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

Advertisements

NEW Rhythm: “card” of the Week 6 Jan 2014

card 1.6.2014

I thought we’d try a few cards this month that aren’t even cards at all.   The first group I selected is from Ted Andrew’s “Animal Runes”  and this week’s offering couldn’t be better for the new year.  I love it!

The Woodpecker signals new patterns, new rhythms and new ways of going about things that can form success and progress.   New rhythms may be breaking out around you spontaneously,   or you may be creating new rhythms and take a new approach starting this week!    This is a time when NEW RHYTHMS are flooding in to help us get to new and exciting places.

A few days ago, on New Year’s  (in the midst of a tissues/cough-lozenge frenzy… I was in no mood to write) I kept thinking of one of my favourite quotes about New Year that I saw a long time ago and which resurfaces from time to time on social media:

“If you want your year to change and be different, you must change and be different.” kute blackson

Ain’t that the truth?  It’s amazing how much we live in a mental world of change where we can IMAGINE something changing when it comes to relationships, creativity, romance or health and wellness  (“Someday I’m going to write that great novel!”  “I want to lose 10 pounds!”  “Someday maybe Barbara and I will be friends again.” )     but we have a really hard time translating all that day-dreaming into real life movement because we have an even harder time embracing the changes to our set pattern.   (“Pick up a pencil? Jot a few ideas down?  Write down character outlines? I don’t have time.”    “Start eating more veggies? Take some long walks and find exercises? Ugh. I’m too tired.  I just eat what I eat on the way to drop the kids off.. I don’t have time to eat anything different.”     “Call Barbara? I dunno. I don’t really feel like it.”)

This is a good time to let those excuses and “same old same olds”  that keep you in the same loop of doing the same things go free.

Keep this trick in mind this week:  If changes in rhythm come up, or if you feel an inspiration to make some new patterns, EMBRACE them because they’re delivering you success, refreshment, and the positive changes that you dream about.  Do something new or different, change things up.    Tap. Tap. Tap.    The same old metronome beat gets tuned out and we just stop hearing it after awhile… slogging through the same old routines, BUT  if you change that rhythm – even one beat, you’ll soon be paying attention in totally new and wondrous ways.

Maybe instead of watching 3 hours of TV on Tuesday, you record your shows and  write a few lines of your novel instead, or maybe your usual food-spot is closed one afternoon and you find a better (healthier) one,  or maybe you simply get up the nerve to call Barbara one afternoon out of the blue.      New patterns are veritably popping out everywhere right now and begging to be played like wonderful new tunes.    This week it will be easy to invite those new patterns in!   And if you’ve already started a few, hooray – you’re on the right track.

It bears repeating:   Sometimes with New Years resolutions we pressure ourselves to change (lots of things! and right this minute!)  to the extent that we just end up being so overwhelmed or take on so much that we just give up.     But maybe this “new pattern” pattern can be more gentle.  Maybe it doesn’t have to be all at once or with numbing, guilt inducing pressure.   Maybe it’s not something you do just this week… maybe it’s new patterns you look for (or invite, or CREATE) all year – here and there …

on little rhythm at a time!

 

About this deck: — this week’s “Card” is not a card but a rune (though it isn’t that either)  from Ted Andrew’s  “ANIMAL-SPEAK RUNES”    a book and 40 piece set of rune-like charms depicting animals and keywords published by Dragonhawk  Publishing.     This little set is great for creative-thinking/inspiration or divination and its so simple and clear to use.   Some of you have requested that I do inspirations on Twitter using this set again  —    I’ve been busy,  and haven’t really been on Twitter as much but I’m definitely thinking of using this (or something similar) again in the near future for daily inspirations!  stay tuned. 

