“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” — Tony Robbins
2020 required a new set of tools for working and a new way of being.
In order to thrive in 2021, you need to follow the same theme.
Do not approach your new year’s goals with the same thinking as last year — you know it well, ‘This year I am going to get healthier, start running, write a book or do that course”.
Inevitably after about two weeks, your motivation wanes and you drag up the same list the next New Year’s Eve.
How about ditching the resolution list and replacing it with a ‘drop list’?
In order to make progress in your life, you first need to let go of what isn’t serving you.
If you want to renovate your home, you don’t build on top of mold hoping no one will notice. You’ve got to strip the wall down, remove the mold and start fresh.
It’s the same with you. Let’s remove what isn’t working first — the destructive patterns, negative thoughts, self-sabotaging habits and emotional baggage of 2020.
Once removed, you can shift to new tools and a fresh mind-set to truly own 2021. Here are some suggestions to get you started:Drop Procrastination — shift to the habit of starting
“The challenge is turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting” — Seth Godin
The common misconception about procrastination is that it is a time management issue but it’s really a stress management and an emotion management issue.
Covid-19 has elevated your daily stress levels, blurred the lines between work and personal life and completely overwhelmed your cognitive and emotional load.
You have spent most days worrying about aging parents, family and financial uncertainty. Now you arrive at your computer to work and must tackle a daunting presentation.
In order to avoid the feelings associated with the task, you just ditch the entire task and revert to cat videos to ease you into the day. Eventually two hours pass, and you are no further on your presentation.
Then the self-loathing begins which pushes you into more negative emotions like guilt and shame. In this state, there is no chance of producing your best work.
The reality is you cannot change the stress, there will always be stress in your life. You need to shift into creating a starting ritual to get you going.
Sit down at your desk with the commitment that you will only work on it for 15 minutes. That’s it.
Then break down your task into its simplest steps. Don’t think about the presentation, think about slide 1. Then go one step further, what is one bullet point that relates to slide one?
If exercise is a huge mental block for you, can you put on your training shoes and do 5 minutes of the activity?
One pose, one squat, one mindful breath…just make progress. You will wonder why it took you so long to begin.
What if it’s a bold goal?
“Most of the things happens only in our imagination, if we stop imagining, it will stop happening”- Anonymous
Perhaps the goal in question is not as simple as a presentation. Maybe you want to write a book? The thought of this giant goal is exactly what is preventing you from starting. It feels too massive.
Ask yourself ‘how can I test this on a smaller scale?’
If you want to become a writer, don’t focus on the end product of a book. Can you write one short article to post on LinkedIn? Can you write one blog for your website?
If an entire article feels too daunting, then how about writing one sentence? That’s it. Start the process. Then the next day write the next sentence.
Maybe on the third day, you get inspired to write three sentences?
There is no such thing as runners block; they just get on the road and go.
Recognize if there is fear associated with the task and begin anyway. Are you delaying because you have created a story about being judged? Combat these feelings with action rather than the habit of avoidance.
The truth is your own inaction will reinforce the story. If you want to change your story, take that first step. Today is the day to begin.Drop self-criticism — shift to self-praise
‘Belief without talent will take you far further than talent without belief. But if you have both you can go far.’ — Marissa Peer
Psychologist Marissa Peer reminds us that the mind likes what is familiar and avoids what is unfamiliar. When someone offers you genuine praise, do you say thank you or do you deflect it with comments like “Oh this is so old, I’m still so overweight — but you are so smart, you look fantastic’.
The way to drop the habit of self-criticism is by praising yourself.
Stop waiting for the big outcomes to give yourself permission to acknowledge your progress. You don’t have to run the race or finish the book in order to feel entitled to accept self-praise.
By taking action, no matter how insignificant it may seem and then celebrating it, is the path to real change.
Stanford Professor BJ Fogg says that ‘Emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions.’
This is why celebration and self-praise are so important as part of your habit creation formula.
Fogg says “Scientists learned decades ago that rewards need to happen either during the behavior or milli-seconds afterward. Dopamine is released and processed by the brain very quickly. That means you’ve got to cue up those good feelings fast to form a habit.
Incentives like a sales bonus or a monthly massage can motivate you, but they don’t rewire your brain. Incentives are way too far in the future to give you that all-important shot of dopamine that encodes the new habit.
Celebration is habit fertilizer. Each individual celebration strengthens the roots of a specific habit, but the accumulation of celebrations over time is what fertilizes the entire habit garden. By cultivating feelings of success and confidence, we make the soil more inviting and nourishing for all the other habit seeds we want to plant.
