Tag Archives: success

Crowning off the Old, Stepping forth into the New

Did you know that 78% of people[1] do not achieve their New Year’s resolutions? And did you also know that over half of all New Year’s resolutions have been resigned to the bin of failure by January 31?

With this damming statistic, what’s the point of having New Year’s resolutions at all?

The New Year signals a new beginning just as the dawn of each day does. We tend to mark the ending of the old year and celebrate the beginning of the New Year, which gives us a much-needed boost of energy and motivation during the darkest part of year. Given that most of us take time off over the festive period, it is great to time to take stock of the old year and plan ahead for the New Year. And, the great news is, despite all those statistics, there are loads of people who achieve one or more of their New Year’s resolutions! The trick is to understand what these people do differently to those who abandon their resolutions within the first month.

You will be pleased to know that the difference that makes the difference in achieving New Year’s resolutions is not vastly different to what it takes to achieve goals!

So what makes the difference?

1. Crown off the old year

So many of us set new resolutions or just rehash the old (not achieved) ones, without truly taking stock and highlighting to ourselves what we actually achieved over the course of the past year. It is very human phenomenon to forget past achievements and take for granted, and not giving those achievements (and thus ourselves) the appreciation, admiration and pride that is due to them.

Collate your achievement profile for 2011

I invite you now to take one hour out your busy festive period, and really go back over this year, and discover and celebrate these achievements. Really challenge yourself to identify your achievements, your biggest learnings, your best memories, even if they seem small or insignificant to you, write them down! Also check out my earlier article on Celebrating your successes improves confidence and self-esteem!

Create an achievement board

To make this really fun, consider creating an achievement board (similar to a future vision board, just for past achievements) where you mark your achievements by month or by area with symbols, funky colours, memorable drawings or pictures of yourself.

Give awards for your achievements

How about giving awards to those achievements? Examples of achievement awards could be:

  • Most fun experience award
  • ‘I am so proud of myself’ award
  • Super happy award
  • Most challenging achievement award
  • Biggest learning award

Be really creative with those and make the awards ceremony really fun. This is also a fabulous exercise to do with your children (if you have any) or get group of girlfriends together and give each other awards!

Notice how you feel about 2011 once you have done that. I know, a lot of us may fall into the trap of cataloguing all the things we wanted to achieve, yet for some reason did not. If that is you, put these to one side until you get to step 2!

2. Focus on what is important to you

This may seem rather simple, however it is crucial. A lot of us set New Year resolutions (or any goals for that matter) for things that do not really matter to us. We set them because we feel we should because we did not achieve them the year before, other expect it of us or it is what everybody strives for.

Weed out de-motivating resolutions!

The thing is, if something does not truly matter to you, it will not motivate you to achieve it either. So, as a next step, list all your resolutions that you want to achieve (past, present and future) and consider the following questions (also check out my blog article on Motivation! ):

  • What is really important to you about that resolution?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What would happen if you achieved it?
  • What would happen if you did not achieve it?
  • How motivated are you by this resolution? (you could use a scale 0 (not at all)-10 (high), or high, medium, low to make this more real)

Ideally write the answers to your questions down for each resolution you have, and then consider the final question:

  • If you could achieve only one thing in 2012 out of all those listed, what would that be?

Really go into yourself and find out what truly excites and lights you up. You may have several resolutions or goals for next year that you truly wish to achieve. If so, list them in order of priority.

Make your resolutions SMART

Almost everyone will have heard of SMART[2] goals. It is an approach that has been proven to work well for most people. I invite you now to take your priority resolutions and make them SMART. For each goal make it

  • Specific and simple: what specifically do you want? When, where, how and with whom you want this?
  • Meaningful to you: what does this resolution look like, sound like, feel like when you have achieved it? How do you know unequivocally that you are on the right track and that you have achieved?
  • Achievable: where are you now and what resources will you need to achieve this goal? What are the smaller steps that you need to do to achieve the goal?
  • Realistic: given what else is going on for you, how much time, effort and energy can you devote to you resolution? Be real!
  • Timed and toward what you want: can you put dates to the small steps? And when are you going to take the first step towards you goal? Is the goal stated in positive language – what you do want and not what you don’t want. Also check out my blog article How serious are you about your goals?

