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,
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,