In my workshops, I often lead participants in exercises designed to show certain similarities they all share. Surely we are all distinct, unique individuals, but the truth is that in spite of our differences are also alike in so many ways. For example, raise your hand if you have ever made a New Year’s resolution. Now, keep your hand raised if you have kept every resolution you have ever made. Those of you with your hand still raised are worthy of my utmost respect, or perhaps a referral to Liars Anonymous. And what are you doing raising your hand while reading a blog post anyway?
Ok, enough with the Ron-foolery, let me get to the main topic for this post. There are two times each year when you are likely to pause to examine your life and consider areas that might need some improvement. (Actually, if you read my last post you now realize you have five such opportunities to work with each year.) The first is on your birthday when the calendar reminds you that you have aged another year. The second is the beginning of a new year when hope springs eternal that all will be better than the year just ending whether it was a good year or not so much.
Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions have become fodder for late-night comedians, and a topic sure to elicit groans from the many who have tried valiantly but failed miserably to accomplish them with any degree of satisfaction. I say enough of that – how about you? Let me share with you three tips I have picked up along my journey, which I believe will increase your chances of looking back on December 31, 2020 with a sense of pride and achievement.
The first two come from Jon Acuff, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors to listen to during long drives. I recently listened to his book Finish, which I highly recommend. Among his many excellent suggestions, perhaps the one which most impacted me helps to explain why New Year’s resolutions often fail within the first few days of their existence. Mr. Acuff details what he calls “the day after perfect.” Most people begin the new year with great resolve and determination to succeed. They funnel all of their energy and focus on mastering their new-found direction and purpose in life. With such force in place, they can beat back all temptations to waver, and they enjoy their success and the feeling it brings them. This success, great though it be, is doomed to falter at some point. There will come a day when you slip and do not achieve perfection. At this point, many simply give up and revert to their old ways of living. They say things like, “well, since I blew it and smoked a cigarette, I might as well go out and buy a pack,” or “that pie was just too tempting. Why did I ever think I could succeed with a weight loss plan anyway.”
What happens on the day after perfect will determine the ultimate fate of your resolution. If you can see your slip-up as just that – a slip-up and get back with the program, you have a good chance of marshaling your energy again to keep you on your chosen path. If, however, you do what so many do and resign yourself to failure, you will indeed accomplish just that. Friends warned Julius Caesar to “beware the Ides of March.” Jon Acuff and I would caution you to “beware the day after perfect.”
Another common mistake many make regarding setting out to make changes in their life is that they set the bar unrealistically high and set themselves up for failure right at the start. To counter this trend, Mr. Acuff suggests cutting your goal in half or doubling the time you think you will need to accomplish it satisfactorily. He points out that success breeds success and meeting a lower but still desired objective even if it takes more time to bring about, will help spur you on to continue your efforts in the right direction.
Along that line, let me share with you a pointer I picked up from the late Dr. Stephen Covey in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People course. His research revealed that when people set out to make more than ten changes in their life at once, they will likely accomplish none of them with excellence. By embarking on such an industrious journey, you simply will not have the time, energy, or resources each will demand of you and you will fail. Should you seek to make four to ten changes at any given time, you might expect to succeed in one. However, if you limit your focus to one, two or three specific changes or objectives, you stand a good chance of victory in those one, two or three endeavors.
Let’s face it, making and maintaining meaningful changes in life is a challenge, but the rewards can be beneficial for years to come. Please also remember that it is not change that people resist so much as being changed. Choose your changes wisely, make sure they are achievable, limit them to no more than three, and be prepared to get back on track after a slip-up. I know this is not rocket science, but I do hope these ideas will contribute to you having a fantastic and prosperous 2020.
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Ron Price MA is the owner/operator of Productive Outcomes, Inc. He has spent the last 30+ years as a mediator helping people resolve their differences with others. He provides workshop training and presentations on a variety of life skills. For more information visit www.PlayNiceinYourSandbox.com or send an e-mail to [email protected] or call Ron at 505 324-6328.