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

Choosing Gratitude

The last few posts encouraged readers to consider parting with possessions, or even their home, in order to lighten physical and mental demands on their life, and help prepare for the certainties of aging. For some, this can be an easy task. For others these decisions can be pretty difficult. In discussions with my friends and family, I’ve noted a recurring thought that life’s challenging choices often leave us feeling powerless. To make it worse, it seems that feelings of guilt or anger often spring forth in response to these feelings of helplessness. For sure, sometime or options are few, if we have one at all. But are there steps we can take to help us cope with the emotional strain of the circumstances? (Hint: The name of this page is “Steps For Today”)

A relatively new branch of psychology is that of “Positive Psychology”. A short, overly simplified explanation of what makes this different from it forerunners, is that it studies that which makes us happy, as opposed to that which makes us sad. At its subjective level, it seeks to understand that which brings us feelings of optimism, happiness and joy, well-being, contentment, or satisfaction. It is an interesting field with many new ideas about how are thoughts and behavior can create and nurture these feelings in our everyday life. Today, however, I want to focus on just one of the many characteristics found among people who report a high level of happiness and contentment: the spirit of gratitude.

One of my favorite lessons in gratitude came from my wife’s grandfather, George. Recovering from injuries received from somehow pulling an full-sized refrigerator over on himself, this sweet 96 year-old was now in a rehab facility working hard to return home. During one of our visits, my wife asked him what he had for dinner. He replied that he had a polish sausage and sauerkraut. With a puzzled look on her face, she stated that she had never seen him eat a sausage of any kind before and asked him how he liked it. With his usual grin, he replied “It was delicious!”. Still a little puzzled, she then asked him if he would order that particular meal again. With no hesitation, came the reply “Not if I had another choice.” And, as always, said with a grin.

No longer with us now, I truly miss the always inspirational discussions with George. His loss of vision and mobility, rarely seemed to affect his spirits. Always happy to have visitors, he was quick to relate tales of his past perseverance, which would somehow weaken our worries of the day. I believe he knew that he had a gift of gratitude and wanted to model and share it with the world. And if there was one thing I noted from sharing time with him, this spirit was contagious; his visitors caught it, his care-givers caught it, and even those who’d stop to talk would catch it. It was one of those gifts that kept on giving.

Another powerful aspect of gratitude is mentioned in a recent post by Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. In his article titled “Five Things That Will Make You Much Happier”, Dr. Bradberry writes
“The real neural antidepressant is gratitude. Gratitude boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine—the brain’s happy chemicals and the same chemicals targeted by antidepressant medications. The striking thing about gratitude is that it can work even when things aren’t going well for you. That’s because you don’t actually have to feel spontaneous gratitude in order to produce chemical changes in your brain; you just have to force yourself to think about something in your life that you appreciate.” You can find the full article at

As though being just a little bit happier each day wasn’t enough to wish for…there is another remarkable benefits to developing a spirit of gratitude; substantial increases in productivity. In his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor sites numerous studies which detail real and profound increases in productivity which can be accomplished when a spirit of positivity and gratitude is fostered in the workplace and at home. Learn more at

My hope is that this blog frequently encourages the reader to take, what may sometimes be, challenging steps outside of their everyday comfort zone. This one however, I find to be fun. It never ceases to amaze me how a few words of gratitude and appreciation will bring a smile to someone’s face (and possibly change their whole day).

Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…