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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Forget New Year's Resolutions -- And Do This Instead

Why does almost everyone have the same experience with new year's resolutions? We set resolutions at the start of the new year, we make an attempt at keeping them but little by little, the new year's resolutions fall to the side.
By spring, our new year's resolutions are a distant memory.
A new year comes, and we set the same resolutions all over again!
The reason new year's resolutions fail is because when we set them -- when we decide to lose weight, go to the gym, save more money, get our house or apartment in great shape and fix our biggest failings -- we lack an essential requirement for any ambitious undertaking.
It's easy to say "I'm going to read a book every week in 2017" or "I'm going to go to the gym three times a week, all year" but when real life intervenes, the missing ingredient will be our new year's resolutions' downfall.
The critical element that's missing from almost everybody's new year's resolutions is the answer to the question "Why?"
If we stopped to ask "Why are these new year's resolutions important?" we would have to acknowledge that almost every new year's resolution comes from the same place. It comes from the place of a critical parent telling a wayward kid,
"You should keep your room clean!"
"You should get better grades in school!"

New year's resolutions come from the place called "Should." When we write up a list of new year's resolutions, it's as though we are being scolded for our faults and told "Do better next year!"
When you compose your list of new year's resolutions, it's as though somebody bigger and more powerful than you (your bossy brain, to be precise) tells you what you should do -- get in shape, save money, and generally get your life together.
New year's resolutions are too often a rebuke -- a reminder that you really need to get your act together!
The directive "you should!" doesn't hold up very well under pressure.
We already know that we could be in better shape, save more money and be more responsible in many other ways. We know it intellectually, but it's not that easy to get through the day even without lofty resolutions to attend to!

Eventually we run out of steam, rebel against the preachy, critical-parent voice and give up on our resolutions when we realize that it doesn't really matter whether or not we lose ten lbs., pay off our credit cards or fix our other problems.
We will always have new problems to deal with, anyway! Our new year's resolutions fall away -- typically by the end of March.
Real life is hard. We struggle just to keep up.
What previously untapped power source will show up to power our ambitious new year's resolutions? There is none. We are tapped out. All the mojo we have access to is already allocated to our daily obligations!
Instead of setting new year's resolutions this year, why not try something more connected to who you are? You can skip the resolutions this year and get altitude on your life and career, instead.
Start by asking these questions (and writing your answers in a journal if you like):
  1. What do I want most in my life and career? Let your mind wander. Imagine the life and career you want, not just incremental changes from the life and career you have now.
  2. If I gave myself permission to dream really big, what sort of life and career would I envision? Now, I will give myself that permission! It's just a mental exercise, for now. Nobody is holding me responsible for realizing my dream, and I don't have to tell anyone about it.
  3. What stands between me and the life and career I envision? Maybe I'll have to leave the place where I live and move somewhere else to realize my dreams. Maybe I'll need to go back to school, or start fresh in a new career path. These goals seem enormous and daunting. I won't stress about that right now. I'll live with my dream and write and think about it. I will let it become real in my imagination first. Later it will become real on earth!
  4. Which people in my life support me, and which people suck my energy away? I will surround myself with people who get me and appreciate me. I will give myself the gift of supportive people in my life, even if I have to go out and meet new people to do it. That might be the best thing I could do for myself in 2017. I know that having the wrong people around me will squash my dreams before they have a chance to take shape.
  5. How can I acknowledge myself for the hard work I do every day? I will try to stop beating up on myself in 2017. I will reinforce myself every chance I get, speaking affirmations in my mind or out loud. Here are some affirmations to get me started:
    1. I am doing fine now and I'm always getting better. My future is bright, and I have nothing to regret or apologize for in my past.
    2. As long as I keep learning, nothing bad will happen. Everything I experience teaches me something important.
    3. Not everyone has to get my brand of jazz. I only need a few people in my corner who get me and deserve me!
    4. Everything that has happened to me happened for a reason. My job is to get on my path and keep taking steps!
What new power source will show up to power your dreams forward in 2017? The best power source there is -- your belief that you deserve the life and career you want. Forget the new year's resolutions.
You could lose weight, save money, and tick off another dozen to-do items and still never take a step toward the life and career you deserve.
The way to reach your vision is to dream it up in as much detail as you like -- and then to take the first step in its direction!

Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.

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