Consider The Alternative
(Just get real about what you want.)
Another new year and another fresh start.
Client: "This is the year. I'm telling you. This is the year that I get it done."
Me: "Awesome. Why is this the year? What's different?"
Client: "I'm totally committed. I mean, I HAVE to be. It's time. This is IT."
That was two years ago. Turns out, it wasn't the year.
For my client and a lot of other people.
The lure of New Year's resolutions is incredible. Some people dive in and construct an entirely new vision for their life. Others stand defiant against the tradition to make a point. Unfortunately, by mid-January very few people are on a path to creating positive changes in their lives.
How can you break the cycle this year... and finally get what you really want?
This Is The Year
We've all heard it. Who are we kidding? We've all said it.
THIS is the year I'm going to:
- get my weight under control
- stop eating junk food
- be a better partner
- be a better parent
Or THIS is the year I'm going to:
- find work/life balance
- get organized at work
- learn something new
- make a job change
We start out with conviction and energy. We're committed. We try to focus. We think that determination and willpower will help us wrangle a change to the ground. I mean, it's a new year. A fresh start. We can be different. Smarter. Better. Successful.
And then real life gets in the way. We slip a little. We slip a little more. We tell ourselves that we can't do it - we're a victim of circumstance. Or we beat ourselves up for failing to make a change. Why can't we do this?
Turns out, deciding we want something different isn't enough.
Pushing a rock up a hill because we "should"... isn't enough.
Willpower? Commitment? Control? Nope.
We create positive change in our lives (and at work) by doing something else entirely.
Break The Cycle
We're smart enough to know that we can't do the same things over and over again and expect different results. (Well, sometimes we're smart enough to know that.)
We try to change our thinking. We try to plan and organize and take action.
It still doesn't always work. What is it that breaks the cycle? What allows some people to create lasting positive change in their lives when others can't get it done?
I'll go on record. I think three things make all the difference in changing your life. Just three. Answer these three questions and watch what happens.
1. What exactly do you want?
More often than not, we know what we don't want, but we're not completely clear on what we do want. We think in broad strokes vs. specific details. Most of us have been conditioned to avoid disappointment at all costs, which is why we hesitate to declare what we really want in life. We may not get it and then we'll feel like a failure. Worse yet, others will know we failed.
Here's the deal. If you're not completely clear on what you want, you probably won't get it. Be specific. Imagine that you can't possibly fail - what does success look like for you? What do you really want? And if that seems unrealistic, what's your next best alternative?
Example: If you want work/life balance, what does that mean for you? Leaving the office by 6pm? Working a normal schedule? Being home on the weekends? Being able to relax at night? Being home for dinner with your family? Attending your kid's events? Turning off your phone or computer when you're out of the office or on vacation? Staying home vs. traveling as much? Working one job instead of two? Having time to do recreational activities during the week? Sleeping just one more hour a day?Picture the exact thing you want, and you're (always) much more likely to get it.
2. Why do you want it?
One of the things we're taught early in life is that we need to work hard to get what we want. We have to show determination and willpower to improve our lives. No doubt. I'm a believer. (Sort of.)
What I've learned over the years is that it's much harder to achieve anything in your life when you focus on the what (do this, don't do that) vs. the WHY. Why are you doing this in the first place? Why do you want this new outcome in your life? What's your "real" motivation? Why does it matter if you succeed?
Example: Why do you want better work/life balance? Do you crave more time with your partner? What would you do with that time? Do you want to talk with your children at the end of each day and tuck them into bed at night? Are you wishing for more time to focus on your health and fitness? What exactly would you do on a daily basis? Do you wish you had time to read a book or two? Do you want to volunteer in the community? Pick up a hobby? Stop feeling burnt out and invest time in your own development? Start to love your job again because it isn't overwhelming your life?It's hard to make a positive and lasting change in your life if you can't connect to why you're making the effort in the first place. Why bother?
3. How will you feel when you get what you want?
Once you know what you want and why you want it... you're well on your way to being motivated to get it. So how do you get off to a good start? How do you stay motivated over time? Think of how you'll feel when you get what you want. The contrast between how you feel today and how you want to feel instead is incredibly powerful.
When you want to make a positive change in your life, the pull of "feeling good" is strong. Feeling good is much more motivating than a to-do list or a sense of obligation to try and achieve what you said you would. How will you feel when you achieve what you really want?
Example: How will you feel when you have work/life balance? Will you feel relieved to have less pressure and competition for your time? Balanced and happy as you come home at night? Engaged as a partner? Worthy as a parent? Productive in your work? Active in your community? Connected to your friends? Healthy and fit? Well-rested and energized in your life?The more you connect to the feeling of success, the easier it will be to stay focused on that outcome. In fact, what if you started feeling that way now, just by taking one step at a time toward your goal? It's a powerful motivator, the feeling of success.
New Year's resolutions have been proven ineffective over and over again. The best of intentions don't always lead to positive and lasting change in our lives. It's not enough to declare a lofty goal and try to take action.
This year, change it up. Choose not to make and break New Year's resolutions. Focus instead on what you really want in your life. What do you want? Why do you want it? How will you feel when you get it?
If you refuse to give up on the emotional pull of this process and stay fully connected to how success feels, you're much more likely to achieve it.
Consider this. It isn't the goal itself that matters. It never is. It's how you'll feel when you achieve it. That feeling... is all you ever wanted in the first place.
PS: Happy New Year! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article. If it was interesting to you, please consider passing it along. The social media buttons below make it easy to pay it forward.