This is a time when many people traditionally reflect on the past year and try to identify ways in which to make the coming year a better one. They want to look forward to a new year with hope and resolve to become a better person in some way—to lose weight, to stop smoking, to become a more competent professional, a better friend, family member, parent or mate. They make a firm resolution to accomplish this goal and things start off with a bang. That is until about mid-January when, well, the whole idea begins to feel more like a one-night-stand than a commitment.
According to an article in Psychology Today written by Hara Estroff Marano, there is a much more effective way to go about this.
In her article, Ms. Marano explains that most resolutions are made out of fear and desperation (beginning to sound like a one-night-stand?). Those energies, however, can drive motivation only a few weeks. But, the only energy that can sustain success is, in her words, “Falling in love with your future.” How does this happen? It takes time, planning, and understanding. “It’s like building a house. You start by creating a blueprint of the finished house—creating an image of the ‘future’. This is how you get to know, understand, and appreciate what you are about to do.” It also builds anticipation and even a love of the project. You don't just decide to build a house, run to Hornbach’s, buy whatever materials are on hand and start building. Unfortunately, that is how most people build their lives.
She goes on to explain that extensive research has shown that these almost spur-of-the-moment resolutions never survive the challenges and stress of daily life and normally fail within a few weeks (kind of like daybreak the morning after).
Ti Caine, a hypnotist and life coach based in Southern California, outlines an approach that has proven successful with coaching clients. Caine advises people to take it slowly, and don’t expect total change immediately. Take a realistic look at what you want to accomplish, then reverse-engineer that goal and create the steps needed to get you there. Go into the detail of actually creating a vision, a blueprint, of what the future will look like when you achieve your goal—how you’ll feel, how you’ll look, how you will be perceived by others, and how your life will be better using your own metrics of success. That way you are creating a picture you can “look” at every day, especially when the going gets tough.
This picture should be supported by a rationale that explains why this goal is important—is it health, is it career growth, is it financial—and what makes this goal important to you and how it connects with your core beliefs. Now, you are ready to get excited, even fall in love with something, something that is becoming more and more real because of the thought and process you’re putting into it. The next thing is mapping out the small steps that will bring you closer to your goal with every passing day.
Ask yourself questions like what steps need to be taken to achieve this goal in the timeline you have decided on? When will you benchmark your progress—in two hours, two days, two weeks, or two months…when? How will you know you are succeeding? The more specific you become in each of these elements, the more committed you become and the less overwhelmed you are because you know exactly what you have to do, how you are going to do it and when.
This front-end investment in thinking and planning give you something to hang onto when fatigue or doubts are whispering in your ear to give up and pursue another one- night-stand.
Now you’re ready to do the most important thing you will ever do towards the accomplishment of your goal, and that is to begin to take that first step. The ancient Asian proverb, “The longest journey begins with a single step” has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years for a reason. It’s true and it works.
So, what will it be for you in the New Year—more one-night-stands, or are you ready to fall in love with your future?