Saturday, March 9, 2019

11 REASONS MOST NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FAIL

Almost 11 weeks have passed since Jan 1st. How are your New Year's resolutions going? If you're rocking them, well... CONGRATS! You're one of the 20% of people for whom resolutions have not failed prior to February. If you think that's a low rate, only 8% of people succeed in keeping their resolutions at all!

So, if you made resolutions but have not been able to maintain them, fear not - you're hanging with about 92% of the population. If you're still working on them, but struggling, or if you left them somewhere back in January and you'd like to push the re-set button, I'm hoping something in this article will click to help you to set new goals, recalibrate, or just learn something that can inform your process the next time you're creating new intentions or habits.

1) TOO IDEALISTIC
I think about this in much the same way as when people order or serve themselves too much food, can't finish it, and then say, "My eyes were bigger than my stomach." At the time we set the goals, we were SO hungry for them and in a positive, optimistic space; however, we can't eat a month's worth of meals in one sitting. It's not that you'll never get there, but if the goals are simply too vast for the time frame you've allotted, don't hesitate to examine your strategy and re-calibrate the plan. If you do decide to revise your plan, you might start by considering if you’ve adequately contemplated the amount of time and energy needed to execute the action steps, whether daily, weekly or monthly, and in conjunction with your current life and responsibilities.


If you ultimately determine that you need to let go of one of your goals, make sure this  decision is based on your own analysis of your priorities and capabilities. Realism is completely subjective. People often need to make sacrifices in their lives, but it's YOU (and only you) who knows what you might be willing to give up or place aside in support of something you deem bigger and/or more important. Don’t completely abandon a dream based on your current perception of reality. Simply because you can't see a path, does not mean there isn't one. We don't know what we don't know. I love what Will Smith said, above, about being realistic:

2) TOO MANY!
LOL, this one is the story of my life. Although it's similar and related to #1, I think it needs its own line-item. If you tend to make to-do lists that are way too long, you can relate to this one. Does this sound like someone you know? There may not be anything inherently wrong with any of the items on the list, but you can't possibly get to all of them in a day, or whatever time frame you've set. Also, it's pretty good bet that not all of the items on your list are priorities.

You get to decide which goals to set or what to put on your task list at any given time, but if you notice that "re-design the header on your newsletter template" or "clean out your closet" is on the same list as "schedule overdue mammogram" or "finish preparing your talk" (that you're delivering tomorrow,) you might want to pare down the list. ;-) (See #11 for more thoughts about this one.)

3) UNATTAINABLE 
Being idealistic or even a bit unrealistic about the timeframe or strategy is not the same as setting a goal that is truly impossible for you to achieve. I'm not trying to be a buzz-kill, or taint anyone's dreams, but I do think it's important to examine whether the goal or dream is even potentially achievable for you. We need to be honest with ourselves about who we are, including our limitations, capavbilities and potential. What I mean here, is that my legs will NEVER look like Heidi Klum's, (not even if I started again from 10yo) no matter what I do. So, if that's what I'm shooting for, I'm guaranteed not to hit that goal. (or even come close) There's nothing wrong with aiming HIGH, even higher than you think you can achieve, which is exactly what many experts recommend; however, striving for the unattainable can only result in disappointment and perhaps set you back further than when you started.

3) SET BASED ON SHOULDS 
In case you’re not familiar with way I’ve used the word ‘should’ here, allow me to explain. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Stop should-ing yourself!?” The way it’s meant in that context, and how I'm using it here, is that it’s laden with guilt, judgment or a sense of obligation that you don’t need to own. When I test myself as to whether I’m using the word as intended, I substitute the phrase “It would serve me to . . . “ If it truly is something that would be good for me to do, in accordance with my own values, and whether I feel like doing it or not, that sentence will feel like truth.

Regarding your resolutions (or goals), think about why (or for whom) you set your intentions and whether they fall into any of the following categories: a) Made them for the wrong reasons; b) Didn't actually want to make ANY resolutions; c) They're not the right resolutions, i.e. you don't actually want to keep them, now or maybe ever. It's also a possibility that they do resonate, but they're not your priority right now. In any of the aforementioned scenarios, perhaps you felt pressure, real or imagined, to make these particular resolutions? If you're not sure if you've set your goals based on a SHOULD, try this experiment:

Go to a quiet space, relax, take a few deep breaths, 
and let them out slowly. Then state the goal 
to yourself and observe how you feel 
in your body as you say it.

What do you notice? Keep in mind, your brain can deceive you, but your body never lies.

