How to Make Changes and New Year Resolutions Stick for Good

newyear2016

Happy New Year, everyone!  I can’t believe we’re almost a week into the brand new year. It’s going to be an awesome one!

A week ago or so, a lot of us started to reflect on the past year and think of what we want to accomplish in the New Year.  There’s tons of articles out now about setting New Year’s resolutions (and even whether doing that is a good idea or not) and it’s generally a time where people are geared up for “new habits” and thinking about the themes they want to change.

And you know what happens next; all those good intentions, the containers from the Container Store, the new gym trainers, the new juicer and the new notebook for writing down household expenses, all gather dust in our guilt-closet before March if we’re not careful.

If you’ve done the most important part (listening to your own heart about what needs to change in your life, or what you’d love to create)  here’s some things I’ve learned about making the energy of change and creativity into NEW habits instead of just “resolutions”  –

 

elephantgraphic1

Big elephant, small bites

How do you eat a life-sized chocolate elephant? One bite at a time.

The biggest obstacle to making any new change is that seemingly insurmountable gap between the big dream (“Be a better person”  “Lose weight” “Move on from ex”  “Quit smoking”) and real results.  We’re often stymied when it comes to figuring out how to make nebulous or big plans reality.  In this case, the chocolate elephant in the room is your dreams, goals and visions.   You will need both big dreams and small bites to finish the job.   A big dream is a goal, an end-game, something you desire to attain for yourself in the long run.  Smaller “bites” are that big dream broken down into doable tasks that you do every day, which will add up to attaining your goal.

Small bites may not seem like much, but they’re just as important as the big dreams. Your mind needs a way to see that there are doable things you can do to make those visions concrete. Waiting for something to magically manifest won’t help, and sitting there looking at that huge chocolate elephant can cause you to give up before you even take a single bite.

Let’s say your big goal is to “be organized”, this instruction is so undefined and huge that you’ll never want to tackle it.  Small bites, on the other hand, can make the goal feel like a reality right now.   A small bite is your specific, small (remember it has to be doable!) action you’ll do today:

This morning I’m going to recycle all the magazines and take-out menus that aren’t current.

Create a small bite  objective for each big goal, each day… the smaller the better:

Today I’m going to create a mail centre with envelopes, stamps and a place to put incoming mail, and outgoing mail,  for example.

As those small bites add up, and the victory you feel when you accomplish them will help you be excited and creative about making new ones as the daunting task seems smaller and more manageable.   If you have trouble figuring out a small, doable task, find a book related to the goal you want to achieve.  A book can give you lots of ideas about actions you can take and you can invent your own.

 

Use your current habits

We’re creatures of habit, so why not use existing ingrained routines to get started on new ones?   New habits simply need repetition to become set and what better way than to use things you do each day already.

Use existing habits as a basis for your small-bite action goals wherever possible.  For example, if you want add extra steps to your pedometer, you can use a quick daily walk that is already a habit for you (to and from your car, your path to work) and make it a bit longer each day.  If you want to keep your briefcase tidy, associate a new habit with something you do already:
When I plop my briefcase on the table tonight, I’ll take out the papers and items I don’t need for tomorrow.
If you cook dinner at home every night, use this meal to create a new dietary habit instead of forcing yourself to make diet lunches:
For dinner tonight, I’ll make a dish with greens and whole grains

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  If you exercise in the evening already, then dreaming up a new scheme to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym might be counter-productive for you.

Making defined, specific times to do your tasks and small-bite actions will help you introduce new habits to your routine and follow through.

The human brain builds synaptic connections and strengthens the efficiency of neurons in tasks that it does routinely. Synaptic “pruning” helps us put more energy into the things that we practice and do often by pruning away and eliminating connections we don’t use very often. Making new habits pair with existing strong connections helps you incorporate them faster.

The ivy effect

As an ivy plant grows, it senses progress and produces new cells which create tendrils, leaves and shoots. When the ivy comes in contact with objects, it alters its root structure to climb trees, and even walls. The more it grows, the better it can climb.  Your new habits and changes are just like that ivy, constantly building a bigger system and structure.  Seeing the results of your effort build an unbroken streak every day can be amazingly effective to help you keep going.  Use an app, calendar, journal or wipe board to keep track of your “streak”.    Each time you do your daily small-bite task, create a check mark.

It sounds silly but it works. Seinfeld’s famous “habit chain” operates on this same principle. When Jerry Seinfeld was a rising comedian, he knew that he’d have to consistently develop new jokes. To keep at it, even when he wasn’t in the mood, he took a giant wall calendar and marked a red “x” on the date whenever he achieved his goal of writing every day. When he saw those “x” marks adding up like links in a chain, he was inspired to keep going.

