OK so it’s a cliche. Fine me. I am re-posting an article I wrote last year for an on-line publication. I have re-read it, and some of it’s a bit cheesy, but essentially I still agree with myself! I’m not sure if this is encouraging or not. I think the original premise was a bit of a rant about all the people who sell books and ‘plans’ at this time of year, knowing that many people will be looking to change something about themselves or their lives. May be I was just jealous. The net result was a lack of guilt-ridden new year’s resolutions and an article about taking control back for who you are and who you want to be. Here goes…
A quick scan of on-line bookstores will indicate the sheer volume and variety of multi-media propositions for changing lives. Particularly numerous at the start of a new year, books on dieting, changing habits, lifestyles, and even personality, proliferate, seducing people into believing that a simple purchase can change a life. This time of year is a great time to wipe the slate clean and make some changes for the better, but the sheer volume of tools available can be overwhelming, so it is often better to gain a clear focus on the objective, and work out some practical steps to achieving it, before turning to others for assistance.
Lifestyle gurus, nutritionist and diet planners would love people to buy their books. Most of them won’t be too bothered if the books are then stacked on the shelf unread, or whether their advice for a new year makeover is followed. They have their sale, regardless of the outcome. However, people end up disillusioned: still 5 pounds heavier from Christmas feasting and no further forward on their life plan.
Books that claim to be able to change lives are not inherently bad. A lot of books contain good advice, sound dietary principles and practical suggestions for improving shape, weight, finances, health, job, or any of the other myriad of things people want to change about themselves and their lives. The problem with these books is that they are not personal. They don’t know what motivates one person from another; what people’s quirks and idiosyncrasies are, their hopes and dreams, fears and frailties. You are the only person who knows what you need and what will motivate you to get it.
Feeling fed up with life, often translates into being fed up with something about yourself. This is not often a message people want to hear. A book which promises the answers is a much more attractive proposition. Ultimately, however, it is individuals who need to make the changes – no one else can do it. Gurus, guides and authors are helping hands; conceding responsibility for making lifestyle changes to these people will end in disappointment. Take courage and be encouraged by the message that you have the power!
People need some space and time to find out what they want. It might be a short term goal, like shedding a few pounds, or it might be a longer term objective like being self-employed, or moving to another country. The beauty of taking the time to discover a personal vision and developing enough self-belief and confidence to believe in it, is that once you do , you are half way to achieving it!
Most people will have come across SMART objectives at some point, be it in annual reviews or project plans. The mnemonic ,which stands for, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time limited or Trackable objectives. However jaded they might seem in a work context, in personal applications they can be a powerful tool for change. It’s not a mantra, ideology, fad, or yet another quick fix, but a template for goal setting which works. Apply them to personal goals for an effective formula. There are a number of on-line courses and websites which can help you to formulate SMART objectives if you are unfamiliar with the concept.
Vague dreams about ‘doing something different’ or ‘being a bit slimmer’ will never amount to much more than frustration. However, deciding to run a B&B in the country within a 2 year time frame could be enough to inspire and challenge you into taking some real steps of commitment towards the project. Similarly, joining a slimming programme for three months and pledging to lose a pound or 2 a week will result in genuine results within that time frame.
And that’s a good thing. People know in their own hearts that they have things they want to achieve; they know that no one can give up smoking on their behalf, or get them a new job or find them a life partner. When people start to be real with themselves, and realistic with their dreams, they know it’s up to them, and that they have the power to do it. Books and DVD’s and life coaches, all have their place, but will never replace self-belief, vision, personal dreams, and individual contribution. Planning to succeed is what leads to the success that people crave.
This year there will me no ‘new’ me. I PLAN to take up a few new hobbies, and I will succeed in doing so. If you have changes you want to make and things you want to do, plan for it, and then just do it.