Starting a New Year’s Revolution

Happy New Year to you all. Just as quickly as it came, believe it or not we are already 10 days into 2016. I spent the first three days developing and capturing my goals for the year, and as recommended in my article “2015: A year of growth. Lessons learnt” they span all the key areas. In that time I was routinely greeted by questions from friends and associates regarding my New Year’s Resolutions. They like many people, without even knowing it had joined the ranks of the ‘New Year’s Resolutionists’. You know those persons who wait for every new year to wipe the chalkboard of their lives clean and rewrite resolutions in chalk, soon to be erased again for another run at futility. I myself have been amongst the fold. I have had my false starts every January in the gym proclaiming every year as the year I get in the best shape of my life. I have thrown out many supplements and once fresh vegetables that had remained unused. I have justified and renegotiated (albeit with myself) budgets and savings targets to ease the pressures of attempted frugal living. I have conjured up and shelved many seemingly good business ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this jolt of new year zeal and energy. The challenge is the follow through; the “sticktoitiveness” required to bring dreams to fruition. The world isn’t devoid of new game changing concepts. However, what I have come to realize is that when it comes to ideas, most often it is not the grandest ones that are successful; but rather the simplest ones coupled with excellent execution.

resolution

So to increase our chance of success for this year; what if we moved from making a wish list of things we want, to a firm actionable list of things we wish to discontinue? This way we move from making New Year’s Resolutions to real a New Year’s Revolution. How do you join the revolution? Initiation is simple. I have decided to make a short list of things revolutionists should discontinue doing:

Procrastination: We should never put off for tomorrow what is meant to be done today. I know first hand how dreary working out can be, especially in the initial phases, but you will never get to the destination without enduring the journey. That business plan that you should write, get to it! You’ve been putting off starting school for years, the sooner you start the sooner it ends. That book you’ve been waiting to start writing, pen the first paragraph. By whatever means necessary get started.  The 19th century philosopher and poet Henry Thoreau, put it most aptly when he said “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”. Let your grave be a bankrupt account; spend every penny of intellectual capital before you get there.

worrying

Worrying about the future: We should never try to do tomorrow’s task today. Close cousin to procrastination is anxiety. You know those people who are at work thinking about being home with their family and at home with their family thinking about work. When all is said and done they are never really anywhere. There is a reason why we get the year one day at a time. This is because that is exactly how it is meant to be lived. Many illnesses are borne of worry and anxiety. There are generally two types of situations we encounter, those for which we can control the outcome and those we cannot. If you can control the outcome then you won’t worry. So that leaves the uncontrollable outcomes. There are ways to deal with those things you cannot change. When faced with a difficult situation, I ask myself three questions: 1) What is the most likely outcome? 2) What is the absolute worst that can happen? and 3) What would I do if the worst should occur? After taking stock of the situation, I begin to put plans in place to deal with the most likely outcome. Simultaneously, I look at contingencies to address the absolute worst case.  This way, I have ready options and courses of action to take in any eventuality. Do not worry! It will all be ok in the end. If it is not ok, it is not the end.

negative self talk

Negative Self Talk– We are our own worst critics. In Major League Baseball a batter with a 0.300 batting average is considered to be excellent. What is the point of this reference? A professionally trained, elite athlete is rewarded with millions of dollars in contract payments and endorsement deals; and showered with admiration and praise for getting it right 30% of the time. How many of us believe we get it 70% wrong in life? I am willing to bet that none of you do. However, we have become oriented to believe that we must be perfect in order to be of any worth. Whenever, we make a misstep we berate ourselves and end up causing the worst kinds of mental and emotional wounds; self-inflicted. Woosah… this too shall pass. For 2016, let us catch ourselves each time and nip the negative self talk in the bud.