 3. Stepping forth into the New Year

Now that we have weeded out those resolutions that don’t motivate you, and have made those resolutions that totally matter to you SMART, the final step is to increase the energy and motivation behind those resolutions to make them even more compelling and self-motivating.

Do one at a time!

Trying to work on all your resolutions at the same time, could be a step too far. This is backed up Richard Wiseman’s and other research. People who tend to fail in their New Year’s resolutions are trying to do too much in too short a time.

So, choose the one resolution that will make the biggest difference to you (either it is the most fun to do, will make the biggest impact on your life, is the easiest to accomplish, or any other criterion that works for you).

Spread out your resolutions over the year

And then, schedule in your other resolutions throughout the year. Be clear when you will start on each one, and when you will have accomplished it by. Consider using a vision board as a fun reminder and as a way to keep track of your progress.

If you would rather wait with scheduling in the other resolutions or you decided on one resolution for 2012, consider reviewing your resolutions each month and doing monthly resolutions, which are also very effective and keep motivation up.

Taking the first step increases motivation

Motivation is not just a feeling of energy towards a goal, it is also about using that energy to take the first step! And that first step is crucial. So be really clear, what your first step is towards your New Year’s resolution, and take it in the first week of January. No matter how small the step, you will find it is worthwhile.

The trick is to schedule the next step, as soon as the first step is completed and get into the habit to diarise the next step as soon as you have completed the previous step.

Share your resolution with others

Get friends and colleagues to support you in achieving your resolution. Most people around you want you to succeed. When you lose motivation or feel that it is not worth it anymore, those are the people who will root for you and help you get motivated again. And more often than not, sharing our resolutions with others opens up new, quicker and easier ways of getting what we want. So be brave and go public with your resolutions!

Let me know how you get on!

Enjoy.


[1] according to research conducted by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire.

[2] S-Specific, M-Measurable, A-Achievable, R-Realistic, T-Timed


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Getting rid of unwanted habits

We all have habits [1] that we want to get rid of or change. The topic of unwanted habits something that usually comes up during December or January, when we look back over our year, and remember those discarded New Year’s resolutions that we abandoned during the first two quarters of this year.

What are habits?

So before we get into how do we rid ourselves of those unwanted habits, let’s have a look what habits really are and how they formed. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a habit as “a behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance”. Big words, that just mean that we repeated a sequence of activities enough times to make them automatic and unconscious, i.e. now the habit just happens automatically (e.g. brushing teeth) and we often only realise that we ‘doing the habit’ when we are either half way through or experience the results of the habit.

Generally, habits help us to automate activities so we do not have to think about them. However, when these habits include drinking the 20th cup of coffee at work, unconsciously picking up and eating the 10th Mars bar at work or flopping onto the sofa after switching on the TV every night in a row instead of going to the gym, is when we want to think about breaking them and acquiring more useful and generative habits.

How are habits formed?

As with every habits at one point we did not have it and we had to learn it and make it automatic by doing the activities over and over and over again. The good news is, we can use the same strategy to change unwanted habits or acquire news ones.

They say that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, there are differing views on this. Some people say it takes 90 days for the body to get the habit into the muscle, other says it can be done in less than 21 days. My view is, if you just use repetition of an activity and willpower, unwanted habits take a lot longer to break than if you use some other key techniques in addition.

In this article I am covering three effective and easy to use techniques to break habits that you can use in parallel. These techniques work in conjunction with the repetition method mentioned earlier. If you feel you need a rapid and immediate habit [1] breaker I suggest you invest in a session with an NLP [2] Master Practitioner.

1. Satisfy the reasons behind the unwanted habit in a more useful way

Now how do we actually rid ourselves of those unwanted habits? Think of habit now, that you have and that you wish you didn’t have.

  • What does this habit give me?
  • What does it do for me?
  • What do I get out of it?

These are some really important questions to ask yourself. Habits are usually formed for a reason and generally with a good intention.  That is why force and willpower does usually not work. We will only become tense and more stressed because we are not satisfying the initial positive intention or reason for our unwanted habit. For example, the good intention of drinking lots of coffee during the day might be to ‘stay alert’, or the good intention for the switching on the TV and sitting on the couch after work might be ‘relaxation’.

