Picture this: me, as a young girl, I’m sitting down to make a list. No, I’m not an organized child – it’s New Year’s and I’m writing my resolutions for the coming year. Fortunately, I was not encouraged to make a huge list, though often had around a dozen items. I had big dreams for all the things that I could change in that year. If only making the list made it happen. We all have faced the reality – it’s not that simple.
Creating new habits – changing our behavior – is difficult. We’re creatures of habit, and cannot decide on a “complete overhaul” and expect that we’ll pull it off. We need to train ourselves. That means that we need to start simply – with a very limited number of things. I’d even say that maybe even only one thing at a time. You can work on multiple things; though try to make it for different times during the day. If you want to try changing three things – choose things that are done throughout the day – one thing for the morning, one thing for the afternoon, and one thing for the evening.
Like any skill you want to have, you need to practice. You cannot learn to play an instrument overnight; you need to start with something relatively simple and then practice. And practice and continue to practice. Then you can move on to the next step in the process – and then practice some more. Eventually you’ll have the skills. It takes time and work to cement those skills for yourself.
Don’t become a nagging parent to yourself to practice whatever you’ve decided to work on. Hopefully you’re setting goals that you’re passionate about, and therefore want to succeed with. Yet, you’ll need to figure out when it makes sense to practice them. Put them into your schedule. It’s quite a phenomenon that when we put something into our schedule that we want to do, we more often actually do it.
If you’ve decided to make time to exercise, look at the next week (or two weeks or month) and decide when you’ll do it. The frequency is up to you, maybe you want to start slowly, and two days a week is all you can manage. If you have a schedule that allows you to block the same time on the same days, it makes it easier. If you have a more erratic schedule, just make sure you put time into the schedule. Don’t “play it by ear” waiting for the time to appear for your exercise, doing that just makes it more likely this goal will fall by the wayside.
Ideally, you’ll want to make time to review how you’re coming on your goals. If you’ve faltered along the way, you can consider what went wrong, make some adjustments, and begin again. On the other hand, if you’ve made good progress, you can think about whether you want to add some new goals.
It’s remarkably easy to dream big – you’re determined that you want to do this and that, ad infinitum. We want to stay on top of those regular tasks and have time to also do much more. At this time of year specifically, it’s traditional to evaluate the things we want to change and make resolutions for the transformative powers of the New Year.
When you examine your goals and priorities, don’t overwhelm yourself by a long list – whether you think about it once a year or many times. If you want to succeed, limit the goals to a small number. Then the challenge is – you need to put concrete steps into your schedule. You need to plan specifically what you are going to do. This applies to everything you decide to work on, at any time of year. ☺