If you’re into technology – there’s a ton of apps for tracking habits and reinforcing patterns so there’s sure to be one that works for you.  I’ve tried a few that have reminders like “Fabulous: Motivate Me!” for Android…  but I have found a visual representation of progress works best so using an app on my phone to write all over a pdf calendar page lets me see a string of habits collect.

 

Cut the distractions

The best way to create changes and new routines is to make your environment less cluttered with distraction.  Simplify wherever you can and make the items you need for your goal easy to reach and get to.
For months my goal of having a tidy house was thwarted by my bathroom vanity.   Somehow, in spite of my best intentions, it became a repository for old receipts, coins, empty jars, products, and other junk.   It was a disorganized mess and it was difficult to keep clean.

Finally, I decided to place out only those items I used every day out on the vanity and shelves nearby… nothing else!   Something strange happened immediately. Without effort, I kept the entire vanity neat as a pin, with items put away properly and the vanity and sink wiped down every day.  (I realized that all that clutter had made me give up and let junk land where it may.)  Being able to find things fast, when I needed them, was the reward that kept my habit going.

Be here now

Failure starts with unrealistic expectations and living in the future instead of the present.   Maybe you want to have a healthier diet and daydream about being skinny and having lots of romantic attention from partners who find the new, slimmer you irresistible.  But when you look in the mirror, it’s not happening fast enough and you beat yourself up for still being chubby, and because you don’t have six-pack abs and you can’t cook a gourmet twelve course raw feast, you give up on yourself and have a basket of French fries.

I have a long list of failed New Year’s resolutions in years past with crazy stuff like, “learn to read Ovid’s Metamorphosis in Latin,”  or,  “make all my food from scratch”  perfectly reasonable, creative goals for someone… but for me they just gathered failure dust because I didn’t create an expectation (learn more words in Latin, make some meals at home..)  that I could actually DO.   At the end of the day,  we can only do what matters to our heart in the PRESENT.

Instead of this defeating, demoralizing pattern of expecting instant results or living in fantasy imagination of the future, put your energy and focus on what you are doing today to attain your goals.   Be patient with yourself and tell yourself you’re doing a good job right here in the present.   Have your goals in mind, but focus on the small-bites and immediate tasks far more than anything in the future.   You will absolutely see progress if you stay grounded in the present.  If you slip up, the present moment is always a new beginning.

 

 

*article adapted from my article “Making New Years Resolutions Stick” Psychic Guidepost magazine

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Multi-Tasking Fae; Card of the Week 2 November, 2015

card 11.2.2015

 

Once again – some great synchronicity!   I love this card. It’s funny, over the weekend I’ve been thinking about how this month’s theme is really about getting things done.

Many of us are in an intense period of ramping up effort to change our lives in a significant and meaningful way, or because we have a big endeavour that is finally taking shape.  Many people are feeling that things absolutely MUST change because they can’t, absolutely can’t, go on as they have been! Something has to give.   November and December are months of really stepping up our game and starting to create our vision in a focused way that impacts real life.   2016 is going to be really big, and we’re getting ready now… and we have to be focused and productive.

This card is all about multi-tasking!  Most of us think we’re working so hard and doing so many things that we’re bewildered when we don’t see the ‘cookie’ or the reward for having done such a bang up job of being busy.   (“Where is what I’m looking for?”)   when in reality we’ve been taking on a lot of jobs and energies (and doing tons of things simultaneously)  that make us feel like we’ve worked hard but not necessarily on what we need to.  It also makes it difficult to be consistent with the very actions that would lead us to what we wish to accomplish.

Here we see the fairies zipping around doing a million different things; gathering twigs, studying sea-shells, showing off paintings, brokering deals, learning archery, hustling, toting and going.  There’s so much to do and only so many hours in the day – if we try to “do it all” we end up not enjoying, or feeling truly connected with anything that we’re doing.

Creative energy can be wonderful, but it can also make for creative burnout if we try to do too much of even a good thing. Not only that, it’s all too easy to put our energy into activities that aren’t really the most important ones.    This week, it’s time to get some focus and balance!

There’s no such thing as “multi-tasking.”   Multi-tasking is a myth.  I know… I hear some of you object, “No! I’m an *excellent* multi-tasker.  It’s on my resume!”   but recent studies in neuroscience are proving that our brains can’t actually focus on things simultaneously, we can just switch from one task to another quickly  (or in the case of some of us, not so quickly).

