10 Practices for the New Year…

If you’ve ever wanted to change your life or a specific element of your life, whether it be your relationship, job, health, or finances, then you know that real change is almost never easy.  So, what do you do?  What factors are holding you back and how do you overcome them to make the shift?  We put together 10 practices for the new year to help you realize the change you’ve been seeking:

  1. Don’t be afraid to risk comfort and security.   People often get so use to their lives as they are and have been, that they are afraid of what change may bring or demand of them.  Fear of the unknown and the amount of work that must be put forth to realize change is far less appealing when the status quo just doesn’t seem that bad or even when it’s mostly good.  We see this with people and their jobs all of the time.  People get comfortable, use to their routines, and even their financial struggles and lack of fulfillment.  Other jobs seem great, but also seem to require too much work and sacrifice with no guarantee of change.  Again, not everything is going to go as we plan or might wish, but by risking the comfort and security of the status quo for the change we’d like to see, we make the realization of change much more likely and we are less subject to change that is forced upon us by not taking action.  Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with a chronic health condition to eat better and exercise.  Don’t wait until your spouse leaves you or the company you work for to close its doors to better yourself.  Make the change now, no matter how comfortable your current situation.   
  2. Stop hoping for a miracle solution or looking for an ideal outcome.  I’ve seen it many times.  People often stay in unhealthy marriages simply because they are hoping that the person they are with will just magically change or they are looking for an ideal solution that leaves the kids mostly unaffected and still allows for a traditional family with a new partner (preferably without the hassle of the ex.)  Unfortunately, this is not how change looks or works.  If miracle solutions and ideal outcomes were all that’s needed, lottery winners would never again struggle financially and people wouldn’t keep jumping from job to job.  Real change comes from growth and growth typically only comes from letting go of old patterns, habits, ideals, and beliefs and embracing new ways of living and thinking.  Holding onto miracle solutions or ideals, therefore, simply inhibits progress toward real solutions and change.
  3. Take personal responsibility in your current situation.  I cannot stress this enough.  You are in a situation because you choose to be in it.  You can choose to not be in it, but we make our choices by the actions we take each minute, hour, and day of our lives.  In order for a situation to be different, the associated action(s) must be different and we must stop blaming other people and external factors for whatever a situation is or isn’t.  Feeling helpless and a lack of control is understandable when faced with overwhelming obstacles, but letting these feelings overtake you is not going to bring about change.  Excuses are endless and everybody has them.  People achieve goals not because they lack people and circumstances to blame, but because they take personal responsibility for their actions.  This being said, many find refuge in their excuses and blame, fearing that if they take responsibility, they’ll only have themselves to blame if they mess up.  Here, once again,  we see that an ideal outcome is being sought and it seems far easier to put that kind of demand and expectation on others and external conditions rather than ourselves.  When we approach change from a position of personal responsibility, however, we accept that not everything is going to go as we might plan or wish.  While there is a chance of failure in any change we attempt, there is the promise of learning in any failure.  As well-known leadership coach and author John C. Maxwell advises in his book, ‘Failing Forward,’ the more you fail, the more you learn and the more you learn, the better you get.  Therefore, the more you risk failure and fail, the greater your chances of success.  Handicaps and excuses can only disable us if we let them.  If you are continually encountering trouble or obstacles, then you should check to make sure that you are not the problem. 
  4. Challenge long-held beliefs about who you are and what you are good at doing.  When I was first contemplating divorce, I encountered some unexpected internal conflict regarding my self-identity.  I had always considered myself someone who loved unconditionally and, yet, there I was looking to divorce my husband for not meeting certain conditions in our marriage.  Moving forward meant that I would have to change long-held self-perceptions and step down from the pedestal I had created for myself.  Years after this instance, I would face even longer held beliefs, such as that I could never be physically fit and that I couldn’t sing, etc.  In these instances, unlike the former, it wasn’t a pedestal that I had to forgo, but a wheelchair.  I had simply handicapped myself with negative internal commentary and limiting beliefs about myself.  Take a good look at how you define yourself and abilities.  If they are limiting you from growing and taking action, don’t be afraid to challenge them.
  5. Stop worrying about what you stand to lose and start focusing on what you stand to gain.  This is basically an extension of the first step or practice.  The more you focus on what you must give up or might lose, the less likely you are to make a change, achieve your goals, and realize your highest aspirations.  Sure, you might lose friends after you lose 100 pounds and become super fit and healthy, but you’ll feel great and you’ll likely make new friends who share your newfound love for a healthy lifestyle.  Focus on the exciting new life you will have instead of all that you enjoy now.  While you may love eating that steak sandwich seven days a week and hate to give it up, there are plenty more equally great foods to look forward to that you won’t ever get to experience if you don’t start looking forward.  Need help?  Keep reading. 
  6. Take the time to define and clarify your goals and values.  Let’s face it.  Change is unlikely to happen if you want to be a millionaire, but don’t really value money.  You are also just as unlikely to become really fit and get in shape if you don’t value strength or looking and feeling your best, but do value being able to eat everything and anything you want.  Take a good look at all of your values and if you find that they don’t actually match how you are currently living your life, then you’ll know what changes you need to make.  Let’s face it.  Anything that doesn’t serve your best self, doesn’t deserve your focus.  Identifying your values, therefore, allows you to clarify your goals and envision your future, giving them the focus they deserve. 
  7. Let go of fear and embrace growth, continuously.  As you work through these practices, keep in mind that fear is not something you will overcome once.  It’s something that we can all expect to encounter time and again.  Since fear almost always hinders, prevents, and blocks growth, we must be aware of its presence when it creeps in and threatens our progress.  Since change, on the other hand, reliably supports and promotes growth, we must be equally aware of when a situation calls for it and be willing to implement and embrace it for maximum benefit.  
  8. Commit.  Commitment  is what transforms your promise into reality.  When you speak boldly of your intentions and act on them (time after time,) you live with an integrity that can and will triumph over both internal and external skepticism.  Commit and you will realize the change you wish to see.
  9. Health first!  If you’re looking to make several big life-altering changes and your currently not in the best of shape or health, begin with that.  People who get healthy often find the rest of their lives changing with little effort.  Increased confidence and energy that comes from being physically fit and healthy have the power to attract new relationships, work, financial opportunities, and experiences.  Even without this, achieving great health and fitness, alone, is enough to show you that you can implement change.   
  10. Do!  Don’t overthink it.  If you find yourself analyzing too much or making excuses, try taking immediate action and doing just one thing toward your goal.  Don’t feel like doing those twenty sit-ups and want to put them off until later?  Don’t even allow time for that thought to enter your mind.  What you want to do is replace your current habits with the habit of action.  It might take a bit of time, but even just repeatedly telling yourself “Do” to keep your brain from going off on its own adventure can go a long way toward maintaining focus and getting and keeping you on the right track.  

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