New Year, same old you

Three days into 2016… how are you feeling? Are you excited and ready to face the New Year head-on, or consumed with thoughts of Monday morning and end-of-holiday blues?

Now is the time of year you’re most likely to reflect on life; some will focus on hopes and dreams for the future, others on the negatives of past and present. Could this year be different? Could this finally be your time for real personal breakthrough, whatever this may mean for you?

Wherever you are, I believe one thing’s for certain – we all have the power to cause positive and lasting change in our lives. How does that statement make you feel – positive and raring to go, or cynical and annoyed? I’m convinced even the most glass-half-empty of us can make a real difference. Thing is, it nearly always means stepping beyond what’s comfortable and familiar.

It’s all rather VUCA

Fact: the world is changing fast. Life’s becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), which can be unnerving and scary. Everything’s speeding up, the noise of opinion is louder than ever, and the space to stop, think and reflect is increasingly difficult to find.

As a result, interest in things like mindfulness is on the increase. There’s an intensifying of the search for meaning, and desire to rediscover inner peace; the art of stepping off the treadmill and focusing on the present moment, whilst everything else rages frenetically on around you.

“The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.”

~ John Burroughs

I’ve a strong desire to see personal breakthrough this year in a number of areas. I’m sure you have, too. As a goal-orientated person, I’ve made many ‘resolutions’ in the past, but they’ve invariably slipped by the wayside. Life gets in the way and cynicism sets in. “Will I ever succeed in this, will I ever change in that…?” It gets worse when you start comparing yourself to others, as the majority of us do. The rise of social media only compounds this.

This year I’m trying a different approach.

Personal goals

Studies suggest…

  • 25% of people abandon New Year resolutions after 1 week
  • 60% within 6 months
  • The average person makes the same resolution 10 times without success

Whether or not these figures are accurate, they ring true to my experience. Resolutions are often made during the downtime of Christmas holidays, but once the reality of normal life kicks back in, keeping them can become a matter of will. You get short on time, tiredness sets in, you let things slip, you feel disappointed and commit to doing better next year. And so the cycle continues.

This year, I decided to ditch resolutions and set ‘goals’ instead. I also enlisted the help of a recommended online mentor, spending an hour or so a day across 5 days considering various aspects of life and what I want to achieve.

This resulted in setting 10 goals for 2016, each aligned with personal values and season of life I’m in. I’m expecting to face fear, uncertainty and doubt over the coming weeks/months as I work to achieve them, though I’m convinced that real personal change only ever happens when you step outside your comfort zone.

Hope vs Fear

The early part of the study I undertook involved reflecting on the past and things that have caused past resolutions to end in failure. Question: what could have been different in your life if you had based past decisions on hope rather than fear? It’s a tough one, but revealing if you really consider it. I suspect many of you reading this have said “no” to past opportunities due to fear of failure, lethargy or cynicism, despite perhaps not realising it at the time.

People who truly succeed in life are often those who embrace opportunity and say “yes”, despite fear, past failures and disappointments.

I find this a helpful quote…

“Your future does not equal your past”

~ Tony Robbins

Know yourself

The next challenge was to recognise and appreciate limiting beliefs: things you think or feel about yourself that hold you back and prevent lasting breakthrough and change. This can be a tough call, particularly facing-up to insecurities and fears. This led onto the importance of clarity, and understanding your purpose in life. It’s my experience that unless you know your purpose—something that drives and motivates you when the going gets tough—you’re likely to end up drifting and eventually becoming dissatisfied.

“People lose their way when they lose their why”

~ Michael Hyatt

Many of us fall into a ‘consumption’ mind-set; the noise of digital communication is so loud that it’s easy to flit from sound byte to sound byte and never take time out to properly think and reflect. The internet enables anyone to pose as a writer – some even self-proclaimed experts. Who do you listen to? How do you sift quality from quantity? I’ve been trying to design a personal strategy around this – considering what to consume and when to consume it; ensuring follow-up time for thought, reflection and informed opinion. Writing things down in a daily journal has been helpful.

Gratitude

I learned about the power of being grateful for the things I have, and how this is necessary in enabling personal progress. The media constantly tells us “you need more”, but the vast majority of the time we really don’t.

Also, learning to be grateful helps us appreciate the things others give, and heightens the desire to give something back. For example, I’ve spent years learning from people who have taken time to share their expertise online. Well, perhaps it’s time for me to give something back.

Planning

Onto the planning phase, which took some time. As someone with a tendency to overthink things and try to accomplish too much, I’ve made a commitment to keeping things simple. I also made a concerted effort to set goals I know will motivate me on a number of levels. I spent time reflecting on why I’m here and the positive impact I believe I can have on others. I also reflected again on the things that hold me back and how I can manage my life to ensure the best chance of success. If you’ve never done this yourself, I’d really encourage you to have a go – get some help if necessary, like I did.

A couple of helpful quotes from David Allen that resonate…

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.”

Now the real challenge begins — to make it happen!

Reflect

It’s the first day back in the office tomorrow and I appreciate life will quickly try to get in the way of accomplishing the goals I’ve set, which is why it’s important to have a plan to combat the temptation to give up. For me, this centres around routine time for quiet reflection, celebrating successes (however small) and learning not to compare myself with others. Perhaps this is true for you, too.

Giving something back

This was a big output of the study for me. Like I said, I’ve really appreciated the wealth of online knowledge and personal honesty from people taking time to ‘pay forward’ what they’ve learned and experienced. Now it’s my turn.

A priority goal of mine is to facilitate an online community focused on helping others discover their purpose and being the best they can be, both personally and professionally – seeking to re-discover the sweet spot between life and work. You’d be right to suggest there’s already a multitude of people doing this, but I believe I have something unique and compelling to offer, including lots of life-affirming encouragement and positivity! Achieving the goal will involve me stepping way beyond my comfort zone, at the risk of no-one listening; this is perhaps my biggest fear, but I’ll never know unless I try!

I’d love you to be part of this challenge through joining up and sharing your knowledge and experience with others as the site and community finds its feet.

You can register your interest at makelife.click, if it’s something you’d consider exploring.

My goal for launch is end of March 2016 – in the meantime you can connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thanks for reading and very best of luck setting your own goals for 2016 – it’ll be well worth it!

[Also published on LinkedIn]