Posted: 3:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, 2014
By Marla Tabaka
You meant well when you committed to those New Year's resolutions, but have you done more harm than good? Try this simple approach instead.
We're a couple of weeks into the New Year. How are you doing on those resolutions? Tired of going to the gym already? Are your profits on the rise yet? How's that new app that helps to improve your sleep working?
Sure, the New Year is a good time to reflect, revisit, and revise your goals, and even to take a little break from reality. But some people take their departure from reality a little too far. They set lofty, sometimes ridiculous goals, anticipate a 180 degree turn around in life and business, and basically set themselves up for failure.
Did you know that only 8 percent of the people who set resolutions are successful in achieving them? I believe that this sorry statistic reflects poor planning more than lack of discipline or ability. Perhaps I'm the one being unrealistic now but I have faith that most of us are capable of creating positive, healthy changes if we simply restate and reformulate how we are going to do it.
So let's take a look at some of the most common resolutions (you know, those that only 8 percent of us achieve) to see how to make them more realistic and achievable.
1. Lose Weight
You've decided that you've been carrying that extra weight around for way too long. This is the year! You're going to cut out all junk food and go on a strict diet, work out every day, and hop on the scale every morning. Lovely. I don't know too many people who have lost weight and maintained the loss with this plan, do you?
Try a less drastic approach after consulting your doctor. Instead of living a life of deprivation set out to educate yourself on healthy living. Introduce subtle changes into your life instead of an all or nothing approach. Get your exercise in ways that you enjoy, discover foods that you didn't know existed, and take baby steps like swapping out one unhealthy meal a day for a salad and protein drink. Most importantly, pay attention to how good you feel after a healthy meal or a bit of exercise; a journal is a good way to keep track of this (hey, maybe there's an app for that). When I discovered the effect that gluten has on my body I didn't commit to quitting all gluten, I love pizza way too much. Instead I cut back slowly and felt and saw the results, and it feels great! To tell myself that I can't have something simply doesn't work, but choosing to feel good does. I still indulge in pizza now and then but I am making the conscious choice to feel less than great. Sometimes that's ok, sometimes I opt for gluten-free pasta instead.
2. Get Organized
Some people have the organized gene and some don't. In my experience creative people tend to be less organized than the rest, and entrepreneurs are creative. But there is some truth in the fact that we are at our best when our surroundings are free of clutter so it's certainly a good idea to work toward being less of a clutter bug.
Instead of committing to being more organized in every sense, choose one area to work on. Will it be your desk, closet, car, or file cabinet? Add a reminder on your calendar to tidy up this area every few days and treat this time as if it were an important client call. When you're tempted to use your back seat as your office opt to take the papers and books inside and put them away instead. Small changes will lead to better habits.
3. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
Who do you know who does this? And what does it really mean? Again, I don't know anyone who literally enjoys every moment of every day. And if you're a busy professional there are things you have to do that just don't feel good, like fire somebody. Of course you should enjoy life, but if you expect to stop and smell the roses around every bend you're going to have blinders on, and that's just not a good idea.
Try a practice of gratitude instead of trying to take up permanent residency in the playground of life. As we write down and give thought to the great things that we experience every day it adds wonder and appreciation to our lives. I like doing this in the evening because I go through my day consciously aware of the little things that bring a smile to my face. Then I write about them later in the day. This routine may sound too simple to create any significant change but it's truly powerful. Give it a try and let me know how you feel after a couple of months.
4. Help Others in Their Dreams
Many entrepreneurs have what I call the vision beyond the vision. While you may have a vision of a profitable, successful business there is probably a driving force behind it. Often that force is about helping others live a better life. I feel this is a critical component to success, but helping others can become a very effective form of procrastination as well. Be careful that you don't put all of your attention on problems faced by others only to neglect your own, including profitability. Your dream may include helping others but if you don't see yourself making money doing it then you're destined to a life of struggle.
Put your dream first and include profitability. Many entrepreneurs tend to believe that making money through the act of helping others somehow dilutes their purpose. Not true! Money is affirming as well as necessary. If you're successful at helping a handful of people but you're broke, you won't be able to help the masses.
5. Spend More Time with Family
How can I criticize this resolution? The people who are important to you should be at the top of your list. But specifically what does "more time" mean? If you expect to be at every single soccer match and sit down to a family meal every night of the week without exception, you're about to let your family down. As an entrepreneur you will encounter problems that are bound to get in the way of this commitment from time to time. Your five-year-old probably won't understand that.
Instead of over-committing to those you love choose priority activities and focus on those, at least in the beginning. Set reminders on your smartphone to stop working at a certain time when you have a family commitment and stick to it. Getting home in time for dinner three days a week and actually making it happen is so much better than committing to five days a week and missing the target.
All in all be very specific in breaking down and defining your resolutions and set healthy expectations. It's good, actually critical, to reach beyond your comfort zone, but don't get crazy with it. You can always raise the bar in your goals, but if you set the bar too high and miss it altogether you won't feel good about yourself at all. This leads to giving up, and you are not a quitter!