complaining

Complaining– One thing we do with almost a matching degree of proficiency to negative self talk is complaining. “He is always late to meetings” No person is always anything. In each person is some good and bad, choose to focus on the good. “This job is the worst there is”. Why not leave? You’re doing yourself and your coworkers who wish to be there a great injustice by staying. Go find greener pastures. People who find a problem for every solution suck the joy out of living. The good news is if you are such a person this is the perfect time to change. Leave the complaining tendencies in 2015 and instead focus on solutions.

surrender

Quitting too soon- Anything worth having is worth fighting for. The trick is to be able to quickly assess what is worth having. Oftentimes when it seems like it is time to give up, is really when you are about to hit the tipping point of an idea. Successful businessman and motivational speaker Bob Proctor calls this the terror barrier. As he puts it the very next “cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek”. If you quit at everything, you finish nothing. Life has a way of rewarding those who finish the race.

2016 for me will not be a refresh and forget year. For certain I have made missteps in 2015. However, there are key things which can be applied to the new year. Whilst goal setting is mission critical for the year and for life in general, let us move away from feel good wish lists veiled as new year’s resolutions; let us create a powerful life changing new year’s revolution.

Join in the conversation. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the things you will stop doing this year? How will you ensure you close 2016 strong?

 

 

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2015: A year of growth. Lessons learnt

It is almost the year’s close, and soon we will all be singing or humming (for the melodically challenged ones like myself) the tune  of “For Auld Lang Syne”. If you woke up on this side of the earth, count yourself as blessed, and smile with pride for you have survived yet another year. If your 2015 was anything like mine, it would have been wrought with trials, challenges and surprises. It would also have been heavily sprinkled with many moments of happiness, joy, gratitude and fulfillment, which can only come from facing and overcoming the periodic adversities of life.

Happy NEw Year

It is that time of year when most people are in high spirits, gleefully planning the excursions and exploits of the festive season. The more conscientious and disciplined ones amongst us are steadily reviewing goals set on the cusp of NYE 2014. I personally still have 17 days to learn hand to hand combat, vacation in Europe, start fishing on the weekends and to lose 15 more lbs.  I won’t beat myself up too badly, because considering the number and level of involvement of the things on my list I have done pretty well… In fact I think I deserve a cupcake or 6 (make that 16 lbs to lose, but who’s counting?).

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I had all 6 of these in one afternoon…

By now, you may have picked up that I view life as a journey. Each leg, new travel companion, experience, pit stop and adventure comes with its own purpose. Every exchange is an opportunity to learn. Looking back, I can safely say this has been a year of expansion. Not necessarily financially or even at the waistline, but primarily in my mentality. 2015 was a year of growth. I have decided to encapsulate 5 of the key lessons I have learnt on my journey this past year.