So once you have discovered what the unwanted habit’s positive intention is, ask yourself:

  • What do I want instead, that will satisfy the positive intention and is more useful for me now and going forward?
  • How else could you achieve what the unwanted habit does for you?
  • What are three other ways to fulfill the purpose of the unwanted habit?

And really make sure, that whatever you choose instead, also fulfils what that unwanted habit did for you.

2. Catch the habit before it starts by finding its trigger!

Every habit has a trigger, something that sets it off. In order to change a habit useful to catch it before it starts. It is a bit like a washing machine cycle – once you pressed start, it is almost impossible to stop to put more washing in or choose a different programme as the machine has already filled with water.  We want to catch the habit before you even press the start button.

I invite you to walk through your habit step by step (and the best way is walk backwards) until you have found the trigger. Ask yourself the following:

  • How do I it is time to (do the habit)?
  • What sets me off? Is is something I see, is it something I hear or say to myself, a feeling, or a smell or something I taste. 
    A lot of habits are set off by visual triggers. For example going back to our TV example, it might set off by walking in the living room, setting down the key on the table and seeing the TV in front of you.

You might wish to take a few days to observe yourself, and see where you can interrupt your habit. Play around with it.

Once you know your trigger, you are in control  of the habit and can make a decision at the trigger point to do your habit or not. And, you can use a distraction to remind you to do something else instead. So for the TV example, instead of coming into the living room where you see the TV, you might want to go into the another room first or place the TV elsewhere.

3. Increase the speed of adopting the new habit by using visualisation – mental walkthroughs!

As we know habits are formed by repetitions. To adopt new habits quicker to repeat them as often as you can. That is not always practical physically. Visualisation or mental rehearsal is a great technique to use. Map out mentally in as much detail as you can, using images, sounds, feelings (smells and tastes if appropriate) to create your new habit from trigger to finish – like a mental movie, and then replay this in your mind as often as you like. Make your mental walkthrough fun. Play around with the movie and its attributes, for example make it brighter, more colourful, slower, quicker and find out how to make the most compelling for you.

The great thing is, that you can do this anywhere, at the bus stop, while waiting for the train or even in a break in the office. I would not recommend doing this while driving a car.

And then, practice, practice, practice every time when you notice your trigger, make that different decision!

My tip would be to focus on one habit at a time. Even though you might now be totally fired up to change all your unwanted habit, these processes work best when we focus on one habit at a time. And once you have changed one habit, you will find the next one will be even quicker and easier to change.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on!

[1] Habits in this context do not include addictive behaviours e.g. addiction to drugs, food or other substances. For these, please consult a medical professional.

[2] NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Celebrating your successes improves confidence and self-esteem!

Let me ask you a question:

How often do you celebrate your achievements, milestones on the way to your goal or your successes?

And I do not mean, just your big achievements like a promotion or getting a new job. I mean the little milestones without which you would not be able to achieve the big goals. Things like finishing a piece of work quicker than you thought, making that next sale, doing something different during your work day, spending time on your self-care or completing one action of your action list!

You might question why one would celebrate these ‘small’ things? My answer to you is, most women take ourselves and our achievements for much too granted. What most women tend to do, and in fact most workplaces also have this culture, is to highlight when things go wrong and are not quite up to standard but to take things going well for granted. This creates an imbalance and overemphasises the negatives whilst devaluing what we do well.

Celebrating success redresses this balance. At the same time it is a great way to raise and/or maintain your confidence and self-esteem level.

If you had to pick one thing this week to celebrate, what would that be?

This is important. I invite you to review your week and identify at least one activity or small goal that you can celebrate this week. Once you have this one (or more) celebration worthy goal, create a celebration for it. This might be going for lunch with a friend instead of eating it at your desk, it might be treating yourself to a spa session, taking a walk in the park or listening to your favourite piece of music. Other women like to imagine a stepping out of a car onto a red carpet and all the people around her clapping and hugging her. Pick a celebration that works for you! Make it fun!

