By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. Seems like January is always a good time to evaluate my habits and attempt to set up better goals. I'd like to work on everything from keeping my desk cleaner to not saying snarky things in meetings. Seems by February every year, all my good intentions have faded. How can I actually succeed at keeping my New Year's resolutions?
A. What I tell clients is to start by evaluating whether their goals belong to them or whether their resolutions fall into the category of "things good people should do." You will never get truly motivated to do what will make other people happy with you.
Most human beings are deeply oppositional. If you decide to swear off donuts, you may instead find yourself irrationally making your local donut shop your new hangout.
The following tips will help inspire your authentic desire for change, navigate your oppositional side, and improve your long-term well being:
Don't overwhelm yourself with a long list of goals.
Time-travel into 2014 and look at the video of what you have changed. As you watch the video, ask yourself what changes jump out as important to you.
Let the 2014 video guide the list of goals you write down. Instead of writing what you will stop - "No donuts!" - write down what you will do instead, such as "Yogurt for breakfast." You are more likely to implement a "do" than to refrain from a "don't."
Look at people you admire. What do they do that you do not? What do you imagine is on their list of New Year's resolutions? Time-travel to your gravestone. What do you want written on it? Make sure the goals you write down contribute to this gravestone.
To be effective, New Year's resolutions need to be premised on the idea that you are valuable enough to take care of. If you are last on your list, then you'll always have a long list of goals that you admire as each year ends without any change.
Any change requires discomfort, thinking outside the box, and a willingness to admit where you'll end up if you don't change. Your work and personal life are a lot like one of those science fiction movies about someone who goes back in time and gets a second chance. Only in your movie, most of your chances are still available.
To motivate yourself, ask how much money you'd pay to go back and make better choices on mistakes you've already made. Now stop and consider that you could avoid many future mistakes if you'd just give yourself permission to get in the driver's seat in your life.
Once you start reaping the satisfaction of achieving some of your cherished goals, let yourself enter each day looking for the tiniest changes you could add. Perhaps you take the stairs not the elevator; perhaps you speak up one more time in a meeting; or perhaps you say no to a waste of time.
No single moment will change your life, but each moment is an opening where you can blossom or whither on your vine. What will you choose right now?
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This was printed in the January 27, 2013 - February 9, 2013 Edition