The New Year’s Re-solution

Why is it that this time every year we think about those things we want to change in our New Year’s resolutions? What is a resolution anyway? A resolution is usually something that we’re trying to do again because we didn’t quite have success the first time. In this case, we truly are looking for a re-solution. Perhaps a few steps will help examine our behavior with a new perspective.
Making even a simple change can seem insurmountable once the endeavor begins. We often find ourselves routinely slipping into our old habits; bringing us back to the behavior we want to change, and eventually asking ourselves why can’t we make the transition. Often our behavior is so automatic that we aren’t even aware of it until we experience the ramifications. But this year let’s try a new approach. Let’s take just one resolution and dig a little deeper than just resolving to do things differently this year.
For this process we’re going to use a journal. If you prefer to use one of the many preprinted journals available today, make sure that it is designed to track at least one single topic for at least one month. But you can make your own journal by following the steps below:
1. Start small. I suggest starting with the smallest resolution you have. The idea is to build upon success by using your smallest resolution to prove the method to yourself. Think of a title for your smallest resolution and write it on the top of a sheet of paper.
2. Ask yourself why is this change important? This always sounds easy, but sometimes is remarkably deceptive. Instead of just saying I want to lose weight ask yourself if it could be more than just being healthy or feeling better. If you want to return to school is it just so that you can get a higher degree? Or maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe you want to learn more so that you can bring about a deeper impact in this world. Whatever the change, dig for the underlying ‘why’ until you are satisfied with your answer. On that same sheet of paper, write down your ‘why’.
3. In a new paragraph, write down a few thoughts about how making this change will affect your life and/or the lives of those you love. It’s important to write these down so that you will recognize the changes as they begin to occur. This is fuel for change.
4. Divide a new sheet of paper into 4 sections. Title the first section ‘How I will change today’, the second ‘What I noticed today’, the third ‘What can change’, and the fourth ‘Tomorrows Changes!’. In the first section, record your early morning intentions for focusing on your resolution. Think about what situations may entice you to veer off-course and back into old habits. The second section is used during the day when you become aware of your actions regarding your resolution. You should be sure that whether your actions are on or off-track, these are positive thoughts to write down. It means you are aware of your actions. This is where you can capture the recurring daily actions which trigger your subconscious habits. In the third section, record your thoughts about how to change the behaviors you noted in the previous section. In the final section, to be filed-in before going to sleep, record only positive thoughts about today’s successes and your anticipated accomplishments for tomorrow.
5. Repeat step 4 for at least 30 days, or until your resolution has been met. If you have trouble sticking to the plan, review the first page to refresh your motivations for making the change. You may want to place reminders to write in your journal around your home and office. A calendar application with auditory reminders is also a great tool to keep the process going.
Journaling is both simple and powerful because it slows us down to reflect on our actions. It can often uncover the underlying autonomous behaviors which take over our day. Let me know how your journaling goes, or any tricks you use to help you remember to review and record your thoughts and actions.
Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…

Going Back to Normal?

Educational and motivational powerhouse Lou Tice, of the Pacific Institute, often said that he never wanted someone to tell him that he ‘hadn’t changed a bit after all these years’. His point was that he always wanted to be growing and changing in some way. During this season of lockdown and self-quarantine, many of us have had a little extra time to reflect on a great deal of things. I would venture a guess also, that there have been a great many who have made resolutions of how they’re going to change when ‘things get back to normal’. But just like with those New Year’s resolutions’, if this fresh crop of resolutions are not getting a little daily care, they’ll wither a die of neglect.

To give our resolutions the best chance of success, we need to keep them in focus; finding daily motivation, initiation, and appreciation of the intended accomplishment. To keep the focus, here a few Steps For Today:

1. Ask yourself why is this change important? There is usually some epiphany driving a new desire for change. Take a few minutes to dig for the underlying ‘why’ until you are satisfied with your answer.

2. Either journal, or download the ‘Today’s Expectations’ worksheet from the website, to capture this ‘why’, and the thoughts from the steps below.

3. Write down a few words or phrases describing how making this change will affect your life and/or the lives of those you love. It’s important to write these down so that you will recognize the changes as they begin to occur.

4. Create daily reminder to reflect on these steps. Writing something down daily forces us to take just a few minutes to record our thoughts and accomplishments, and refresh our intentions.

5. Ask a reliable person if they can be your accountability partner. Someone who will take the time, at to whom you’ve given the ‘all clear’, to ask you about your progress.

6. Tell others about your intended goal. Knowing that others expect a change will help solidify your resolve.

These simple steps will go a long way towards helping you reach your new normal.

I’d love to hear any tips or tricks which you use to help keep focus on your resolutions!

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

PS: The Today’s Expectation worksheet can be downloaded for free from the website store. It is a one-sheet, pdf file, with an identical front and back. Each face of the sheet contains the following areas:

– A place for 3 good expectations for the day
– A place for 3 areas to focus on
– 15 lines with checkboxes for activities to accomplish
– 3 lines to write down expectations that were met and/or pleasant surprises
– 3 lines to write down expectations for tomorrow

In an Instant

Life is unpredictable. One May morning, a few years back, I said a quick goodbye to my wife, Jennifer, and hurried out the door at 7:30 to run some morning errands. At 8:58 she called me to tell me she was okay but her car had been knocked off a highway interchange by a hit and run driver.

By the time I arrived, she was simply sitting in her car on the side of the road; the emergency responders had finished and left. Bumped and bruised, but escaping serious injury, Jennifer described what happened during her normally routine drive work. As I listened to her reconstruction of the accident, I could feel myself becoming increasingly nauseous as the reality of its seriousness began to sink in. The impact literally caused her car to be struck by a second car, turn sideways, travel 75 ft down and embankment, bounce off a concrete drainage ditch, under a chain link fence, and crossways onto the service road, where the fence’s cable stopped the car by somehow hooking its luggage rack. To her right, was a semi-truck who’s alert copilot spotted her careening car early enough to warn the driver and stop the truck. We are counting our blessings in that any part of this accident could have resulted in tragedy.

In the days since the accident, Jennifer has mentally replayed the entire sequence many, many times; somewhat intrigued at how many thoughts can go through your mind so quickly. One such thought was, “What would Mitch do, if something happened to me? Are all our things in order?” I think all adults have this thought from time to time. Unfortunately, taking action to organize our hectic lives is often put-off until an event such as this reminds us of our mortality; or, until it is too late.

We are all familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.” Each year we must dedicate time to preparing our taxes, but how much time do we dedicate to preparing for life’s other certainty? Typically, not much. It may seem overwhelming or impossible (like trying to herd cats). But it can be done. We’ve recently taken steps to organize our information. Perhaps by sharing some of our thoughts and steps through this blog, we can empower others to do the same.

But let’s get real for a moment, thoughts and steps are great, but action is what gets things done; and action takes motivation. It’s often difficult to commit our time and energy to an unclear idea. But vague and complex tasks can usually be broken into more basic steps and easily completed.

1. Identify the need. Could yours, your parents, your children’s, or possibly all three households gain serious benefit from a little overdue organization?
2. Have that difficult discussion. Get together with your loved ones to discuss the risks to their lives if one of you was suddenly lost or otherwise incapacitated.
3. Make a decision to take action. Start a journal to write down what action is to be taken by who. Set a date for the next discussion. Distribute this information to everyone involved. These simple actions create a sense of accountability and greatly increase the chances that this important endeavor won’t be pushed aside by the other activities of life.

That’s enough to get started. Keep an eye on this page. I’ll be providing some more thoughts in the near future. Good luck and get started!

Thanks for reading,