Do you find that January is the month you decide to do something to get you moving towards your dreams?
Do you make endless New Year’s resolutions, spend a fortune on planners, write bucket lists, create vision boards and create a public commitment by telling all your Facebook friends that this will be your year?
Yes – you will hike across Mexico and start an award winning travel blog.
Yes – you will give up sugar and practise impeccable nutrition (and share it on Instagram, obviously).
Yes – you will finally stick to a beauty routine that will give you glowing skin, much to the envy of Kim Kardashian.
Yes – you will be calm, centred, loving and gentle even to those idiots who jostle you on the train in the morning and take up two seats?
All too often we set the bar way too high and then berate ourselves for giving up in the first week of January.
We all want instant change – but here’s the thing.
Change takes time. Results take time.
You have to learn new behaviours, new reactions, new thoughts and prepare yourself for the ways your changes will affect everyone in your life.
We’ve all heard stories about relationships dissolving when one partner loses the weight and regains their mojo – much to the displeasure of the other.
If your friendship group revolves around the habit you want to give up then you need to think about this.
In my many years working in an office, those who smoked would often have a tight-knit friendship circle born of many years freezing their butts off out in the cold with a rushed ciggie.
Those who gave up smoking were no longer part of that group.
Peer pressure has a huge part to play in our ability to say no, enough, time to stop.
Many self help tomes advise making a public commitment is a great way to get you moving towards your dreams because of the risk of the failure of embarrassment.
I’m not so sure. I think silence is better. Quietly move towards your goals without fanfare, seek help from the best people you can find – those who have achieved what you are setting out to do. Not those who would quite like to do it too but have never got round to it – but are still complete experts.
The biggest challenge is just starting, let alone maintaining the impetus to stay the course long distance. We’ll have that last drink tomorrow, eat that last cake tomorrow, go for our first run tomorrow.
So what can you do if your goal is really important – for example you need to lose weight for an operation, or you need to cut someone really toxic out of your life?
Here are 10 simple things you could try and they all revolve around changing what you say to yourself and taking baby steps.
Small changes can lead to massive improvements if they are manageable and don’t add to your stress levels. It is utterly pointless taking up something you know you’ll give up sooner rather than later because you will only succeed in lowering your self esteem and self confidence.
Instead of: I will get up at 6 am and run 3 miles
Try: I will jog on the spot for the length of Coronation Street (or your favourite soap)
Instead of: I will schedule at least 3 gym classes per week
Try: I will find the family some new swimsuits and go for a swim every Sunday with the kids
Instead of: I will give up all sugary foods
Try: I will give up cake during the week and treat myself to a couple of slices at the weekend.
Instead of: I will sit down to a home cooked meal every night
Try: I will cook three times a week and add extra home-cooked vegetables to any shop bought meals.
Instead of: I will save every penny towards my summer holiday
Try: I will start a savings account and put in £20 (or whatever) every month and use public transport instead of taxis.
Instead of: I will get rid of all my debt
Try: I will contact my local Citizens’ Advice Bureau and talk to them about creating a sensible savings plan to reduce my debts – ensuring the most important debts are paid off first (e.g mortgage and rent arrears).
Instead of: I will find the job of my dreams this year
Try: I will talk to someone already doing my dream job to see how they got started and what qualifications and experience they think I should get.
Instead of: I will speak up in every meeting and share my ideas
Try: I will ask for my idea to be included in the meeting agenda beforehand and make sure I speak up if the question “any other business?” arises.
Instead of: I will find the partner of my dreams
Try: I will smile and be more approachable, make sure I look my best whenever I leave the house and sign up to a reputable online dating site.
My point is that your dreams have to be broken down into actionable steps – and those steps should not be daunting or complicated.
Moving towards your dreams gradually means, I think, that you are far more likely to get there. As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
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