goal setting

  1. Goal setting is essential. The most beautiful thing about the rest of your life, is that you are creating it; even as you read this post.  A man/ woman with a goal is a person on a mission. You may have heard the saying “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. Decide what you want for yourself. Start by thinking where you’d want to be 10 years from now. Visualize it; every infinitesimal detail. In this process, do not yet worry about the how. It is not your job just now to connect all the dots, but simply to hold a vision of where you are going. Break that into milestones. You cannot act in the future or the past; only in the now! Ask yourself “what things do I need to accomplish in 2016 in order to ensure that I have significantly advanced in my quest to get to 2026 me?” Write those down. There is something powerful about putting pen to paper or finger to keypad. It becomes an agreement with the one person you cannot avoid; yourself. Your goals should span several categories: health, financial, spiritual and personal development etc. Review them periodically and when faced with decisions; take ones which put you more in alignment with achieving these personal performance objectives.                                             people skills
  2. People first, everything else is secondary. There is an African saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. My most meaningful experiences and achievements have been those involving others. That funny joke I heard, that new restaurant I discovered, that amazing vacation I took, that new TV show, my foiled attempt at farming… The list goes on. All of these reflect moments in time when I created lasting, invaluable memories. None of these would have been the same without the true gems in my life. People just simply make life better. I don’t profess to be anywhere close to perfect, but for my part I have discovered that one of the most important skills one can hone is people skills. Whilst your IQ (intelligence quotient) may be a good predictor of your ability to solve complex puzzles and math problems; it is your EQ (emotional intelligence) which is most telling as to your probability of success in life. Being self aware, managing self, having social awareness and relationship management are extremely critical. If you have a gap in any of these areas, you will profit from developing a plan of action to close same. I have found it pays to listen more intently than preemptively and that using empathy truly helps. Making an effort to understand rather than be understood is key.                                                                                          bumps ahead
  3. Setbacks are to be expected. No one promised you an easy ride (or at least I hope they didn’t). By now you will realize that life has a helluva sense of humor. My friends will tell you that I laugh a little too heartily at times when faced with some very tough situations. This is partly because I get the satire at play and also because in my mind, it’s better than crying. Even with the noblest of intentions and the most robust of plans and goals; there will be disappointments. I remember that  major sales order I was waiting on to make my monthly target, falling through with 4 hours to go. In moments like those, I have had to walk away, regroup, call on my support system and raw ingenuity to pull through. What I have found, is that when you start out with the  preconceived notion that the problem has a solution waiting to be unearthed, it often finds you. If there is one thing I have taken away, it is “never give up!” Even if you don’t find the “fix”, look again, there is often a major lesson to be learnt. This lesson often proves to be the very widget you need to tackle the next major challenge on the horizon. Have a mindset where you never lose; you either win or you learn.                                                                                                                                      be different
  4. It is ok to be different. Sure you may have heard that the blade of grass that stands out gets cut. However, it is often the flowering weed, which blooms most radiantly. Embrace your uniqueness. It is ok to think along different lines. Ask the questions which cross your mind. Challenge the status quo, but do so in a manner mindful of your impact on others. The key is to get your message across without distorting the channel. Anytime I find myself in a room buzzing with “uh huh”, “mhmm” and other expressions of mindless consent, I begin to look for the angle that I am missing. People are often in the “go along just to get along” mode; simply because it is less laborious, less lonely and less risky. Somehow connected to our mouth, is a bit of grey matter between our ears. We often let the former go into motion without consulting the latter. Or worse, we conceive a powerful, game changing idea but fail to ventilate same out of fear of ridicule, or isolation. Dare to be different. Be you.balance
  5. Balance is essential. Man is made up of mind, body and spirit. In the hustle and bustle of daily living, we often neglect an element or two. I remember going through a few months of battling insomnia. I would go to work and come home after a long and grueling day incapable of staying fully asleep at nights. After eliminating all possible physical causes (trip to the doctor and giving up my beloved coffee) it became apparent that it was my own mind keeping me awake. My mind was never still. Add to this mix, the fact that I began to eat indiscriminately and started to slack off with my physical activity. It wasn’t until I decided that I had had enough and that something must change, that I began to day by day make better choices. At first it was hard. The activation energy required to get going was tremendous. I began my fight against months of inertia. I got in the gym (slowly at first), started cleaning up my diet, tapping into my close relationships as a means of alleviating stress and feeding my mind (reading and watching videos focussing on my areas of development) after much introspection. It also proved important to take some time away to recharge. The results so far have been absolutely amazing. I am feeling far more energetic, am sleeping much more soundly, feel a lot less stressed and have strengthened key relationships which needed more attention. Suffice to say, anything which bothers your mind, affects the homeostasis of your systems.

As we approach the new year, it provides an ideal opportunity to look back before we leap forward. It is important to pull from each new experience the lessons we were meant to learn. Being clear on your destination is essential. However, taking time to enjoy the journey is the whole point of the trip. Live each day in gratitude, because in looking back at life there are certain perennial truths: it goes on; and over the long run it tends to get better.

Are there any other lessons that the year 2015 has taught you? What are some of your goals for 2016? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below. Feel free to share this article with your friends and family.

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