5) LACK OF CLARITY
If you know what you'd like to achieve, generally, then GREAT! You are ahead of many folks and definitely on the right path. However, to make a plan to achieve a goal, we need to get very specific. For example, if your goal is to 'improve relationships with friends & family,' but you haven't considered what that truly means for you, how will you know what action steps to take to get closer to you goal? And how will you know when you have achieved the goal? Although our connections and relationships with people can't be quantified in the same way as money, number of clients, projects, pounds, or muscle mass, we do still need a way to measure or assess our progress. Perhaps you could start by asking yourself what's important about this 'thing' that you want. See more about this, below, in #6. 

6) NOT RESONANT ENOUGH
How is the goal (the specific thing you're working to achieve, in the short run) connected to your larger vision for yourself? Example – If you own your own biz as a personal organizer, your New Year's resolution may have been to transition from part-time to full-time. To make that happen, there are many potential action steps and each of those steps could be a separate goal. However, to obtain the final outcome, a viable full-time business, you'd be much more likely to achieve this if you have a real understanding about what, specifically is important about this for you. If your immediate thought is “Duh, I need/want to make more money and don’t want to get a J*O*B!”, ask yourself the same question – what’s important about that for me? Keep doing this until you peel the layers back to reveal how THIS GOAL connects to who you are and who you want to be in the world. It’s important to know how it connects to your core personal values and how you want to live your life and why. Yes, WOW! Having this knowledge can organically give you more motivation to work to achieve your goals. And, when things get really difficult, reminding yourself of your "BIG WHY" can be hugely helpful.

7) NO REAL STRATEGY OR POA TO ACHIEVE IT
You might have a wonderful resonant burning desire and even some goals to go with it, but if you don't have a plan to achieve it, the likelihood of success is pretty much nil. It's actually more like a fond wish. And yeah... you also have to follow the plan. 😉

8) NO SUPPORT SYSTEM
If you know you're someone who needs support outside of yourself, then DON'T GO IT ALONE! Further, if you have the support of one or two people and it doesn’t feel like enough, don't give yourself grief about it – just go and find more! Do whatever it takes and everything YOU can to help yourself get there. If you're not sure how to find more support, here are some ideas, in no particular order:
  • Accountability buddy or group;
  • Family/friend check-ins;
  • Tell people (& ask them to ask you about it);
  • Set up weekly support group/ck-in for others w/same or similar goals;
  • Find a local Meet-up group;
  • Create a mastermind group;
  • Blog about it
If you feel a bit stuck because you don’t have the resources (whatever form they may take) to connect with LIVE people you know, do it virtually! Reach out to groups or individuals on line, post your goals on Facebook, IG, Twitter or whichever platforms you use, to get some outside accountability. You could even set up a new Facebook group for people to support each other. Ask for help...

It’s been proven that having the right kind of support exponentially increases your odds of success. When I say right kind, what I mean is that you need to choose the person or people judiciously. Simply because a person is willing to help you does not mean it's the right person, even (and sometimes especially) if it's a family member. You do NOT want to enlist someone who could possibly (even subconsiously) have any other motive or agenda than YOUR success in achieving your goal. NO ENERGY VAMPIRES!

9) LIMITING BELIEFS
My favorite way of viewing limiting beliefs is by calling them Gremlins, a term coined by Rick Carson in his classic book, Taming Your Gremlin. Gremlins are evil vile creatures whose only purpose is to stifle the true you and keep you playing small and safe and very much within your comfort zone. He does this by manipulating you to believe that your negative thoughts are true.

Whether you refer to these thoughts as limiting beliefs, saboteurs, inner critics, gremlins or something else, the net effect is the same; they show up when you are even pondering venturing out of your comfort zone. here are a couple of the most common ways they manifest: 

     > Fear - of achieving or NOT achieving 
                   your goals and dreams

     Unworthiness - that we don't deserve it, 

                                   whatever the IT is...
 
This section really warrants more than a few paragraphs, but I'll just share one more thought:  If you are even hinting at contemplating any kind of change, the gremlins will almost assuredlys how up to tell you what an utter and complete nincompoop you are. Gremlins are the guardians at the gates of change.

