If the new year’s marketing hype is true, we are all going to change – be much better people in 2018!
The ‘new you’ will join a gym, take up a sport, take an online course, apply for a college place, start a new business. The list is endless – the opportunities to change ourselves for the better equally so. But why would we chose to change at this particular time of year, as opposed to any other? In truth, the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and, as a result, look to the future with renewed hope. It is hope that keeps our heads above water in the long term. Hope that we can become a better version of ourselves, hope that mankind will wake up, take stock and create a better planet for our children. In the immortal words of an infamous Hollywood prisoner – ‘Mostly, I just hope!’
So, if we are all hoping for one thing or another, what exactly are we doing to effect that change which will bring that betterment to fruition. Sadly, it seems, the changes we make at the turn of the new year are often short-lived. The gym is joined, fees paid, induction courses taken but, after a few visits, the motivation to change and become a better person fades in the shadows of the old realities kicking back in. Sure, I just can’t find the time – what with the kids and work and this and that and…
We can be as aspirational as we like any day of the year but if the core motivation to change isn’t there, the aspirations will eventually be just that – aspirational. Aspiration is the catalyst for motivation, motivation leads to action, repeating that action develops good habit and good habit develops change for the better. Somewhere along that path from motivation to change, it appears that most of us get caught back up in the routine of our daily lives and slip, often unconsciously, back to where we were. Sure – we’re only human!
Those familiar with the concept of ‘lent’ in the Catholic religion will recognise what the church was/is trying to do. For 40 days in the run-up to Easter, the church suggests that you make some sacrifice in your life to acknowledge the time Jesus spent in isolation before his crucifixion. As kids, we gave up chocolate, not that we ever had that much chocolate in the first place – it was an easy one! As adults, many give up the ‘demon drink’. Both are examples of giving something up, making a sacrifice – a change. If that change can be managed for 40 days, experts will tell you it can be maintained. Many will tell you it only takes 20 days. Regardless, the critical aspect of making a change is remaining focused on it for some period of time. Perhaps this is where we often fail. Our focus is distracted by the things we must do rather than the things we want to do – and therein lies the rub. To complete the change we must remain focused on it until it becomes habit – and no longer requires the same intensity of focus.
Look in the Mirror
I read a book many moons ago which I recommend to everyone aspiring to change. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking suggests attaching index cards to the corner of the bathroom mirror – reminding you what it is you are focused on in life. Hint: toothpaste works as glue 😉 The cards are there first thing every morning and serve as a reminder of those things most important for your consciousness to absorb for the day. We are all aware of the ‘phenomenon’ where we see the same car we have just bought everywhere on the roads. This is just a waking of the consciousness. After a while we don’t see those cars as much because our consciousness has become preoccupied with something else. Norman Vincent Peale’s index cards serve to keep the thought, idea, concept or action at the front of our minds for as often as we need – until such time as the new actions have become habit and no longer require constant reminders or calls-to-action.
So to answer the headline:
- Decide what change you want to make
- Establish the actions required to make that change
- Pick a timeline in which to repeat those actions
- Remind your consciousness every day what those actions are