Above all, celebration teaches us how to be nice to ourselves — a skill that pays out the biggest dividends of all.”Drop busyness — shift into clarity
“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal” — Steve Maraboli
The blurring of work and personal life and the absence of the impromptu meeting in the office has created more fragmented time in your day. These shorter bursts of time where you are moving from one activity to the next in complete overwhelm.
Your calendar has become a multi-colored collage of calendar invites where people are searching for any open gap with the subject of the meeting — urgent!
In a nutshell, you have become addicted to busyness and the ‘always on’ bustle.
When was the last time you had white space in your calendar?
“You’ve got to slow down to speed up”- Rich Litvin
White space is often perceived as a negative thing. It brings up fear that you aren’t doing enough.
The most important meetings are the ones you have with yourself.
Block out slots in your calendar every week with the subject line ‘Meeting with EXCO’. You are the executive committee; you are leading you.
Use this time for things that are important but not urgent like proactive work, creative thinking, planning, prevention, relationship building and learning.
This is about recreation, as in Re-Creation. Spend time letting your mind wander so you can find innovative solutions to your new reality.
Although these activities are less clickable and adrenaline boosting, this is where you take charge of your own life and do the things that will make a real difference in terms of results.
Time spent planning reduces crises and firefighting that takes away your time and drains your energy. Even if you are convinced you do your work under pressure, science confirms otherwise.Drop self-judgement — shift to self-observation
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” — Daniel Goleman
Think back when you made a huge blunder — you sent that rude message, copied the wrong person on the email or lost your temper with someone. It was most likely because you never paid attention to your internal signals.
The bridge between where you are and where you want to be begins with self-awareness. That means paying attention to your body wisdom; it knows when you are getting frustrated and anxious before you do.
When I get tense, I can feel my throat closing. Some people feel it in their stomachs, jaw and fists clenching, or they have a tightness in the chest. Pay attention — once you are aware of it, you can insert that mental pause button that will allow you to respond rather than react.
State management is so important, it is usually trigged by one of these 4 conditions: Hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Use the acronym HALT to remind you to check in with yourself when you can feel your emotions driving the bus.
If you get triggered by a snotty email, take some deep breaths and neutralize the adrenaline in your body. Draft the email but walk away from it or save it in your drafts until you have calmed down. When you come back to it, I guarantee you that you will not send it.
Rather than berating yourself for the destructive behavior and allowing the inner critic to make it worse, develop self-observation and tune in to the warning signs first so you can operate from a state of calm confidence in the heat of any situation.Drop self-sabotage — shift to self-leadership
“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.”– Anthony de Mello
Each day is made up of moments but it is the micro choices you make throughout the day that will determine the path you take on how you experience the next chunk of time.
For example, do you choose to watch Netflix or go for a run when you are stressed? Do you give yourself a much needed break or do you power through your fatigue?
Research done at Duke University found that 60% of the actions you take every day are not decisions but habits.
When was the last time you pressed pause and put your habits under a microscope?
Perhaps you have been doing this behavior for so long, it doesn’t even register to you that it may be destructive and it has become a choice.
In order to break the cycle of self-sabotaging behavior, you need to conduct a habit audit.
How can you interrupt a pattern you cannot even see? How can you expect to change when you are not aware of the actions holding you back?
Create a habit journal and map out your daily activities for one week.
Start with the habits around energy management and self-care:
Identify the pattern and trigger
“Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be”- James Clear
Once you have identified an area you want to change, perhaps drinking alcohol during the week, you can put a spotlight on the trigger for the behavior.
Is it a location, a time of day or an emotion? Most people reach for the wine when they’re stressed or simply because it is a Friday afternoon.
The more honesty you can bring to the choices you make and understand what is really behind them, the more power you have to lead yourself effectively.
Once your week of habit watching is up, ask yourself:
· Are these actions serving or sabotaging me?
· Are they aligned to my 2021 goals?
· Do I really want to continue this behavior in the new year?
· What habit can I replace this with to better serve me?Conclusion
“The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today”- Les Brown
By letting go of what no longer serves you, you create space for new possibilities.
Imagine its December 2021 — what do you want to be able to report back from your year? What did you achieve, how do you feel?
Knowing what actions to drop and what to replace them with will enable you to confidently own your days, focus on the micro choices that have the highest impact, and reverse-engineer the life you want.
Wishing you a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a blessed 2021.
Here’s to new possibilities,