Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Make Your Resolutions a Wish List for Santa

Another year...gone! Wow, when did that happen? I'm still trying to get used to 2009. However, here I am, sitting down with a pen and paper, working on my Resolutions for 2010, still in shell-shock that Christmas is over and the New Year is fast approaching.

It then hit me just how many people make resolutions each year, but are unable to be successful in using them to make their much-needed life changes. I was chatting with a friend of mine on this subject, and she mentioned, "Geez, Janine, this is the first year that I ever wanted to make my resolutions serious." I was stunned. It had never occured to me that folks would not take the opportunity to make each year better by following through on their resolutions---or at least some of them. Why? Because resolutions are the big things that your values and your emotions have agreed are so important and will make your life better. It seems to me that the problem may be in most people's perspectives. You see, resolutions aren't just wishy-washy promises to do better, they are goals that pave the way to being better, for real.

I've been goal-setting for almost two decades now. I first learned of this technique to success from Brian Tracy in a seminar he gave in North Carolina around 1989. Since then, my life has been more productive, happier and filled with more delight then at any time before. Why? Because I see myself as a creator to the life I want rather than a victim of the whims of fate. I'm in control of my own destiny. The choice is mine.

So, what do you do to make sure you succeed in your goals or "resolutions?" Well, first off you make sure that you don't treat your goals like a wish list you made for Santa. This is not fantasy, folks, it is true. Some people actually write out all the things they want to change in their life, put them in a desk drawer, and never look at them again. This is not making resolutions or goals. This is waiting for a sweet, bearded mystery man to come and make all your wishes come true. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but life just doesn't work that way. Does it? So, what do you do to achieve a better life? Here is my simple 7-step plan to a new you, available through the power of goal-setting.


1. What is the real question?

First off, decide if you really want the changes you are asking of yourself. Just because you've had many people tell you that you need to become more physically fit, mentally astute, financially well off, whatever, the real question is, "Do I want this for me?" I was wandering about the Net looking at the various resolutions that are common for folks to make and I found you can break them down into four main categories:

  • Physical Resolutions: (Lose weight, get physically fit, quit drinking/smoking/drug use, and eat better)
  • Financial Resolutions: (Get out of debt, create a budget, get a better job, and start a savings account)
  • Mental Resolutions: (Enjoy life more, spend more time with family and friends, conquer a fear, learn something new, read a BIG book, and devote more time to hobbies.)
  • Spiritual Resolutions: (volunteer, meditate more, find a church and pray for others)

When you're sitting in a quiet place working out what you really want from yourself in 2010, I highly recommend you concentrate on the things that are most in line with your values. You have to bring this emotional component into this process or you won't have the necessary energy to carry it out. I recommend that you wander through this list of resolutions and see if any really pop out for "you" to add to your to-do list for the new year. Always remember that when you want to change something about your life, you have to do it because YOU want to do so, and not just because you "should."

2. Write it down and re-read it---frequently!

I can't stress this exercise enough. I have been coaching people in financial independence for over 10 years and the clients who are the most successful in their lives are the ones who actually write down their goals/resolutions and post them in a place where they can see them every day. (My favorite spot is the bathroom mirror!) The power of the written word and the daily attention is incredible and will remind you of the person you want to be rather than the one you see in the mirror. This is a very simple thing to do, but only 3% of people do it. However, most successful people see it as the primary (the #1) activity that keeps them on track to what they want out of life and keeping themselves motivated during times of challenge.

3. Keep your resolutions concise and precise

Many folks who work out resolutions can torpedo themselves by the way they word their goals. You want to focus your concentration on the behavior you want to gain rather than on the negative elements that have lead to your current situation. Example: instead of writing as a resolution that you want to "lose weight this year" (which begs the question of where it is to be abandoned?), write out that you want to weigh 155 pounds by "X" date. Make the timeline achieveable and within safe guidelines of weight loss. For me, I don't focus on my weight. I focus on my fitness level. My marker for fitness? How many pushups and pullups I can do in a set. I have just come off a week-long vacation where I did a lot of walking but did bupkiss in the weight training arena. So, today when I started my exercise program (again), I could only do 24 pushups on my knees (I had been able to do 12 push ups on my toes!) and one pullup. Yikes!

