The month of January is loaded with expectations for many people. It is supposed to represent new beginnings, the turning over of a new leaf. You start that new diet with the goal of losing 10 pounds; you give up smoking and join a health club; you vow to donate more time to charity; you focus fervently on finding that one true love.
In short, when Jan. 1 rolls around, it is the start of your new and better life. But by the end of January, what will have changed? Will you see the results in your new and improved body, lifestyle, behavior or love life?
For many, the answer is no. And the reason is that if you wait for transformation to kick in on that magical Jan. 1, you're probably not really serious about changing your life.
What about the woman who vows to give up her drinking habit on Jan. 1, but then gets hammered in a bar with her buddies on Dec. 31 as the ball drops in Times Square?
Or consider the man who promises to cut back on spending come January, knowing full well he is overspending on presents in December. How committed do you think they are to their goals?
Like many people who put off changing destructive behavior until some arbitrary future date, they are probably just fooling themselves.
Changing behavior is a lifelong process, not a game that begins on a certain day and time. And the process begins with understanding not only what you want to change in your life but also why you want to change it.
Do you think losing a few pounds will make you more attractive to the opposite sex, which in turn will lead you to finding your soul mate with whom you will live happily ever after? Or do you want to lose weight to be healthier and live longer?
It has been scientifically proven that overweight people who lose pounds by adopting healthy diet and exercise regimens do live longer.
But it has not been proven that losing weight will lead to everlasting love and happiness.
The former is a realistic goal; with patience and perseverance, it can be met. But the latter is a fantasy that can quickly lead to disillusionment and abandonment of improved behavior when the desired outcome is not realized. So, the first step to lasting change is to reflect honestly on your desires and determine what is drawing you toward particular outcomes.
This will enable you to differentiate between goals that are based on wishful thinking and those that are sensible. Once you have identified realistic goals that are backed by sincere motivations, you can take action.
People who consistently attain their goals recommend breaking each goal into small, sequential steps that will each lead toward attainment of the larger goal.
For instance, you cannot increase your bottom line by $1,000 per month overnight. You have to devote time and effort to identifying and carrying out certain basic steps. These will differ depending upon each person's unique circumstances.
Perhaps you need to devote an extra hour each work day to phoning merchants in your portfolio and offering them value added services.
Or maybe you need to stop letting warm lead information pile up on your desk and follow up on each lead immediately by sending an e-mail and then phoning to set up an in-person visit.
Perhaps you need to break into a new geographic area or pursue an emerging vertical market to forge a path to your financial goal.
The important thing is to define your path and stay the course, making refinements as necessary along the way as you learn what works best.
It is one thing to vow to change your ways; it is quite another to actually follow through. If you're not serious about making changes, New Year's resolutions are a waste of time - promises that are never kept.
And broken promises - the ones you make to yourself as well as to others - can be more damaging than making no promises at all.
But promises you keep are blessings indeed that will pay dividends - personally and professionally - for years to come.
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