Tag Archive | goals

For Big Change, Think Small

It’s the end of another year (how is that possible?). The time when we reflect on the past 365 days, take stock of where we are, and decide the path of our life moving forward. We make a list of things we want to change and create resolutions to get the job done. We start the year off with a bang moving full force in the new direction, and then boom… a different bang, we hit a wall. Everything we strive to accomplish with such passion slides to the side and we fall back into the routine of the behavior we know so well.

There’s a familiarity about the promises we make to ourselves each year. You can easily ask yourself: Didn’t I make those self-same promises last year? And maybe even the year before?

So why, if we are so determined to make change, do we fall short of our goals?

According to experts, one of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions are so hard to maintain is because the thing we want to change is a habit – behavior that comes from the subconscious part of our brain that is done automatically, without conscious thought.

Typical resolutions like eating healthy, quitting smoking or drinking, increasing physical activity, or spending more time with loved ones, are designed to change routines that have been around for many years. While it’s easy to assume that we should be able to willfully make long-term changes to established patterns, desire alone is usually not enough.

According to Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, there is a three step loop that occurs: A cue or trigger, which tells your brain to go into automatic mode. The routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. And the reward, which helps your brain determine if this loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic.

While wanting to change is the first step, experts say that the key to enacting lasting change is understanding the process and identifying your triggers. For example, if you want to quit smoking, you can quit cold turkey, but understanding what triggered your smoking will give you a greater chance of success. When you recognize what situations trigger your current habit – having a morning cup of coffee, stress, drinking alcohol, going out with friends, driving, etc. – you can create a positive habit that you are going to do instead.

So, when you wake in the morning and have coffee, instead of smoking, what will you do? If you’re stressed or out with friends, what will you do? Replace the old habit with a positive one. Be mindful and consistent. Create the new routine that results from the trigger and your brain learns the new reward.

Don’t try to change your life all at once. Some people decide that they are going to lose weight, exercise every day, quit smoking, get a new job, and spend more time with family. A complete overhaul will lead to overload and you will give up. Work on one habit at a time and take baby steps. Lean in gently. If you usually leave work at 7 pm and want to spend more time with family, go home at 6:30 pm for a few weeks or even months. Then gradually make it earlier. Once that becomes a new habit, work on something else.

Lasting change won’t happen overnight. But with mindfulness, determination, consistency, and patience, you can achieve any goal you desire. Remember for big change, think small. As Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Is It A WHAT Or A WHO?

What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year. ~Vern McLellan

Happy New Year!

Another year has come to an end and a new one is just beginning. As usual, we use this time as an opportunity to reflect on our life and set new goals.

I’m sure you have seen this Brad Paisley quotation many times in recent weeks: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

As you embark on this task and create your resolutions for the year, I ask, is your priority a WHAT or a WHO?

So often we get caught up in working for the big house, newest model car, designer clothes, latest tech gadget, swankiest vacation, etc., that we lose sight of the most important treasure in life – our relationship with people.

We get so hung up on the things that we want that we forget the people we need, who need us. We miss the school play to work “just one more hour.” We don’t go to dinner with our spouse because “the big game is on.” We don’t listen when others speak to us because our mind is wandering to other places.

In five, 10 or 20 years, you won’t remember which cell phone or tablet you had this year or which work proposal you completed. But, someone will remember your treatment – your words and actions – then, just as he/she remembers it now.

While it’s wonderful to have dreams and goals and strive for abundance in life, just remember that it should not be done at the expense of a loved one or treasured relationship.

What is your priority in 2014? Is it a WHAT or a WHO?