My resolution will read something like this: I am physically fit. I do 25 pushups from my toes and 10 pullups. Another thing...I've put on some extra pounds around my middle this holiday season. (I do so love Christmas cookies and fudge!) Am I going to focus on that? Nope. (Except that it all tasted REALLY good.) I'm going to put my energy and effort into building muscle again and using fitness markers that have nothing to do with gravity. I officially fired my bathroom scale seven years ago. LOL!

4. Tell someone else about your goals/resolutions

For the women I have coached through the years, talking about their resolutions with a friend or trusted family member is a great way to make it more "real." This is something I do frequently. I'll tell my husband, kids or girl friends what I'm doing and trying to accomplish and then it becomes a committment to my brain. It's like, "Okay, time to make this happen since my kids know about it and will be checking my progress." When I work out, I have a girl friend who will email me asking how I'm doing on my situps, reps, and overall exercise routine. Having this sort of buddy who checks in on you without judgement is a wonderful way to stay on track and to stay motivated.

5. Fake it until you make it

When you're working on your various goals, see yourself as already "on the path" to achieving them. This is a little mind game that I play all the time with myself to keep from getting "newcomer's syndrome." That means, it is hard to start a new program/behavior/activity because it is so new to you that it feels alien. To keep these sorts of feelings to a minimum, I walk, act, and self-talk like this is old hat and I'm in the process of ramping up the behavior, not starting from scratch.

Again, I'll go with a fitness example. Pullups are tough for me. When I first start working on them I can barely do 1.5 or 1.75. If I'm really lucky I can do 2. So what I do mentally is tell myself is, "Well, yeah, that's the way it is when you've only been doing them a week (actually it was my first day at the pull up bar in over 6 months), "I'm sure that in two weeks I'll be doing 3 or 4." That is what I mean by faking it. Fake like this is just part of the run-of-the-mill routine and you'll accomplish your goals given enough time. You're close, just not "there" yet. Make sense?

6. Keep your list of goals SHORT!

When I work up a list of resolutions/goals I never have more than three on it. Any more than that and my daily to-do list will explode in a miraculous cloud of ash. (I'm serious, I've seen it smolder!) Why? I have a lot on my plate; I know you do, too. So, rather than make your to-do list longer at the year's beginning focus yourself on doing only ONE (yes, that is not a typo) thing a day to move you toward your major goals.

Right now, I'm working on my fitness goals. My mental and spiritual goals are filled in around the 5 minutes a day of spare time ad day that I have. I'm working on the physical because right now that is the one that needs the most work. As time is freed up because I have more energy from exercising, then I add on my to-do list two items a day that move me toward my overall goals. Step-by-step is the key here.

7. This is the Year to take Charge of your Life

Make up your mind that 2010 is the year that you are going to take real charge of your life! Yes, the economy is weird (to say the least). Family members, husbands, sons, daughters, and many others in our lives have lost jobs, homes, marriages and confidence in themselves. Incomes have been slashed in half, and our weight has increased as many of us tried to eat our way to comfort. Now is the time to stop living mainly (or only) in a state of constant panic. Now is the time to face your fear and charge out anyway to make your life a better one. I have found that I am much more courageous when I have NO IDEA how I am going to get to my final destination, but I DO have a goal of where I am headed in the short term.

I have a list of things I will accomplish this year. How am I going to find the time to write a book, homeschool my four kids, take two college courses, learn to draw, increase my pullup level to "ten", stay connected with my husband despite his hectic travel schedule and own writing projects, and still keep my house at least one step above "landfill" status? I have no idea. Honestly. I haven't a clue. But what I do know is I am going to accomplish all those things. How can I be sure? Well, I've done it before. I've managed to face my fear of failure and stare it down. Why? Because I want to be the type of person who lives life fully. I can't stand the thought of letting Life lead me. I will Lead my Life. Period. By making a few core resolutions and then doing them, I create the life I want, and I'm an active and contributing to bettering the world one goal at a time. I'm doing what I love.

This year I wish you a 12-months of a purpose-driven Life that leaves you breathless and standing in awe of yourself and your accomplishments on December 31, 2010. Good luck, dear one.