10) BAD TIMING
Life is about balance, but it's a myth to think that everything can be in balance at the same time, all of the time. If you have too much going on that absolutely needs your time, attention and energy, it might not be the best time to start something new or add to an already bursting-at-the-seams schedule. However, it could be that what you're adding is something that will give you more energy and actually help you to better manage your current load. On the other hand, it's possible that when you originally made the resolution, your life was not as it is now. If something urgent and unexpected occurred after you started a new plan, perhaps you need to postpone it until the dust settles. Be careful, though - it's easy to use bad timing as an excuse instead of a valid reason. When thinking about bad timing for creating a new habit, I can't help but think of scenes from one of my all time favorite quotable movies:  PICKED THE WRONG WEEK

11) YOUR BRAIN WIRING IS NOT CONDUCIVE (ADHD)
I placed this section last on purpose. (I'm currently resisting my ADHD brain's urge to list a bunch of funny resons why I might have done this...) It's at the end because, regardless of how you are wired, any of the previously-mentioned reasons could potentially apply to you.  So now, in addition to what's extremely challenging to achieve for most people, consider this: some of the primary symptoms of ADHD include distractibility, impulsivity, trouble controlling focus, and difficulty with executive functions, the cognitive management system of the human brain. Two of several executive functions of the brain include:
  • Activation (organizing, prioritizing and starting) and
  • Effort (maintaining continued persistence toward a task or goal) 
My intention here isn't to provide a separate list of reasons for folks for with ADHD; it's to point out that our brain wiring often makes it even more difficult to set and achieve goals.

For more info about executive functions, 
see Dr. Thomas Brown’s model here: 

WARNING:
Be very careful if you think SHOPPING for items related to your goal is a helpful initial action step. You know what I’m talking about, right? If you decide to organize your office, you may find yourself AT Staples before you’ve even considered the plan, or done an inventory of office supplies you already have. If getting into better shape is your goal, and as soon as you have the thought, you’re on your computer, researching running shoes, sports bras or heart monitors before you’ve decided when, how and what kind of exercise you plan to do, PUT ON THE BRAKES! Just know that this is about impulse and the dopamine hit you get from shopping, thinking about shopping and new things, (including information.) In addition, sometimes going down this kind of path for an immediate dopamine fix can distract us from, or obviate the need to actually take any real action toward the goal.You may truly need to buy something to help you, but hold off until you know if you truly need it and have started, or at least considered the action steps needed, to achieve your goal. (And preferably, as a reward AFTER starting to work toward your goal.)

If you have made it all the way down to here, congratulations for re-visiting your resolutions! A few final thoughts: 

If you started the year off with a bang, got off course and never got back on, it's not too late! It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

Just keep swimming . . .
Stay in ACTION so you don'tbackslide. At the same time, know that sometimes a conscious choice to just stay still, to regroup, plan or process can also be a form of action. The key is to make sure that whatever you're doing, (or not doing) is intentional and in service of your grander vision of your life.

Whatever it is that you’re striving for right now, when you get there, (after congratulating and rewarding yourself, of course) keep in mind that although you’ve reached this destination, it’s not the end of your journey, as we’re always in process… 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

CLEAN UP AS YOU GO

Clean up as you go is a strategy I learned many years ago from my extremely neat & tidy next-door neighbor. Initially it pertained to yard work, but since then, I've applied it to many types of tasks and projects. My problem is that although I tend to begin projects with much exuberance and expectation, at some arbitrary point while mid-task, a switch is flipped and all motivation, desire, interest and energy to continue or complete whatever is it that I'm doing simply disappears. I know when it's happened because the only thing I hear in my head is:

D O N E.

I don't necessarily get a warning of this impending shift. I don't know why or when it will happen and I don't know who or what is doing it.  I only know that when the switch goes from 'ON' to 'OFF', I can't do the thing for one more minute. That's it. Just. Done. The end. 


The problem with this, aside from a persistent sense that I'm playing some sort of warped game of Russian roulette with my own free will and energy, is that it leaves messes and unfinished jobs which often require additional time and work later on not only to clean up the messes but to figure out where I was in the process. And sometimes, mess begets more mess. Sometimes, stuff gets ruined or lost. In practical terms, it looks like this: I go outside feeling motivated and decide to trim the hedges. I'm very focused, committed, motivated and I cut LOTS of bushes and branches. I put them in piles, with good and pure intentions of picking up the piles and putting them in yard bags when I'm done trimming.  (You see where this is going, right?) After the switch has been flipped, it’s entirely possible for the piles, bags and possibly even the clippers, rake and garden gloves to end up exactly where I left them for days, weeks or longer. Either I never regain enough motivation to complete the task or I don't even remember - out of sight, out of mind. Evidence of this uncompleted project might not come into my sight of vision or mind until the following spring, after the snow has melted. (Yeah, neighbors love this.)

Now, when I trim hedges or do any job that involves making a mess as part of the task, I clean up as I go. (most of the time) If someone were observing me it could appear that I'm not being very efficient with my time, or that perhaps I have a touch of OCD. However, the relatively small amount of extra time this takes pays BIG dividends when your brain wiring short circuits and you are - d-o-n-e. It's also helpful if you are interrupted mid-task for reasons outside of your own self, such as the needs of small children or pets, unexpected weather, or drop-in company.