Switching back and forth quickly might seem to be a cool slight of hand to those who can appear to do it, but it isn’t very sustainable and doesn’t give us the results we want.  It’s possible to sit at the piano and  play a Bach piece by rote and read a magazine on the music stand at the same time…..  (don’t ask how I know this lol )    but you can only play in the most mechanical and unemotional way, and barely absorb the words you’re reading.

This week,  allowing yourself to focus on one thing at a time (as well as  more  on those most important tasks and elements of your being) will allow you to be consistent in your efforts and not to fall prey to the ego trick of, “Well I tried that for a day or so and it didn’t work!” or giving up too quickly when we don’t seem to see a reward. We can teach ourselves that real change doesn’t come from scattered or singular attempts to change but repetition, consistency and ingrained new habits.

It’s a great week to do some exploring:   What do I really need to have on my to-do list? What energies can I set aside completely … or just for a few minutes as I work on a block of time for the MOST important thing?      Remember… if you focus your energy on one thing at a time you’ll find that you’re enjoying all the things you have to do and much more able to get everything you want done.

 

I’m going to be doing some extra posts on this topic this month and also posting some other tips and resources here and on my FB page.  Have an awesome week!!

 

 

About this deck:    The  Victorian Fairy Tarot  by Lunaea Weatherstone and Gary Lippincott, published by Llewellyn,  is one of the most beautifully painted and illustrated tarot decks ever created.  Even if you’re not into “fairies” – this one is worth it just for the artwork

Will Bad Things Happen to Me? FAQ Friday the 13th Edition

Friday 13 meme

When I was a kid, I decided that Friday the 13th was a lucky, fun, special day. I figured if we thought black cats were scary but they were considered lucky in Japan and other parts of the world, I thought I could just make my own kind of luck.  All the talk of  “don’t walk under a ladder” and “uh oh, better watch out, it’s Friday the 13th!”  just made me anxious instead of safer.       Two friends of mine did the same thing growing up and now we send each other Friday the 13th greetings.

Fear, bad luck … these are all manifestations of our human need to figure things out. Our communal and mutual worrying speaks of a fear we all universally have: Will bad things happen to me? And how can I prevent this?   Sometimes our society is more amped up about this than others. If you’re old enough to remember all the water-hording and bank withdrawals that happened before Y2k (when planes were supposed to fall out of the sky and society collapse into chaos) you know what I’m talking about.  (in case you weren’t there… nothing happened!)

In this crazy March Madness energy I’ve had more anxious questions and emails that usual about worry and more worry.  On forums I’ve read astrologers talking about the “accursed degree 29th Pisces” (others say it’s really positive!)  coming in the eclipse  and read people fretting over earthquakes.   I’ve seen several  people posting about how Stephen Hawking warned that instability in a Higgs boson could cause the END OF THE UNIVERSE, and therefore it’s time to freak out if Cern’s large hadron collider gets fired up on schedule towards the end of March.

Deep breath, everyone. The Universe is still going to be here for a long long time (Stephen Hawking actually said that a particle accelerator the size of the Earth would be needed to create such an event – something that will probably be too expensive for anyone to ever make).   Besides that, let’s get real … what is all this worry actually doing to us?   What exactly are we trying to control when we fear dramatic events and disasters?      Now you might be chuckling to yourself that anyone would fear the actual end of the known universe,  but I can guarantee that you worry about “Will bad things happen to me?” at least sometimes. It’s only human.   Whether you’re scared that your chicken salad went bad, that a loved one will get sick, or your boyfriend could leave, or that you’ll lose your job or be alone forever – it’s all normal.

Yes, sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes it feels good to hear that when the world tells us it’s so NOT OK.   Plate tectonics create earthquakes,  and low atmospheric pressure and water vapour can whip into a hurricane that decimates a city.  With the power of choice or illness, people do sketchy, sudden and crazy things.  Unfair things happen, sad things.  Anyone who has been on this planet long enough knows that life does not always seem  fair or fun based on our personal perspectives and needs. We won’t get into the philosophical debates of  things happening “for a reason” or the balance of light and dark and how chaos and destruction,as in nature,  is part of life’s cycle… we’re just speaking of the reality that events we perceive of as bad things DO happen in every life.

We have two choices about how to handle this fact: do the best we can, try  to create our own luck wherever possible, take responsibility for our mission to take care of our world and each other… or we run around like Chicken Little screaming “The sky is falling!” and trying to get one up on the disasters that could happen. Constantly worrying, “what if” about everything in our lives big and small, always trying to peek around corners doesn’t help us deal with things and it doesn’t help us be where we need to be.

