Happy Yuletide cheer to you all! It’s the season of Christmas trees, champagne, and resolutions. Humans are creatures who always wish to be better than what we are, its in our DNA. So every year after Christmas and before January 1, we look back on the previous year and whine about what we didn’t do or how it didn’t meet our expectations.In a moment of inspiration we scribble down sentiments meant to correct us in the New Year. We broadcast them to friends (or the world via social media) and say “Next year will be different” because we believe that somehow when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, we have reverse Cinderella syndrome. We don’t turn into pumpkins, mice, or horses, rather we go from being our old selves to being Cinderella whose powers of self-change are magical. Then January 16th comes, we look in the mirror and we are still a pumpkin, mice or horse and it turns out it was just the champagne that made us think we were Cinderella.
Now I am not saying to heck with self-improvement. In fact I am a big proponent of self-improvement. It’s a cornerstone of my philosophy and brings me joy in life. I am always on some project of self-improvement. Not because I am negative towards myself, but because I am conscious of the fact that I am not perfect and I want to be a more accomplished person. This past year I worked extensively on teaching myself Edwardian cursive and it is now my default mode of handwriting. The year before I had focused on reading more. I used a Reading Challenge that pushed me to read 12 books. So by all means, create goals of self-improvement, but do yourself a favor and structure your game plan wisely.
- Don’t fall for the idea of reverse Cinderella syndrome. You will not magically be able to cope with life changes on January 1 when you wake up with your hangover. In fact, you may be in the worst position to do such things, especially if you are known to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Write out your goals in the beginning of October and start the tasks before Halloween. Doing this ensures that your tasks will be close to becoming habits by Thanksgiving and are less likely to be thrown off course by holiday havoc. It takes around 45 days to form a daily habit. Around that 45 day period it becomes more like nature than a thought process. Keep in mind the that days 14-21 are usually the worst. You may have a nadir of existence during that time where you find it hard to press on with your goal. You will really have to draw on self-discipline at that time.
- Make goals AND tasks. When we make a decision to improve our lives we often forget to write down steps to take. Not having these steps lined out can make the goal seem unattainable. As an example, if you were dropped off at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro to climb it as you are right now you would be unprepared and would fail. But if you had been give a list of tasks to prepare for the climb (like climbing gear shopping list, training schedule, etc) your chances of reaching the top are increased. Your goals for self-improvement are no different. They need clear small tasks. These help keep you on track and also serve as little victories. If your goal is to learn French, your tasks can be as simple as “Listen to a french song on Monday and translate it; and on Fridays research random words you are using into French.”
- Don’t look at your life for the negatives you want to change. Looking in the mirror and saying “God I am fat” will not inspire you to make a long term change. You’re creating a negative mental association with the tasks needed to reach your goal. Instead, get inspired. When you look in the mirror think, “I’d love to be able to complete a 5K.” That is a positive goal that can lead you to losing shedding body fat.
- Lastly, pick goals and tasks that inspire you. If you dread the thought of treadmills and step climbers, don’t include those in your tasks for your goal to lose weight. Trade them out for Yoga or decreased sugar or carb consumption. (Note: I don’t claim to be a dietician. Just an example.)
It’s not too late to make goals for self-improvement for 2018. My suggestion is to brainstorm in January after the holidays and initiate them in February when the holidays-less gloom has begun to wear off and it’s possible that the first signs of Spring are showing.
Happy New Year!
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