It’s that time of year again where everyone who is involved in the personal development arena starts preaching about the best way…often new way… to improve our lives this year.
I am no different although I do hope to give a slightly different, albeit not a new, perspective on this interesting time of year. Here is my gentle ramble.
I’ll start by looking at the New Year Resolution culture that we have. It is easily illustrated by gym membership but by no means exclusive to it. Because traditionally, this time of year is seen as a time of renewal and for looking forward the concept of making resolutions is deeply embedded in our psyche. This has been going on since Roman and Babylonian times so it is no surprise that it is almost habitual.
What appears to be more deeply habitual is our habit of setting unrealistic goals that often involve self sacrifice or maybe personal pain and are motivated by what others think of us rather than what we really think about and value about ourselves.
Back to the gym membership. Membership sales spike at this time of year yet 45% will attend less than 4 times and while this is good for the gym it is not great for the new member if you are not fully committed. Remember while gym membership is a great illustrator this experience will have similar patterns across the diet industry and then will filter into our own more personal resolutions like quitting smoking etc.
So why the failure rate?
For me it is that the cultural enforcement of goal setting at a particular time of year means that a large percentage of people are setting goals when they had no intention of doing so. They are doing it to go along with the crowd.
Then factor on top of this the pass or fail nature of many goals and we may be setting ourselves up for failure. The idea that all goals should be Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timescaled can be healthy if managed well. Equally if you do not achieve what you set out to by the time you have done so you have failed…again for many of us. I’m all for challenge but I am also against needlessly setting myself up for failure.
Then there is the bandwagon mentality fuelled by social media and marketing where the goals we set are influenced by what everyone else is doing and because the slick marketing tells us we should. Again a lack of commitment will be evident unless I, deep down, wish to change.
Finally, for me there is a problematic fascination with everything new that causes fundamental challenges. I work with behavioural change and exert a lot of energy emphasising to people that gradually building habits that will last is fundamental to personal development. I regularly work with parents who are struggling with their children’s behaviour. They are caring parents who will read blogs like this, watch YouTube videos and read books. All in an attempt to understand the latest techniques available to them to control their unruly offspring. They are continually trying out the latest idea. Most often, when we get stuck into the detail it is about consistency of approach. We all have a need for consistency which provides an element of safety.
The Building of habits is essential.
This is why this article is entailed New Year – Old Me. As I woke up on January 1st I was the same person who went to bed the night before. Nothing miraculously changed because I went through an iconic timeline.
A day later nothing had changed either.
The day after that things started to change slightly but they will only change if I maintain the commitment and they become habitual.
I have not set resolutions but I have made commitments to myself. They are all articulated in terms of either “less of” or “more of.” They are measurable in terms of less or more but other than that they are not strict or hugely specific but they are very meaningful to me.
I’d like to share them with you.
Commitment number 1
I will journal more – I have long known the benefit to me personally of spending a few minutes close to the end of each day reflecting on what has gone well and what could have gone better. The health benefits have also been researched. I also use this to reflect upon the challenging feelings that arise in my daily life and to start to make sense of them. Crucially, by writing about these I am also emptying my mind of the immediacy of these thoughts and allowing other thoughts the space they need. I may not do this every day. I may not do it for a certain time each time. I will, however, do more of it this year and it will become a supportive habit for me.
Commitment number 2
Visualisation – I teach this and I have used it effectively in the past and then for some reason it has dropped off from my life as I got busier and busier. Put simply I take 5 – 10 minutes to relax and visualise my better self. Before the words “better self” cause cries of “tree hugging hippy!!” let me just explain that my better self could relate to me, my business, my relationships…anything. What I am well aware of is that if I maintain my focus my progress is stronger and visualisation helps maintain my focus.
Commitment number 3
I will drink less. I do not drink a huge amount but I do drink regularly and when I stop and have a drink my desire to do anything else fades. Again I am not giving up. I am not setting a timescale or a target and I do not feel a need to join AA. I will however, have a healthier relationship with drink.
Commitment number 4
I will read more. This will be helped by number 3 but is not dependent upon it. My development is essentially linked to the reading I do and I would like to continue to develop.
The key to these changes for me is small steps, gradual improvement and habit building and crucially allowing myself setbacks at the same time as not allowing setbacks to mean I have failed.
So that’s it New Year – Old Me….New Consistency
That’s it. End of ramble.
If you would like more concise thoughts and a link to articles and (now a very popular) word of the day for inspiration feel free to connect with us through Twitter, Facebook or directly with me via LinkedIn
Happy New Year