Obviously, worry is designed to be beneficial and to help us. It helps us plan for things and be realistic in assessing our needs and future needs. This human gift helps us survive and create.  But unfettered worry is neither helpful nor creative. At some point we have to accept and let go of the fact that we CANNOT (and won’t!) be able to see everything or control everything…. and that that’s OK and all part of the game too!

The biggest mistake people make about intuition is that somehow our intuition is there to always save us from surprise.  A psychic, or our gut instincts, or tarot cards can keep us safe from disaster.   Nope!  Intuition doesn’t tell you exactly what will HAPPEN, that’s up to you– it gives you insight about your present role. Whether you believe this is a soul journey and its all part of a learning adventure your Higher Self/Spirit knows,  or if you believe that stuff just happens –   life will throw curveballs out sometimes.  Would knowing or control even benefit us anyway?

Even if you believe in the concept of Spirit Guides, those Guardian Angels won’t remove the lesson for you.  Have you heard the saying, “God only knows?”  Face it, some truly awesome, wonderful and growth-inducing things in life come wearing a disguise of pain  and  we would NOT want to go through them, or we’d try to arm ourselves against change  if we knew what we were getting into with the limits of our current intellect.  A  friend of mine said, “If I’d had known how hard it is to be a mom, I might not have done it – but I wouldn’t have known how wonderful it is to be a mom -it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

So stop. Even if you COULD know everything, you wouldn’t want to.  In my experience it’s better to use the brain power spent excessive worrying for other things.   The best way to thrive and survive is not  to endlessly anticipate … but to BE HERE NOW creating the path that carries you into a safe and successful future.  Use your intuition to help you deal with the fact that nobody can tell you what will HAPPEN, that’s up to you!  Use it to help you see possibilities and influences right here and now.  Fears will come up sometimes and seem really “real” but that doesn’t mean they are.  Like the y2k scare,  most of the time things aren’t as bad as our brains say they are.

Today, pet the nearest black cat,  watch some Jason Voorhees movies, get comfy knowing that we’re all in the unknown and  we don’t know whether the next day is a black hole supernova day or a special landslide of cake, cookies and cash… but that we CAN handle whatever comes our way.   Make the most of today – now is the only moment we ever really truly have.  Make it special and lucky Smile

“Thanks” Giving?

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

Today is Thanksgiving  for some … others don’t celebrate, and friends up North celebrated last month.  I thought it’d be a good time to write a little bit about “Thanks”

Thanks gets a bad rap. We often equate gratitude and acceptance with being weak and accepting things at a state less than what we wish them to be. This is not true. Instead, being grateful and appreciating what we have (or accepting what is happening around us) are like magic goggles that help us see how to create the best change for ourselves, our family, community and world.  No joke.

Things don’t have to be perfect in order for us to give thanks or feel gratitude.  Being thankful for finding humble shelter (even if it’s not your dream home) doesn’t mean that you can’t move into a mansion one day, nor does it mean you can’t make your little abode nicer.

Things aren’t always perfect but we can be grateful for that too. I’m grateful for my health even though it’s not perfect.  I’m alive! I can live another day and spread some light and love to those around me, and learn from others even if I get migraines or still have pains from an old injury.    I’m grateful for my house even with a leaking pipe or freezing temperatures creeping in drafts, or the constant need to paint something, replace something, or rebuild something. After all, t’s a wonderful place with musical instruments, people I love,  the tools of my gifts.  I’m grateful for my friends and family and everyone I know in my life.  Sometimes they’re not perfect, or they’re scared or negative…  but the same goes for me too! I’m just glad we have time together to explore and learn together.

Happy Thanks giving, everyone!  I hope no matter what you’re doing, whether it’s turkey (tofurkey?) pumpkin pie, Thai noodles or enchiladas, and no matter where you are… that you have a happy day.

 

*The image above is a little painting I did on my phone using a program called Artflow using the oil paint brush for the main picture  and the “pen” mode for the lettering. 

Goodies for Fall 2014

Happy Fall Day

 

An equinox is an astronomical event where the sun is at its zenith over the equator and light and dark, day and night are in perfect balance.   For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, we’re on the threshold of fall and in the Southern hemisphere,  spring is about to burst forth. The Autumnal Equinox hit us on 23rd September, 2014 at 2:29 UTC – making this the first full  day of fall (though yesterday was an acceptable celebration too, since for most of us the equinox was on the 22nd there’s tons of confusion on the web about this ha! ).      So Happy FALL DAY, and Mabon everybody! (more on that in a sec)

I love autumn and while it’s still summer where I am, golden leaves have started to dot walkways and paths and the tops of certain trees are already glowing like yellow torches, leading the way for fall.  Trader Joe’s is carrying probably six thousand pumpkin and pumpkin spice related items  so all is right in the world.

