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Forget Your Resolutions…Easy Steps to Real Change in 2016

My last article of 2015! I can’t believe we’re already here!

Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey of discovering “Move Right Monday,” “Wellness Wednesday,” and “Think Right Thursday.” I hope you’ve gotten as much out of this year as I have.

But, as much fun as it is to look back, it’s time to look forward. New Year’s Day is typically the time when we start a clean slate. What makes it difficult is that we don’t complete regenerate. All our old habits, routines, and thought patterns come in with us. So, rather than a new start, it’s really more of a redirect. My Pastor has said many times, “how you enter a new year has a lot of influence over how the new year will go.” So, let’s launch into 2016 with our feet already in motion in the direction we want to go.

Life Is Always Moving – Be Intentional

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in the last few years, it’s that life is always in motion. It’s like an airplane: there’s no such thing as standing still or maintaining in the air. If you’re not actively moving forward, you’re falling. You can’t coast.

  • Relationships suffer if you take them for granted.
  • Families suffer when people try to use toddler parenting skills on teenagers (ask me how I know).
  • Careers suffer when people aren’t intentional about regularly updating their work skills.
  • My patients suffer if I don’t keep up on the latest developments in wellness care. I could rely on my old training, but you might need something I didn’t learn in school.

I recently heard the story of an older gentleman who had been a machinist back before the days of computer-controlled machines. He took night classes on programming back in the 1980s because he saw the handwriting on the wall. So, when his peers were being laid off because they didn’t understand computers, he got promoted because he was intentional about embracing change.

Don’t Resolve, Rethink

Everyone has something in their life they want to change. (I accidentally typed “something in their liver they want to change,” but even though it’s probably true, that’s a topic for “Wellness Wednesday.”)

Many think that the clean slate of a new year, linked to an earnest resolution to be different, is the ticket to a new life. The problem is that a resolution is basically a wish in grown-up clothes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t expect it to change anything. Most fitness centers could basically close up shop on February 1 every year because most of the people who got a membership for Christmas and made a wish on New Year’s Day have given up by then. Resolutions are not strong enough to overcome lifestyle habits. It takes a plan and intentionality to make a change. We are creatures of comfort, not just habit. Change is uncomfortable, so really have to want it.

Every year, I read another pile of articles bemoaning the fact that most people who make New Year’s Resolutions quit them within the first few weeks. Most gyms could close up shop on February 1st, because by then most of the people who got memberships for Christmas and made burning oaths to get in shape have already gone back to their old lifestyles. It’s a shame.

So, we’ve decided as a culture that resolutions don’t pack enough punch to carry us through on our commitments, and we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. No sense making any resolutions this year. We’ll just quit later.

But what about the things we wanted for ourselves? What about our desire to be healthy, wealthy, smart, and successful? Do we have to give up on all that?

Of course not, but we do need to rethink our strategy a little.

Let’s set a 2016 goal together with a series of D’s.

A New Outline For A Better Life

1. Dream. What does your better life look like? More money? More free time? More family time? More muscular flexibility, stability, and motor control? A new relationship? A new job? A vision board can be a powerful way to take the dreams from your mind and put them on paper in front of your eyes. When you can see it, you can make some decisions about it.

2. Decision. In order to be successful at anything, you need to decide you are going to do it. That sounds obvious, but most people skip this. They tinker with an idea to see if it will pan out before they commit. So, when it doesn’t, they are not disappointed or hurt. Of course, if they don’t take the risk of commitment, their chance of success is exactly zero, because commitment is the key in the ignition. A quality decision takes action. If you are unwilling to take the first action, then you’ve decided that you don’t want to continue down that path. That’s perfectly OK, but you have to be OK with letting it go. A quality decision will keep you on the road when the road gets long.

