So in Part One of this post, I fessed up to my dislike of New Year’s Resolutions and talked about how I feel they can lead us up the proverbial garden path.
Big bug bear #1 being that they often seem to come from a place of not being good enough as we are and then enticing us into the fateful trap of “I’ll be happy when……”.
Here in Part Deux I’m going to give you some alternatives to both NYR’s and the traditional SMART objectives that I’m sure many of you are more than familiar with (click here if SMART is news to you).
[FYI – I’m not suggesting that the SMART model isn’t valid or doesn’t work, I just think some people (like me) need to have a different, perhaps more emotional, connection to our aspirations (my reticence perhaps also the result of having heard it a gazillion times throughout my corporate life!).]
So, if you’re ready to sign up to being an even more fabulous you but are keen to avoid the cesspit of shame, here are my alternatives to the NYR and I’m going to start with a quick view (for those with limited time/attention) and then read on for the full whammy (for the detail freaks like me):
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Tune in to yourself
Look inside yourself (not to the outside world) and make your aspirations as personal as possible.
Pick a theme
Identify one or two things you’d like more of in your life – let those themes and the associated way of being drive your actions, not the other way round.
1st Jan isn’t the only day
Take inspiration from aspiration any day of the year and any time of day.
You can’t predict how the year will play out so prepare to be flexible and get comfy with changing your mind.
Focus on a system of habits
Know your vision then focus your energy on creating a system of habits which will take you towards it.
The extended musings
Tune in to yourself
Right now we’re bombarded with information about who we should be/what we should be doing/what we should look like/what we need to buy, all in order to make our lives perfect.
We can so easily be convinced that there is one stereotype that we need to aspire to, that we should all conform to being cookie cutter perfect human beings (haha I initially typed prefect there – same applies).
For me, that prospect is a) MIND NUMBINGLY BORING, b) sets you up nicely for failure on a grand scale and c) unlikely to make you happy even if you get there.
To make a really positive healthy sustainable change in your life, the idea and a genuine desire has to COME PREDOMINANTLY FROM INSIDE YOU, based on your values, your life and your priorities.
Don’t look outside (or online) for inspiration for who you should become.
Look inside and see what that lovely you is really asking for. Because when it comes to the subject of ‘you’, you’re the one that really knows what you’re talking about.
Listen carefully and trust yourself.
Pick a theme – ‘be’ as much as ‘do’
Once you’ve switched from looking outside to inside, have a think about what you’d really like more of in your life in the near future.
What feelings and experiences would make your world a nicer place to be and, as a bonus, perhaps nicer for those around you too?
Goals and resolutions have a strong focus on ‘doing’ – quite rightly because without action we have very little control over the ways in which things change.
But, what about some more emphasis on ‘being’?
By anchoring a theme in our ways of being then we’re able to build a really clear, strong and heart-centered foundation for those things that we need to be ‘doing’.
My themes at the moment are Confidence and Kindness. For me there’s both a strong internal and external focus for both of them: further building my inner confidence and the practice of being kind to myself but also looking for ways that I can support the confidence in and show kindness towards others.
Every day I’ll be looking for opportunities to live, practice and act based on these themes – you lucky people. When I’m in a difficult situation or facing a tricky decision, I can use them as a guide and a way to always bring me back to a way of being that’s strongly connected with what’s most important to me.
“If I were feeling really confident what would I do here?”
“In order to be most kind to myself/A.N. Other how do I want to behave now?”
The beauty of working like this with a theme is that you can connect with it at any time and it can be the guiding light for everything that you feel, think and do.
1st Jan isn’t the only day for aspiration and change
I get it! There’s a significant psychological shift that absolutely happens with the tick over from 31 Dec to 1 Jan. And, of course not forgetting, the convenient coincidence with the end of Xmas gluttony, debauchery and general excesses after which we’re dying for any excuse to abstain and be our most angelic selves.
Us human folk do love a nice clean slate.
But the wonderful reality is that we can create that fresh start for ourselves any time we like. We can tune in, set a positive intention at any time of the year, on any day of the week and at any time of day.
Shock horror, not just 1 Jan, not just Monday and not just from the moment we wake up in the morning.
Any old day, date or time will do.
The more important matter is actually your readiness to change. If the prospect of enacting your plan for change fills you with horror and dread then you’ve either got the wrong plan or are heading towards the wrong change.
How often have you felt the same or have your circumstances remained the same throughout the course of a whole year?
In my case, never.
So it isn’t surprising that what might be top priority for us in January has lost nearly all of it’s shine and intrigue by the time we get to June.
Flexibility in our aspirations is SOOO important.
NEWSFLASH: it’s ok to change your mind.
In fact, it’s positively encouraged because it’s the key to keeping you interested, motivated and aligned.
Check in with yourself often and make the necessary edits to both the change you’re looking to achieve and to your plan for getting there.
Losing interest in your goal isn’t always a sign to abandon ship, but it’s definitely time to take stock, reevaluate and FLEX away.
Focus your energy on a system of habits
Ok, I know there will be some people out there who are jumping up and down at the fact that I’m avoiding, and perhaps somewhat going against, the principles of ‘SMART’ goal setting. In particular, the S for specificity and the M for measurability.
As well as aforementioned corporate indoctrination, my real reservation around getting super specific is that……..drum roll…….I don’t yet know how to predict the future.
E.g. one of my current aspirations is to grow my business. But at this point in time, I genuinely have no idea how many clients I might realistically be able to have at any fixed point in the future. If I pick a number it would kind of be at random and there’s a good chance that I’ll over or under shoot, therefore either limiting myself or setting myself up for failure.
What I do think is super important is designing a unique and personal vision for change, breaking that down into small steps and then translating that into real actions that can be done today, tomorrow and the day after. Those actions become your system of habits.
To continue the example…..one of the ways I believe I can grow my client base is by publishing great content, which can translate into the action of carving out half a day in my diary every week to plan and write good stuff.
If I create a system of habitual actions which I know directionally take me towards my goal then, along with flexing as I go, I know that I’ll get to a good place.
Does it matter whether on 31 Dec 2017 that good place is 25, 35 or 105 clients? Not really, because it’s the sustainable growth that really matters to me.
If I focused all my energies on a specific number rather than my system of habits, then all I’d be doing is crafting the stick with which I can beat myself if I don’t make it.
By investing in and consistently following an actions based system, I can regularly take pride and satisfaction in that process (which does wonders for motivation) and still know that I’m contributing positively towards my vision.
So, am I really that anti NYR’s?
The broad concept of setting an aspiration for improving yourself or your life – hell, no, I’m all about that.
But the specifics of doing it because of the date on the calendar, because everyone else is doing it, because you think you ‘should’ or because you don’t feel good enough as you are right now – ABSOLUTELY YES!
We can do so much better than that.
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If you’re feeling like you could do with a bit more aspiration in your life right now and your brain can’t work it all out on it’s own then I’m here, ready and waiting, to help you unstick your thinking and find the focus and clarity you need to live a bloody good life.
And, as always, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.