Happy New Year Card of the Week 30.12.2013

 

This week’s cards come from the inimitable “Gummy Tarot”    and we get two cards this week:  the first of which gives us a mighty message about the New Year:

 

12.30.2013 1

 

What a great symbol as we head into the new year.  In the traditional sense, this card (here depicting gummy cubs/children in a safe, warm, sheltered village square, sharing cups of star-flowers)  represents child-like innocence when life was play and sharing.  The pure and simple star flowers represent love and being “present” that we are innately able to share much more easily when we’re in a place of innocence.  Nearly every version of this card represents children at play.  It connects to the past and also towards our ability to use nostalgia (or those qualities of play and innocence)  to benefit our PRESENT instead of living in the past or living out the negative side of nostalgia.      In the Gummiverse, though, this card has addition meaning:

in the LWB for this deck it states,

“Acknowledging others is smart, acknowledging one’s self is wise”

and the card is related here to love, devotion, harmony, clarity and the ability to learn from mentors.  — And it asks, via a task for this card, to think about what we’re giving,

  “declare yourself openly”   –

after all isn’t that cup o’ child-like simplicity, joy and love being SHARED in the image?    And while it’s not visible in the gummy version of this card, in the traditional deck an adult figure is heading up those grey steps and out of the picture…     that over-thinking, goal-oriented, stick-in-the-mud adult mind can get out of the way long enough so that you can be who you are, declare yourself, and find innocence, play, creativity and refreshment in seeing (and being)  who you really are!

Another card comes up with sage gummy advice for this week specifically :

card 12.30.2013 2

 

 

Some people are spooked by the tarot’s iconography but nothing can be too scary with such a cute little candy bear!   Besides, the   Eight of Swords has an important message!  If, like this bear, you’re feeling trapped, blinded and uncertain of the way forward, keep in mind the central message of this card: being free of entrapment.      The figure is blind folded and trapped in a prison of swords… but in reality the swords are not arranged in a very prison-like structure, there’s a HUGE gap and way out right in front!  The ties are not very tight and path ahead shows that there ARE options for a clear way out if only the bear would take off that blindfold!   The longer we sit there being daunted by what we think or slipping into victim mode (waiting to be rescued, for example)  or avoiding life  by preferring the “prison” to the creativity of release, the more we’re going to feel damned by the ties that bind and the swords that stand near the path.  This is time to let go of playing the victim, of listening to directions but not actually taking them,  or or even of  feeling alive ONLY if we’re suffering. (preferring the excitement of the prison and the ties that bind over the truth, being able to whip off that blind fold and get busy!)    This little gummy says it’s time— that you have inner freedom and  patience and that you’re going to find a way out of this and that you have the ability to find the right timing, at just the right moment to drop the loose ties and take the blind-fold off.  It’s time to rip off your own hobbles.

 

HAPPY New Year, everybody.   Party safely, have fun and  may all your bandages and ties come off with ease and may your five-pointed innocence and play flowers bloom more readily than ever!   Tip?  Don’t focus so much on the New Year’s Resolutions (which you may have entirely forgotten by the time February rolls around)  or on what you can do to “go for goals” but instead focus a little bit of energy on who you are NOW.  If you don’t enjoy that, then no “plan for success” is going to mean much.   I know, you want to “Get there”  — but there is now!     Be who you are, do your thing, and you will be able to live and breathe those elements of successful planning all the more readily instead of giving up because you’re overwhelmed by stress and tension.

 

About this deck:   The card for this week hails from the irresistible, cheerful  pocket-sized (yet readable and serious)   “The Gummy Tarot” deck by Dietmar Bittrich   from US GAMES.     Have you ever had gummy bears?   In case you live under a rock and you’ve missed out on these little Gummibärchen (Gummy Bear)  candies;  they’re roughly bear-shaped little bits of “gummi”  (a gelatinous confection)  which are gorgeous,  like fragments of stained glass yet rubbery and of indeterminate fruit identities.     They’re peculiar, but addictive (especially in a movie-theater) .         Alas, I don’t eat animal gelatin, but luckily for me I can enjoy gummy bears in this cute tarot deck.   This deck is truly awesome and comes in its own colourful tin.    It follows the basic  Rider Waite illustration template but with simple drawings of Gummy bears.   Cards that have serious or frightening traditional iconography like “The Tower” are more digestible and less threatening in adorable gummy-form but the messages are just as powerful. This deck is much beloved with young and old for good reason.