Once you have done one celebration, make it a regular activity in your life. You will soon experience a different in your levels of self-esteem and of self-appreciation.

What do you  appreciate about yourself? 

A lot of women tend to downplay our achievements and  strengths. This does not necessarily mean that they are not confident in their abilities. It is often a sign that we take ourselves for granted. If you take  yourself for granted, guess how other people will perceive you? They will also  take you and your abilities for granted.

Take some time, and make a list of appreciation. Really go  into yourself and write down all the things you appreciate about yourself. Once  you have run out of ideas, write down what your friends, colleagues, partner  etc. appreciate about yourself. Regularly review this list and add to it. One of my clients has created a picture with all the things she appreciates about  herself and has hung this in her office (she works from home) so she can see it  every day and whenever she thinks of another thing she appreciates about herself  she adds it.

Other clients find it useful to keep a daily or weekly  appreciation or gratitude list where they record the 5 or 10 things that they  appreciate about themselves today and the 5 to 10 things they are grateful for today. It helps us to remember the great things of our day or week instead of  mulling over that one embarrassing or annoying mistake we made! It is good idea  to do this before you go to bed so you go to bed with positive thoughts rather  than negative ones. It might even improve your sleep.

I invite you to make celebrating and appreciating yourself part of your daily experience! Try different things and find out what works  best for you.

And notice how your world begins to change.

Feel free to share your experiences in this blog.

Enjoy.

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The TIME phenomenon – why is there never enough?

Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whenever I speak to clients, friends and other women about their goals and dreams, they often tell me: “I could not find the time” or “there is not enough time in the day to do everything I want”.

What this really means is: “I feel I need to do too many things in the time I have available” or “my goals are not that important to me”.

Time is a convenient scapegoat. A lot of us are ‘at effect’, meaning we prefer to put the blame for our choices and decision outside of us, on other people or even innocent concepts such as ‘time’.  If we took responsibility for our choices and actions we would be ‘at cause’, that is we take responsibility for whatever happens to us. If there is not enough time, it was our choice to prioritise other things over our goals. For a lot of women this will sound harsh, especially those among us who are already stressed out, battling to reduce their massive to do list by even 10 % or fire fighting between a multitude of conflicting priorities.

However, using the ‘never having enough time’ excuse to justify not achieving what we most want, leaves most women frustrated, stressed and/or feeling like they failed somewhere along the line. Over weeks, months and years, this can lead to erosion of self-esteem and confidence, chronic dissatisfaction and ill health. So what can you do about it? The first step is awareness!

Where do you feel time is controlling you? Use the next week to listen to yourself and write down the times you blame time for not achieving what you want, for not doing the things you wanted to do and feeling stressed. Also, write down the things you do do during that week; if you can, write down a detailed daily diary of how you spend your time.

Look at this list at the end of the week and see if there are any patterns emerging. Is it a particular area of your life that always gets neglected, a particular set of goals or activities that is always down prioritised or a particular group of people who are given less time that you wished?

What is important to you? The next step is all about being clear about ‘what is important to you’, your values and guiding principles in life. In order to successfully prioritise we need critieria to prioritise against. Our values are those criteria. Knowing these will help you to make decisions much quicker and enable you to say ‘no’ to things that do not match your priorities.

I invite you to make an appointment with yourself for at least 30 minutes and if you can 1 hour, and reflect on the following questions:

  • What is important to me?
  • What do I value?
  • What motivates me? What am I passionate about?
  • What makes me really happy?

You can either focus on a particular area of your life (e.g. work, family or relationships) or on your whole life. You will end up with a list of words and phrases that reflect your values (what is important to you). Review this list and then without thinking about it, quickly put the list of values into an order of priority starting with what is most important to you and ending with what is least important. When you do this you might like to ask yourself the question: “What from this list can I not live without?”

Re-aligning where you spend you time – Once you have your prioritised values list of what is important to you, check your daily diary and your ‘not progressed/not achieved’ list against your values and ask yourself:

  • Which activities that do not match my values am I now saying ‘no’ to?
  • Which activities that match my values am I now giving priority to?

I know it can be hard to do this exercise when time seems in short supply. It will pay you dividends to take this first step and take control of your time.  Don’t let time control you!

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