If you’ve never used this strategy before and decide to give it a try, let me know if it helps! 






Friday, January 27, 2017

ON CONQUERING PROCRASTINATION

When at all possible, work with your unique brain wiring, or biology. There are so many strategies, programs, and theories that profess to be THE answer to 'finally' conquering procrastination. However, the real best strategies are the ones that actually work for you. Period. There isn't one correct answer. 

The strategies that do work for you are often those you create on your own by continuing to tweak, adjust, modify and 'enhance'. You can only accomplish this through trial and error, mixed with a generous portion of creativity. And, you must be willing to experiment and fail. This is not only okay; it's a necessary and crucial part of the process.  The more you know about what does not work for you, and why, the closer you get to figuring out what does work.  

If a strategy dictates that THE sure fire way to overcome procrastination is by getting up at 5 am every day and working on what you need to accomplish before you even have your morning coffee, notice how it resonates for you. If you are so not a morning person or the thought of even uttering a simple sentence to someone before your first cup of coffee makes you twitchy, this method is unlikely to work for you. Do you know when your peak performance times are? If so, design your strategy around those times. 

When you hear JUST DO IT,  if you want to roll your eyes, growl and mumble expletives under your breath (or shout them) at the person who offered you this oh so useful tip, pay attention to that feeling. If this actually worked well for most people, there would not still be so many folks in serious pain from the high price they pay for chronic procrastination, which is compounded by their negative self-judgment since these 'simple' strategies don't work for them.  Also, if it does work for you with some things and not others, don't continue to try to use it for everything.  There is no universal best way and since we don't typically have the same reason for putting off each task, it stands to reason that we may need to apply various methods. 

If you know you work best in 15-minute spurts, do that! If you need to play oddly loud baroque music or Gregorian chants to get the dishes done or the laundry folded, or if it helps your creative flow, DO IT! If you need to dance while you vacuum or prepare for a meeting, then do that. If going to a coffee shop or the beach or the car wash helps you to focus to problem solve or get your thoughts together to make a plan . . . (you know what comes next) DO IT!

What works for you IS what works for you.  Be creative, keep practicing, keep failing, and keep starting again. Your brain is neuroplastic, so exercise it.  Lather, rinse and repeat, repeat, repeat. Practice makes progress. 



Monday, January 9, 2017

Rock Your Bottom?

A gradual sinking can prevent immediate awareness of having hit bottom. One day, you look  up and wonder how you got there. Are you even at the bottom? What does bottom look like? Of course it's relative, and in my opinion, bottom is simply as far as you will allow yourself to go before you do whatever is needed start to move from where you are.


As in every area of your life, comparisons are rarely motivational. As Teddy Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Just as you define success for yourself, you are entitled, and perhaps even mandated, to determine what failure means. Does hitting the proverbial rock bottom mean you're a failure? Of course not! YOU are not a failure! However, you may have failed in one or more endeavor or area of your life. And that's ok - more than ok, even. Own it. Feel it. Deconstruct it. Embrace it. LEARN from it. Find all of the lessons this experience offers, and then use them to start over, try again, try differently or completely change the plan and even the goal.

Sometimes, delusion and denial can serve us for a time; often, we need it to keep us safe and functioning.  At some point, though, it just keeps us stuck.  And when we feel paralyzed or stuck and know we've been hiding (either from others or from ourselves) it's likely time to look within to see if there is something(s) we are resisting or at least failing to acknowledge. Since what we resist persists, and also robs us of precious energy, the first and most important action is to truly acknowledge that we have, in fact, been resisting, denying, ignoring or otherwise not dealing with what we know is so. There is simply no real movement before we take this step. Even if doing this feels really icky, painful, uncomfortable and heavy, it will weigh much less than denying its existence and carrying it around, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What is that it? Whatever IT is for you.  We will all have more than one it throughout our lives. It will change and/or recur. And I submit that we cannot actually hit bottom until we wake up and own whatever it is we've been squashing down because IT has been squashing us down too. 

Your own hitting bottom need not necessarily involve drugs or alcohol, near-death, serious injury, hospitalization, incarceration, or homelessness, but sometimes it is that stark. It doesn't have to be.  Bottom for you may just be the day you look up and say, "How the hell did I get here and who is this person who looks like me but isn't?"  If you do find yourself in that place, after you go through whatever personal process is needed, then it's time to celebrate, because if you've determined that you've "hit rock bottom", there is only one way to go from there!  Perhaps you could put on some music and rock YOUR bottom!