about it? Did another wonderful possibility you weren’t expecting overtake it?

If you forgot about it, I suggest that you set aside a couple of hours to think about something you want to achieve (a possibility that you want to turn into reality) and use this template to create an effective goal:

Step 1: Create a SMART Goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely.

Step 2: Create action steps to achieve the goal, each with a due date.

Step 3: Keep your goal visible. Write the goal and action steps down. Check your progress every day.

If you’ve allowed yourself to just be too busy to see possibilities, then let’s review what the Year of Possibilities is all about. And I encourage you to get on board. You’ll be so glad you did!

Do at least one thing this year that will stretch your being…your thinking…your heart…your soul… Think about it. What will that be?

Here are 5 tips to get you started.
1. Just DO IT already. How often have you said over the past few years – “I can’t do that now, it’s not the right time”? Well, if not now, when? Go on that vacation, learn a new language, or how to play an instrument (air guitar does not count). Read that book you’ve been meaning to read for years. Or just do nothing for an entire weekend!
2. Stop multi-tasking. How many studies do we need to read to be convinced that multi-tasking is nothing more than getting nothing done well? Besides, it is very disrespectful. And how are you going to see the possibilities if you are busy doing 3 things at once?
3. Pay attention to what’s around you. Do you ever get home from a day at the office and wonder, “how the heck did I get here?” Commuting can be stressful – by planes, trains or automobiles – and often we just tune out. Open your eyes and allow yourself to see things you miss when you’re just going through the motions.
4. Listen…really listen. What I’m talking about is listening to the signals all around you – what is this wonderful, crazy universe trying to tell you? I can promise you, it ain’t telling you to work more!
5. Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.

Don’t let another day go by without embracing the possibilities!

Till next time, Karen

Goal setting, Life, Personal development, Possibilities