At the end of each year I seem to notice people saying things like, “I can’t wait till this year ends”! This comment always makes me curious. When I inquire what drives them to make that comment, I rarely ever hear of any significant event. The response is more like, “It’s been a horrible year…” followed by a list of fairly normal life events. Typical issues we all live with all the time. For example – sickness, business/career issues, financial issues, relationship issues, parenting issues and yes even death. Granted, there are some levels of these issues that are horrific and tragic. And in those cases, it is totally understandable. However, as I stated earlier, it’s generally not related to such critical issues.
As I have pondered this phenomenon each year, I intellectually understand what is happening. As humans, we tend to focus on the negative, and we’re always looking for the magic pill, or the secret ingredient to make life better. As much as it all makes intellectual sense, it saddens me to know that most of us reflect on the year past with a wish to forget it all and start again. Here’s what I know, on average we all have plenty of things to be grateful for each and every day of each and every year. Even the days when things go wrong there is a lot to be grateful for. Yet, we choose to miss out on all we have and focus on all we do not. What makes me most sad is that it does not have to be this way, and it’s easier than you may think to change it.
My challenge to you is to make a commitment to yourself. Not a resolution, a commitment, to make this year different. To promise yourself that at the end of 2014, you will have a more realistic view of the year just gone by. One that acknowledges all of life. The good, the challenging and the learning’s. Bet you thought I was going to write “the good, the bad and the ugly”, am I right?
Here is why “the good, the bad and the ugly” is a less than healthy framework. I believe that we all do the best we can do with what we have all the time. Sometimes it works great, other times maybe not so well, but every time it was the best we can do. There is no bad or good, there simply is what is and we have a choice to learn from all of it or to blame, and chastise ourselves or others and lament over what cannot be changed.
Before you commit to yourself, let’s look at what it takes to meet the challenge. First and foremost, take a moment to look back at 2013 with a different pair of glasses. Take off the dark shades and put on glasses with a clear, clean lens. First, make a list of all the things you are grateful for and take a moment to celebrate those things and commit to continuing and improving the behaviors that created those successes. Then, acknowledge what didn’t go so well and be sure not to blame yourself it is simply acknowledging facts. Since we can’t change everything all at once, recognize where your greatest discomfort is and prioritize where you wish to focus. Create a list of options, ways that you can address the issue(s) you’ve chosen. Be sure to create very small, practical and achievable steps. Change is a process not an event. Lofty goals with short time spans are a recipe for failure.
Now, think about what might get in the way of you succeeding and determine what you want to do about those things. And, most importantly, find a way to hold yourself accountable. Perhaps, tell someone about your commitments and report back to them on your progress. Be sure to tell them you are not looking for criticism but support.
You may have noticed that I asked you earlier to make a commitment to yourself, not a resolution, but a commitment. What’s the difference? The word resolutions implies intent to do something. It’s easy to have an intention, but an intention without a call to action and accountability for those actions is merely a thought. It’s not concrete, it’s a thought, and it sounds good or feels good. Until it doesn’t happen then it feels bad, very bad. The more we do it, the worse it feels, because all those resolutions pile up and up and up until we drown in them. They normally include things like, losing weight, exercising more, spending quality time with family etc.
Commitment means the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself. It is action oriented; it requires you to do something, not just think something. When a commitment includes accountability to ones self through someone else, the chances of success are extremely high. On average less than 10% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolution. Those odds increase to over 80% when you commit to someone else and are held accountable.
Now, what commitment are you willing to make to yourself for 2014? Here’s a suggestion, I commit to focus on that for which I am grateful and learn from those things that challenge me. Here’s a simple way to go about it, each day before you go to bed, take a moment and make a list of what you were grateful for that day. You will be amazed at how much this energizes you and helps you to focus on the positive.
I would love to hear about your commitments and their progress, feel free to email me if you need help developing your commitment or your accountability.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and positive New Year!