You look at the new year and ask yourself how you can be a better person this year…or make life better for yourself or other people that are important in your life – even those that are starving in Africa or suffering from Aids.
You think about it and come up with some resolutions that are worthy...that you like and make sense to you. You get committed. You join a gym – maybe hire a personal trainer. You set a new financial or monthly spending goal. You promise to be more loving, considerate, empathetic. You decide it’s time to do some volunteer work…to give back. You feel good and anxious to get underway. Sound familiar?
At my health club the treadmills and exercise classes become filled right after January 1st. There’s a frenzy that you can feel in the air. It’s palpable as people make straining noises at the weight machines and gasps working with free weights. As they leave you can see they’re breathless and sweaty - but satisfied they’ve suffered sufficiently.
By late February attendance is half of what it was – if not less.
Why is it so hard to make positive changes and stick with them?
Think about it. You’ll likely have to let go of habits that are easy and comfortable – and “burnt in” to your everyday behavior. You may have to even “can” some of those habits that you love...like having three glasses of wine with your wife or significant other when you get home - and instead replace it with a new habit like a heart threatening cycling class at the gym, then a group shower followed by a “nice” dinner consisting of broccoli, carrots and a small helping of fish.
But there are some who hang in there...that don’t give up. They keep coming, they keep losing weight, they’re cycling faster and harder, their body gets definition. You can see in their faces a growing self-confidence. These are the few who have adopted the Make-it-happen paradigm. They see commitments as promises – and they keep them. And, for them, this mentality – this disciplined approach to life - typically goes way beyond the gym. These are successful people.
Picture two extreme “life positions” with a long continuum in between running from left to right. On the far left, call it Position #1, are those who typically Let-“it”-happen (i.e. are reactive; let themselves becomes “victims” of circumstance). And, those on the far right, call it Position #2, are those who typically Make-“it”- happen (i.e. take responsibility and are proactive). Most of us average out somewhere in between these two extremes.
The two questions are:
Where are you – most of the time?
And, where do you want to be?
If you want to move further to the right keep reading...
Make “it” happen
In the work I’ve done, and still do, I’ve found that successful people, those who make-it-happen most of the time, have a systematic method for prioritizing, making decisions and taking action. They live by the credo: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
They calculate the risks, think through a plan of action and then proactively decide and act. They learn and grow from this and their ratio of “wins” to” losses” improves – along with their self-confidence. This process sets an upward growth spiral that steepens as the ratio of “wins” improves.
It applies to both your personal and professional development and in the quality and depth of your most important relationships.
There’s a technique…a simple “tool” derived from a concept called Force Field Analysis. It was developed byKurt Lewin, a noted Scientist. I use a “long form” of it when I have major improvement decisions I want to make or with clients faced with difficult decisions. Here’s a “short form” set of questions I use on a fairly regular basis:
What priority situations are going “flat” or going South that I need to deal with now?
Where do I want it to be/what do I want it to look like? (i.e. the goal)
How “big” is the gap between them? (Impossible?, do-able?, no big deal?)
What are the major “restraining” forces that are keeping me from getting there (including my own limitations)?
What are the major “driving” forces working in my favor? (i.e. the “outside” forces that will help me achieve the change, as well as my own skills/capabilities).
Following this inquiry I have a two step action plan:
Develop my action plan for reducing/eliminating the “restraining” forces and enhancing the “driving” forces?
Put it on my calendar, carve out the time, de-prioritize the less important – and supposedly urgent issues, promise myself not to procrastinate, get focused and make-it-happen!
What usually queue’s me to use this process is recognizing that I’m either getting bored, fearful, angry, depressed or apathetic around my work or my important relationships. These are easy to recognize when there’s a dramatic change in the near term. But, most of the time they’re small, incremental changes that occur gradually over time and aren’t as easy to detect. But, they accumulate, become bigger and more difficult to deal with – and you don’t see it coming ‘till it hits you full force. So, in my work and in my important relationships I have some “early warning” detectors that prompt me to “get on it” before it gains momentum!
Look at one of your major resolutions for 2009 –or beyond. Or, a situation that’s been bugging you for a long time that, for whatever reason, you just haven’t acted upon. Try out this simple process. And, if you’re comfortable, it helps to talk it through with someone you love and/or respect. Hopefully, you can keep on moving farther to the “right” side.