A new year means new beginnings. It’s a universal thing — it’s like we get a brand new blank canvas to play with. We can’t go back to last year, but now we get a chance to do better, starting over with a fresh page in the next chapter of our lives.
The push to have a better year than the last one is based on our wholly understandable desire for a better life for ourselves, which is connected to our tendency to hitch our dreams to fresh starts. Just as well-known, however, is the short lifespan of New Year’s resolutions. For all our renewed hopes and aspirations, it’s easy to forget and rely on the habits, practices and mind-sets that ruled us last year — some of which may have contributed to the things we wish hadn’t happened. Here are a few tips to assist you so you don’t unwittingly set yourself back again this time.
Use your data of the previous year
Use your accomplishments and mistakes to help point out where you can focus on doing better and wiser this year. Mistakes are just that, missed-takes: you did something, it didn’t work. It might have made the situation worse, but you survived. If you paid attention, you’d know what not to do, and this can stand as the starting point for doing better.
Reviewing how and where you spent your time this past year quite literally makes your brain re-view and re-enact those incidents you remember. This mental re-enactment helps spark new ideas : what to focus on, what to ignore, what resources you overlooked then to work with, and how to put them to better use now, etc.
An in-depth review helps you recall the feelings that were behind certain decisions and their results, and all of that — memory, emotion, and aftermath– can help you classify more forcefully what things to drop, what to work on more, and what things to promote as being vital for a better future for you. Bitter lessons can leave the most lasting impression on how we do things next.
When the newness of the year has worn off– and by this time it may already have– the problem can be one of set expectations. With expectations, some self-fulfilling prophecies can also come in pre-bundled, and it will ask you to give conscious, consistent attention to deprogram yourself of the negative ones, like:
- “Sure, I’ll plan, but I’ll never really follow through.” For you to see yourself as someone who gets things done, doing one daily committed action at a time helps build a more positive self-image.
- “I hope I don’t quit this again like last year.” Keep the hope strong with stronger ACTION. Build accountability for yourself by asking a good friend or two to be your project buddies. Keep them informed of your progress, and when you feel like throwing in the towel, tell them. Let them help you out of the funk and nudge you into a better mindset.
- “I’ll get bored of this soon enough and just stop.” Work at making it interesting when you get bored. If something is important enough to you to make a goal about, then make the work progress interesting and engaging enough that you keep at it. Work is labor. Labor is hard. Keep going.
Be aware of this blind spot: We’re more inclined to believe in our fears than our hopes. It’s what the scientists call loss aversion — people are hard-wired to fear the loss of what they have more than the possibility of taking risks and gaining something new or better. You HAVE what you have. It’s easier to think of losing what you have than it is to actively go out and take a risk, because risk implies you can LOSE what you have. Our lizard brain doesn’t like that, and will fight you on keeping your stuff safe.
It’s very easy to sink into habit and a certain structured lifestyle when you don’t dare rock the boat. This can also be exacerbated by extreme short-sightedness and a loss of your focus. You can get so involved with what’s happening right now, in front of you, you forget to look ahead or look up. A lot of accidents happen that way.
Yes, there is a need to re-balance and assess the demands of immediate, short-term and long-term goals, because while we can “plan long,” we only live one day at a time. Our fears, scarcity thinking, and other bugaboos can trail after us, and often get in the way of living, working and acting purposefully. Living by habit is easy. You don’t really need to think while on autopilot. Taking the wheel asks you to be focused and alert.
You don’t have to change everything up. Focus on one or two big projects and build supporting projects under those. Over-extension feeds into the fantasy of having it all, and both are draining. Don’t go after it all. Go after what matters to you, personally. After all, this is your life, and living the next year means it will be your year to do what you decide with.
Instead of going back to the beginning, go jump to the end. What did you plan last year to accomplish this year? “At the end of this year I want …”
Check your writings and your notes
The end of each year is often a time of deep reflection and contemplation. It’s quite likely that you have your own list of goals you’d like to accomplish this year, whether they’re jotted down on a few loose papers on your desk, or fully mapped out in a spread-sheet and project file on your favorite project-planning program (Trello, anyone? How about Basecamp?)
Year’s end gives us a time to reflect on what we ended up with . All our mistakes and miseries, our small victories and joys. The turn of the year is a societal and culturally significant time to relinquish the old year and plan to embrace the new. Go back to your plans. Go back to your defeats.
Go over the things that stood out for you , good and bad,
What are the ways you found yourself in trouble last year?
How did you get out of trouble?
How are you going to ward against that kind of trouble this year?
How big were your troubles now, on looking back?
Here’s a question: what were the biggest worries of the year…that never happened?
This helps kick you into a space of emotional clarity: all your worry was for nothing. The big bad never showed up. You don’t have to worry so hard–in fact, you don’t need to worry at all, as if worrying will balance the bad luck you’re sure will befall you. You can train yourself to not worry so hard and save yourself the wear and tear on your nerves.
Helpful article: Palousemindfulness.com
What can work against you?
Loss aversion. The human brain has one ancient directive. It’s to keep you alive. That means, instinct and intuition, and their sneaky little cousin impulse, can take over the driver’s seat and you can end up pretty much not at your intended destination.
Don’t trust everything you think. Don’t trust everything you feel.
Thinking is easy. Reasoning is harder. Feeling is instinctive, recovery from the heat of the moment is harder.
Habits are automatic things we do. Throw in the definition of insanity which is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results each time, you can’t expect to change if you stick to the same set of habits. Examine your habits. Work to stop the ones which are not actively helping you towards your goals, or actively working against you working on them .
- Want to save money? How about cutting out that daily Starbucks run? That’s a start.
- Want to be cut down on your internet browsing? Why not install apps or add-ons like Leechblock or Coldturkey so you can focus on your work?
You want things to change you have to make your environment hospitable to change. Hospitable, not hostile.
What can you use to help you?
On the lightest level, awareness means that some part of you has taken note of something in the environment, on on your radar.
Attention is paid focus and energy. In this context, you’re tasking a large of your brain to track and think on a particular item on your radar.
Focus is your brain’s active engagement in an issue. For example, if you’re aware that somehow there are a lot of flies in the kitchen, and you pay attention to where they seem to be flocking, you can focus on finding and getting rid of the source of the sudden infestation–maybe leftovers or organic garbage left to rot uncovered.
How do you make poor decisions?
- You rush things and don’t take the time to take in more information, or take the time to think things over with the information you do you have.
- You make assumptions, and don’t work with enough context, a full grasp of the situation, or background
- You’re tired, hungry, distracted , maybe even physically and mentally drained. Emotional upset can also make for poor choices.
- You’re multitasking: You don’t pay enough attention to individual items that actually need it.
- You’re working on unclear goals and with haphazard routines.
Spend time to be aware and prepare. Again, awareness, attention, and focus…DON’T do ALL the things!1!!
Plan your big goals, break them down, and work your way backwards — then start with doing a little chunk every day. Take note of and record the chunks in a visually appealing matter (in a way that means something to you). Whether you buy a smiley-face stamp for your monthly calender and use ink in your favorite color s, or get yourself a pad of gold-star stickers , one for every specific step you accomplish each day in the direction of your goals — make it memorable, meaningful and visual.
Nobody every really knows for certain where they’ll end up after a year has passed. Things happens. They just do. It’s your year now, assess your resources and goals so you can weather the coming months with a sense of purpose and joy.
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