That short period when one year is coming to a close and a new year is beginning is often a time set aside for reflection. It is a time when we take stock of our careers and lives. We make resolutions and promise ourselves we will keep them.
Often, what we are saying is that we want to change in some way. Perhaps we want to change how we spend money so we can save more, change our diets so we can lose weight, or change how we interact with others so our relationships can be more fulfilling.
The changes we seek are always positive. Our thoughts are focused on how we can be better people and professionals, however we choose to define "better." But then, of course, you know what tends to happen a few weeks into the new year: many of us have done nothing about what we'd passionately resolved to change on New Year's Eve.
That's the problem with an end-of-the-year mentality. It feels good to make promises to ourselves. We sometimes even convince ourselves that making these promises means we are taking action and making changes. However, too often, we stop there. The key is to put our resolutions into action.
The difference between making the promise and making the change is doing the work. One way to jump start action is to write the resolution down on paper. Don't just type it into your computer and save it as a Word file. Make it tangible. Write it down with pen and paper and display it prominently, whether on your refrigerator door or the bathroom mirror. This will help you remember in March the promise you made to yourself in January.
The goal is to develop a deliberate, self aware approach to action, as opposed to acting impulsively. For example, leaning on your car horn when traffic is not going fast enough for you is a reactive response to a frustrating situation. But blaring the horn never makes rush hour traffic bend to your will.
It is better to channel frustrations in a productive direction. A note attached to the refrigerator that says, "Relieve stress by exercise, not by overeating," provides a reminder to keep you on track.
Take small steps. If you try to make a change in one fell swoop and be done with it, you are less likely to succeed. Making a change is a process, not an event. Change involves taking one step, then another and another until the change becomes your normal behavior.
For example, losing weight and keeping it off are two distinct outcomes. If you starve yourself, you are assured of losing weight. But you won't keep the weight off if you expect to stay alive.
However, if you reduce your intake of processed sugar, you will experience a boost in energy, which might spur you to take walks at lunchtime. Slowly, you will start to lose weight and feel better. That feedback loop builds on itself until you find yourself rarely craving sugar. The change is becoming permanent.
Never give up when you hit a roadblock. There will always be obstacles to achieving your goals. If you falter, don't get down on yourself. You will never be perfect. Just get back up and try again.
Although change is difficult, it is profoundly satisfying when you succeed at it. Achieving one goal is evidence that you have enough control to achieve another, and another. And this could spur you to embark on even grander makeovers that propel your life in new and exciting directions.
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