3. Detail. “I will get in shape this year” is a resolution, and it will certainly fail. It can’t succeed because there’s no way of knowing when you’ve achieved it. I didn’t say “might not,” I said, “can’t.” If people would take this step, they would eliminate most of the failure in their lives. Why? Because this is where you “fish or cut bait,” as one old friend says. If you are unwilling to get specific about your goal, then you’re stating to yourself and the world that you are unwilling to go forward with this idea. Go ahead and put that idea to rest; it’s not going to happen. A goal without a plan is a wish. A proper goal is SMART:

  • Specific (“improve my body mass index,” not “get in shape”)
  • Measurable (“lose ten pounds by Valentine’s Day,” not “lose weight”)
  • Action-Oriented (“add a high-fiber vegetable to my menu every day, eliminate soft drinks, do the “Move Right Monday” exercises, etc.)
  • Realistic (“lose ten pounds by Valentine’s Day,” not “lose 60 pounds this month”)
  • Time-bound (lose ten pounds by Valentine’s Day,” not “lose ten pounds”)

You want to be crystal clear on where you want to go or you will never get there. If your goal is vague, it will always just be a wish hanging out in the air, teasing you and making you miserable. The more specific you are, the easier it is to take each step.

4. Division. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break up the goal into manageable chunks. A football field is 100 yards long, but every yard is marked in the grass. Every five yards, there is a solid line, and every ten yards there is a number to let you know where you are. Imagine football without all these markings – it would be chaos. You need milestones on the path to any goal or you won’t know if you’re making adequate progress to arrive on time. If your goal is to close twenty sales a month, then you need to make sure you’re closing five a week, or one every business day. If you’re not, then you either need to readjust your plan or readjust your methods. A good goal plan has specific signposts along the way to tell you if you are being realistic and making adequate progress.

5. Date. Once you have mapped out where you want to go and the signposts to get there, write them on a calendar. Set an appointment with yourself that you will deliver an action on a specific day and time. If you want to learn to play the guitar this year, write down the date and time you will look up guitar teachers in your area. It takes less than five minutes with Google, but if you don’t set a time to do it, it will just hang out there in space. You don’t have to do anything else that day if you don’t want to. Just do that five minutes of research and you’re done. Now, you are step closer to your goal and you can celebrate that win.

6. Documentation. Write it down!!! All of it. In detail. The first accountability is pen and paper. There is something amazingly powerful about seeing something in writing. It makes it more real in your mind.

7. Delight. When you complete a step toward your goal, you need to celebrate it. That doesn’t mean you take yourself out to dinner every time you do a Google search. The celebration should match the accomplishment, but make it meaningful. For some people, a high-five is enough. Find a “ta-da” fanfare on your smartphone and play it when you complete an important task. Treat yourself to a piece of your favorite candy (yes, I said it) when you check an item off your list – ONE. Little victories get little trophies. You don’t plant corn on Thursday and harvest on Friday, but there is a time when the first sprout pops up out of the soil. Rather than plucking up the sprout by being disappointed, celebrate! It helps you hang on when the road seems long. Save the big prizes for when the desired goal is completed.

8. Delegation. This is another crucial step that people skip all the time. Find a friend you trust (or a group of people) and ask them to hold you accountable. Accountability is one of the most powerful tools in goal setting. In essence, you are delegating the management of the project to another person. I do this all the time. I have a group of professionals, businesspeople, and friends that I allow to speak into how I run my practice. If you know that someone is going to ask about your goals, you are more likely to follow through on them. Sometimes they kick my butt, but they always cheer me on when I move forward.

So, there we have an outline for setting and accomplishing goals that will carry you to the end of 2016 and beyond. Make a decision to pursue your dream. Write up a plan. Put action items on your calendar and do them. Get others involved. Celebrate your successes.

You can do this!!

Making It A Little Easier For You

I’ve even provided you with a place to put your goal in writing, have a group of friends check it for SMARTness, celebrate with you and hold you accountable for the rest of the year, if you want to use it. The 500-plus people that follow my blog every week are here to cheer you on to your next goal, if you want to share it with us. Invite your friends into our community, as well. We’re always growing here.

Thank you again for making it such a great year. God bless you as you move into 2016!!

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles, SMART goals, specific plans, and accountability is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas (and me)

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