Before we head into this season, let’s pause today and celebrate the balance and poise of the equinox and also the new moon (September 23rd and 24th) in Libra.  A new moon is traditionally a time to set intentions and plant seeds – this month, it’s perfect timing to set intentions towards peace, cooperation and balance (reflecting the Libraness of the moon)

So what’s this Fall Day, you ask? When I was a kid, and because nobody in my family knew about Mabon,  my family invented a holiday to mark the entrance to fall:  “Fall Day”  (one of many family rituals and made up excuses to celebrate).     I would make a special meal and we’d decorate with wooden acorns and paper leaves with messages on them for the upcoming year. My mom and I would go into town for a special chocolate and take a walk looking for leaves and flowers to make a fall wreath.  This is the time of year I think of (and miss!)  my mom the most.  Happy Fall Day, mom, where ever you are!

Finally,  Psychic Guidepost Magazine – for FALL 2014  is out and inside there are articles by Doreen Virtue, John Holland, Tana Hoy and yours truly (on Robin Williams and walking meditation)   — and many other fun articles and tidbits.  Check it out!   (you can view it free online, buy a print copy or view it on your devices)

Happy thanksGIVING!

thanksgivingmice

(a small notebook drawing of mousie Thanksgiving … idea by my dad lol)

 

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/ holiday kick-off with loved ones all around!

There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is small.   I’m blessed in so many ways.  I’m grateful for my friends, family, fellows, clients, and opportunities to create and inspire.   I’m thankful for my online friends and sources of inspiration and admiration.    Gratitude is not a one time a year thing, it’s an everyday appreciation of what we have.

If we DO then we shouldn’t just let it be a holiday “warm fuzzy”  — but a call in our heart not for pity or doing things to make ourselves feel good  but to help others as best we can, always!

And it’s not just the less fortunate but also those around us, neighbours or friends, who might be suffering loss, illness, sadness  or hard times over the holidays.  What a great time to give THEM thanks and appreciate them for what they do!   Giving a little time, love, gratitude or attention is the best gift that everyone can give no matter what.    And you don’t need to wait until it goes on sale or trample the crowds to a midnight door-opening on Black Friday, either!

THANK YOU for all you do, and for you being you!  Wishing you and yours the best holiday 🙂

***Here’s some tips if you decide to make this a season of giving:

*check with local homeless shelters, food pantries or charities that help elderly, disabled or families in need and see what their donation “wish lists” are.  Sometimes you might be surprised by what you find!   (like fresh salad greens or specific types of toiletries or clothing)    For instance, – an item always in demand in colder climates at homeless shelters are disposable hand-warmers.

*If you donate food,  don’t give away things that are extremely-expired, dented, bulging or rotten. People in need are human beings, not raccoons.  If you buy new things at the store,  pick items that are palatable and nutritious.  There’s so much more to do with our gratitude than to break out that can of beanie weenie that has been in the pantry since 1977 or donate some tins of pumpkin pie filling once a year.  (though giving even in small ways is AWESOME and so appreciated!)

*Good food donation items are:     canned veggies, fruits, juices (no added sugar),  spaghetti sauces (be careful as some charities don’t accept glass items), proteins like canned tuna, canned chicken, canned beans, legumes, peanut butter, soups, whole grain cereals and crackers, dry pasta, dry potato flakes, low sugar cereals, nuts, dried fruits, seeds, oatmeal and rice

*You may be able to find a “giving tree”  or “Angel” tree (as they’re sometimes called) in your community.   A charity organizes a gift drive and participants get a  new toy, needed item or clothing item for the adults or children in need which then get distributed at Christmas time.

*Don’t forget furry friends.  Winter can be harsh for animal shelters and rescue agencies.  Check and see if your local animal carers have a “wish-list” too!

*servicemen and women appreciate greetings and well-wishes

*Senior centers can be a marvelous place to give the gift of TIME.  If you play an instrument or can instruct a craft class, donating your time is a lot of fun and very rewarding.

*During holiday sales two for one deals or other magnificent deals might pop allowing you to donate some of those brand new items to folks who could use them.

*If you don’t have extra money or food,  spending a few moments of your time to sit, listen, be there, or pitch in,  can be immeasurably helpful for those in need.