By Amanda Gore.
Time is so precious that we are flat out getting the basics done. How long is it since you stopped and thought about how your life is going – even if it seems to be going well? And asked yourself the questions we most need to ask: Am I happy? Am I angry? How do I feel? What needs to change about me?
It may help to pretend you are in a helicopter up above your life looking down on it. What do you see? Is the person who looks like you leading a joyful, calm life? What advice would you give the person in that life? (I know it’s you, but pretend you are observing someone else and living them wise advice). Help them to live a more fulfilling and satisfying life by giving them the advice you feel they need to hear.
What does that person need to do? Or is there something that person wants to do but isn’t?
Do they need to have more (or some) time for themselves? Do they need to laugh more, play more, lighten up? Exercise more? Study harder? Sleep more? Give up smoking? Lose weight? Be kinder? Love better? Eat properly? Be nicer to their parents? Siblings? Change jobs? Leave behind a relationship that isn’t working? Do things to reduce their stress levels? Meditate regularly? Have a massage once a week? I was thinking about New Year resolutions and what usually happens to them. We forget them! Or it’s too hard. Or we change our ways for 2 weeks on holidays and then return to normal habits and the culture we left which reinforces the unhealthy old habits we are planning to give up.
So, here are some strategies to help you make those changes you think you want to or know you should…
1. You can change easily if you REALLY WANT to change!
We have lots of little parts that pull us often in different directions and most of those parts want to make the change but there’s one persistent part that clings onto the old habits or patterns. And that’s often enough to pull us down. If you are aware of this part (or it may be a couple of parts), you need to negotiate with it/them. I know this sounds bizarre but it works! Talk to the part, thank it, acknowledge it by knowing that it has your best interests at heart and that the behavior it wants you to continue would have worked for you at some time. It’s just that it’s no longer useful. So discuss it and see, hear or feel what has to happen for that part to relinquish it’s hold onto the old and allow in the new. It may need to be acknowledged and given a very small role as a monitor to check that all is OK.
2. Make it simple.
I know we often think we’ll change every aspect of our thinking and transform our whole life to make things better – but it’s too much! Think of a series of small things or perhaps just one ‘biggie’! Or if there are several biggies then plan to tackle them over a longer period of time – like every two months start the new project, when the previous one has become a habit.
3. 'Chunk down’ BIG resolutions into small steps.
Make sure the steps are manageable and they don’t upset your routine dramatically. When we aim a dart at a dart board, if the second we throw, our hand moves a fraction, we miss the target by miles (and often pierce someone else’s foot – just joking!). In the same way, small, consistent changes now can make dramatic changes in the long term – and relatively painlessly!
4. Give yourself rewards when you keep to your resolution.
Probably not chocolate if you are giving up sweets! But something you really feel is a special treat so you have something to keep you on track when you are being tempted. They can be simple rewards or something like a holiday at a wonderful resort. It has to be something that would motivate you, that your brain perceives as a celebration.
5. Accept ourselves as we are.
Be careful to tell ourselves that we have been doing the best we could, given the skills and knowledge that we had at the time. So we need to be gentle with ourselves. It’s just that now we have some new information that may have made a difference to our thinking and made us decide to change our previous ways. And forgive ourselves for how we have been behaving or for having some of these habits! Instead of berating and beating ourselves up as being bad and feeling that we should have known better, or been better, or done better, be kind to ourselves. It’s OK to not be perfect (something I have to keep reminding myself!).
6. Set up some support mechanisms.
It helps to surround ourselves with people that applaud the changes we want to make and that will help us stick to our ‘guns’. People who will pat us on the back for succeeding and who will gently help us back on track when we veer off course. Or find people who might want to change with you.
7. Work out why you want to change and keep the change.
Think about what has been motivating or driving the behaviors you want to change, or what has stopped you from sticking to the new behaviors. Is it fear? Are you worried about what others might think? Do you tend to be motivated by the thought of a new ‘improved you’, or driven to change by the thought of an ‘unhappy, loveless’ you that you don’t like much? It helps to know if you have a ‘move away’ strategy or a ‘move towards ‘ strategy because you will have a better sense of how to stick to your resolutions. There are some ideas that may help you have a stronger resolve – just keep in mind people living a fulfilling and satisfying life acknowledge (among other things!) that they are human and it’s OK not to be perfect – we’re all doing the best we can and that’s pretty good in most cases.