The new year has arrived and for many 2017 is a year they would like to forget. How was it for you?
Many Coaches and Personal Development Experts often recommend using this time of the year to review, set goals and begin 2018 with fresh resolutions. I think a different approach could be more effective. While I am no expert, I am a living example of what I suggest and will be trying this myself during the next few months.
That is, Evolution. What things in your life at this moment, can you tweek and adjust to evolve yourself towards the self you know you 'can' be? Rather than starting a whole series of new activities, what things should you STOP and what should you CONTINUE and EVOLVE?
Our lives are a series of habits, which are based on our behaviours. Let's think of our selves as a finite number of habits. We have filled up our habit storage drive with our behaviours, e.g. Driving skills, our daily routine and how much coffee we drink, cigarettes we smoke, alcohol we consume, the work we do and so on.
Rather than trying to actually stop a particular habit, let's now think about replacing that habit with another one that supports us better and helps us to evolve. So rather than stopping smoking, think about using a cigarette break as a chance for a fresh air break or a time to practice a breathing technique we are interested in. The time devoted to smoking can be used in a different way. The time is the same but the behaviours are different. This behaviour helps us to evolve. So you tell yourself, you are not quitting smoking, but simply replacing it with something else. Suddenly there is no more room for smoking because practicing new breathing techniques takes its place. It all comes down to the choice and decisions we make in specific moments. Do I want the sugar bun or can I have a salad sandwich instead? Even though it's raining I can still ride my bike to work, can't I? We have a choice.
The problem with Resolutions is that they rarely stick beyond a couple of weeks, as habits can take anywhere from 20 to 250 days to really solidify and become regular automatic behaviours. Likewise, telling ourselves to quit a behaviour or stop it entirely is also difficult as our brains focus on this thing, making us sometimes want it more. By replacing the habit with a more effective one we are neither denying ourselves something, but making a better choice in the moment.
I am still a coffee drinker, but I am just choosing to drink Herbal Tea when I feel like a Coffee.
I can still drive to work, but I am just choosing to ride my bike or catch the train to work.
I am still using social media, but I am just choosing not to look at my phone for the first hour of the day.
I still get anxious but I am choosing to use this energy as a sign that I am ready for action.
I still like to watch TV in the evenings, but I am choosing to read a book or find something new and interesting to discover instead.
So use this first week of January, to review yourself. Do a Personal Audit, where you look at what behaviours and habits support you in your life and be honest about what doesn't. Rather than change entirely and see the situation as 'giving up' certain things, think about evolution. That can you swap, what can you tweek and alter that will help you in a more productive and positive way.
Take small steps, one evolution at a time and give yourself positive reinforcement.
It is the small decisions we make, that inform the larger ones, therefore the smaller habits we attend to will inform the larger ones. Last year, after watching a moving address by an US Army General, I decided to really make my bed each day. It has been a very satisfying experience and I came into 2018 with this as a habit. It is something to definitely keep and even if I miss a day, I don't stop, I just look forward to the next day, where I have the chance to do it again and get back on track.
Some of the evolutions I am making for 2018 include:
- Making my bed each day
- Drinking 500ml of water upon rising
- Maintaining walking 10,000 steps a day
- Spending 10 mins a day on my bouncer
- Not looking at my phone first thing in the morning
- Continuing to intermittently fast and only eat between 12 & 7pm
All of these behaviours evolved or began intermittently through 2017 when I spoke to someone, watched or read something inspiring or made the firm decision to do so. I didn't add these all at once, but added them gradually, as part of my evolution as a person. They make me feel good, and perhaps won't make me a million dollars or anything else, but they do help me to be a better version of myself and support the work I do with others. I begin my day in a positive way and make a couple of good early decisions.
So in summary, think about evolution, not resolution. Plan a roll out of activities or new behaviours that support you, help you to be effective, practical and efficient. These small steps will help you succeed. As Earl Nightingale said 'Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal.' Think about your ideal self, and work towards it, one step at a time!
I wish you continued development, evolution, insight and success in 2018.
David Corcoran is a Executive Voice Coach. He helps people take responsibility for their communication. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.