How to Make This Year Your Year
Sometimes, things change when we least expect them to, or when we least want it to happen, like the unexpected death of a loved one.
But there are things in life we can control. We can control when and how we change, like pursuing a new relationship.
Change is inevitable and we fear it. It places us outside of our comfort zone, leaves us feeling vulnerable and decidedly out-of-rhythm. So why, when change can be so frightening and exhilarating, do we sometimes hurtle headlong into making all kinds of changes?
Because we need to. Because we have to.
And this is why looking ahead to the coming year, making changes, setting goals and reaching them is something many of us do.
New Year’s Resolutions
In some way, this is exactly what a New Year’s resolution is all about. Identifying what we want to change and promising that we will do it. Thus, we say to ourselves “I will be slimmer next Christmas, I will go to the gym every day…”
The accuracy of the figure may be somewhat dubious, but of those people that make a resolution, less than 8% manage to keep to it or achieve it.
Making the Coming Year Count
Making changes is not about resolutions, but instead planning and executing change in a way that benefit you so that when you get to the year end, you reflect on your journey thus far and look forward to the coming year.
But how? And more importantly, what?
What Changes to Make?
It is a deeply personal journey and not one that can be prescribed for you by someone else. One place to start is to look at your life and identify parts of it that you are not happy with.
For example, over half of us are not happy in our jobs or careers. 60% of the workforce turn up for work, unhappy in their role or their career choice. It is a startling statistic and considering the amount of time we spend at work, it is a sobering thought that we are unhappy for most of our time.
But, there are all kinds of hurdles to changing jobs or careers. It may mean re-training, which can be expensive and time consuming, as well as impossible when you work full time, even with the growing range of home learning courses available. There are family commitments and financial commitments too.
Now you have identified a whole stream of hurdles and problems, you have probably decided to not make the change, and stick with what you have. After all, you tell yourself, it’s not that bad…
‘The How’ of Change
By identifying the hurdles to what is stopping you making this coming year your year, you have already taken an important step. But rather than seeing these hurdles as mountains that are too big to climb, think about how you can circumnavigate them.
You may need some extra help and inspiration. Take a leaf out of the books of change consultants and academics.
There is a plethora of research and studies that lend themselves to organisational change. When a business needs to change and adapt, there are many issues and factors that come in to play. It is a huge area of expertise and within it, academics and life coaches both use some of the lessons to apply to personal life changes.
Step 1 – Your Goal(s)
Before you consider how to jump your hurdles that stop you from making changes, you need to know what your goals are.
And, as within a business setting, your goal needs to be measurable and specific. And you need to write it down;
Thus, your goal of I want to be better qualified becomes I want to achieve a Diploma in Event Management by December 2017.
Can you see the difference? The second goal is far more specific; it clearly states what you want to do, what qualification you want to achieve and in which subject. It also gives a ‘by when’ date, important so that your dreams don’t drift.
Dream Big or Small? It is a question that life coaches and change consultants are asked. There are arguments for and against both. For some people, one or two goals in small-bite sized chunks are perfect for easing their way into making changes.
For other people, there may be a need to make bigger, sweeping change across the board thus, a larger number of goals for the coming year make more sense to them.
It is important to remember that irrespective of whether you have one goal or 10, it takes courage, a hint of bravery and a whole heap of commitment to make any kind of change.
Step 2 – Imagine
Life is busy. From commitments at work to your family, to caring for relatives to all the other things you do in a day, reality stops us dreaming.
In our minds, we have a long list of things, functions, activities that need to be completed, and these form mind blocks. They stop us from seeing beyond our own immediate reality.
These mind blocks limit our self-belief without us being aware of it until, that is, we want to make a change. You may be surprised in these few minutes of reflection that you find yourself saying “you don’t deserve to complete a qualification because you messed about so much at school” or, “if you had listened in school you wouldn’t be in this position now.”
Break these mental blocks by imagining how you want 2017 to look. Write these ideas down.
Take 5 Minutes. The next time you spend time waiting for the kids to finish certain activities, or when there are five minutes of quiet (that is all it takes), take the opportunity to brain storm the things you would like to change.
Some of them may sound trivial, others far too outlandish but from these dreams, thoughts and ideas come the nuggets that form the cornerstone of change. Rather than asking ‘can I’ do something, think ‘how can I?’
Step 3 – Doubts
Conditionality, Insecurity, Fear, Survival, Unsafe
One-step forward, one-step back because just as you have cleared your mental blocks and dared to imagine the coming year, old doubts creep in.
Failures of the past need to stay there, in the past. We learn from everything we do, including the failures, so the fact you flunked your exams years ago, is not enough to banish home learning courses from your plan for the coming year.
Detractors. They are everywhere. They are friends, work colleagues, neighbours, relatives, partners; all those people who think that supporting you must come with a dose of reality. They may question how you are going to fit everything in, how you can possibly complete a home learning course or other qualification when you have so much to do already.
You don’t need to have the answers. You don’t have to be a superhero. Thank them for their concern and assure them that you have everything you need to make the small changes that lead to bigger, better things for YOU.
Step 4 – Motivators
Great! You have goals, you have banished doubts, and you are ready to go…. BUT, you need to identify what will drive you forward and keep you on track for succeeding, whether that is completing a home learning course or two this year, running a marathon or moving house.
You have two important questions to answer. There are no right and wrong answers and don’t forget, this is your personal journey, so there is no stock, standard answer:
- Why do I want to achieve these goals?
- What happens if I don’t achieve these goals?
It Will Happen. The dip, the fall, the swoop, the ‘I can’t do this’. If making changes were easy, everyone would do it.
When you do hit a low, re-visit your motivation for what kick-started this whole process. Look at those reasons and visualise them again. Look at what you have achieved so far. When you started this process, did you think such changes were possible?
Step 5 – Act
A 40-page action plan is another excuse to procrastinate. You have done the hard work, now you need to take the next step.
But you need to decide what the next step is going to be. It needs to be a meaningful step on your ladder of progress to make this coming year, your year.
Home Learning & Distance learning courses provide you with all kinds of opportunities to learn new skills, try new things, as well as throwing the odd challenge or two your way. You will learn how to balance life in a different way. You will certainly surprise yourself at just how much you enjoy making changes to your life.
A Final Word: Perfectionism
You have your goals lined up and away you go. Fast-forward to the end of 2017 and you may look back with disappointment. Maybe, you say to yourself, you didn’t achieve the goals in the way you wanted. Thus, you tell yourself, you have failed.
You may not have achieved every goal, but you have made outstanding progress. The journey may not have looked as you had hoped – it may not have been perfect – but celebrate success because you are in a different place to where you were last year.
Just look how well you have managed change. And what YOU have achieved!