I’m curious, did you set any New Year’s Resolutions? Let me ask you, have you broken them already? Why is that?! Year after year we make ambitious resolutions and by February we’ve already broken them. I taught Jazzercise when I lived in New Orleans. Our busiest sign-up period was the first week of January. Classes would be filled to capacity with women (and men) who had every intention of living a fitter, healthier life after a holiday season of excess and often decades of inactivity. Yet by the first week of February, most of those who had made the resolution to get in shape were gone. Why is it? Why do we so often want to change but lack the follow-through to do it?
The dictionary says that a resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something. Making a resolution or a decision, however, does not always mean we will take action. And without taking action, a decision is not only a waste of time, it is actually detrimental to our emotional health. Think about it, you resolve to make a change in some area of your life and then you don’t take action, or don’t take sufficient action. As a result, not only do you not achieve your desired outcome, you are much more likely to expend energy berating yourself and feeling even worse than if you had never made the resolution. So what’s the solution?
What does it take to make a resolution and then stick to it? What does it take to make a firm decision and then take action? What does it take to really change?
The first thing I believe we must do is spend some time envisioning the outcome of whatever it is we want. What is the end result you’re looking for? What does it look like to you? If you can’t envision it or imagine it, then no matter how many plans you make, no matter how many vows you take, you simply are not going to make it happen. And if by some chance you do achieve your goal, it’s not likely to last. How many people have lost and then gained the same 10, 20, or 50 pounds over and over again? How many people have quit smoking only to start again when something stressful happens?
I believe it’s critical that we spend time really visualizing our desired outcome. Want to lose weight? Then see yourself looking fitter, leaner, healthier. What would you be wearing? What kinds of activities would you be participating in? See yourself in the mirror, pleased and happy with the person standing before you. Want to quit smoking? Then see yourself doing the things you enjoy without having that cigarette. See yourself out with friends, sitting through a movie, or spending a day relaxing without having to take smoke breaks. What would you do with the extra money you would save by not buying cigarettes? See yourself spending that money on something you’d really love to have or do.
Get the idea? Let this be an empowering time as you imagine your life the way you truly desire to live it. If any judgment or negative self-talk creeps in, shut it down and keep coming back to the positive images you’ve evoked. Remember, if you can’t conjure up images of your desired outcome, you’re going to find yourself struggling to achieve it. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “You’ll see it when you believe it.” Make your images as big and bright and colorful as you possibly can, and employ as many of your senses as possible. Can you hear it? Smell it? Taste it? Feel it?
Once you have the picture firmly in your mind, the next step is to decide why you want to make the change or achieve the goal. It’s the why behind the change that really matters. I’ve heard it said that if the why is big enough, the how shows up. That has certainly been true in my life. I remember going back to college as an adult. I had two children, a husband, a full-time job, and a very busy life. But I knew that graduating from college was important to me because I wanted to make my mother proud. I wanted her to know that all of the love and support and encouragement she gave me as I was growing up had not gone unnoticed and unappreciated. She was a single mom and wanted so much more for me than she had been able to achieve for herself. That was my big why. And it powered me through the almost six years it took me to graduate summa cum laude from Loyola University.
When you get a firm grasp as to WHY your goal is so important to you, the next step is to decide. This is a critical part of the process. Tony Robbins says that it’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. Your history does not equal your destiny. The choices you make today are creating your tomorrow. So when you make your desired change a “must” and truly decide you are going to change, then all the necessary components you need just seem to line up. You’ll meet the right people, read the right book, see the right video, whatever you need to get you from where you are to where you want to be. When I decided to go to college at the age of 28, everything in the Universe seemed to line up to assist me to achieve my goal. From finding the right school to finding the right people to help me be a full-time mom and a full-time employee and a full-time student, the perfect tools and the perfect people kept showing up just when I needed them.
The final step to achievement is to create an action plan and then implement that plan. Yes, you read that correctly; it’s the LAST step! Without the vision, the purpose and the decision, the plan will not have the juice to get us (and keep us) motivated, empowered, or inspired to change. It will seem like another “have to” rather than the exciting “get to” that creates lasting change. Our plan must be specific and action-oriented, with clear and measurable milestones outlined so we can chart our progress towards our goal. And, we must be prepared to reward ourselves when we hit those milestones. It’s the best way to train ourselves to keep making progress. Just don’t make your plan too complex. As my teacher Tony Robbins say, “complexity is the enemy of execution.”
So there you have it. The key to making lasting change is simple (I didn’t say it was easy; I said it was simple). First, envision your OUTCOME. Second, find you BIG WHY. Third, DECIDE to make this change. And lastly, create and implement your Massive Action Plan (your MAP). If you are ready for a New Year and a New You, then consider taking some time to work through these steps…after all, YOU deserve it! Don’t let “Sweet 2016” be another year that you make and break your resolutions; let it be YOUR time. The life that you desire and deserve is waiting for YOU!