Friday, December 24, 2010

Changing Your Life Starts Now

If you’re really going to do it, do it now. What’s stopping you? If you don’t have the focus to start changing your life the day you decide to change your life, then you can bet you won’t be able to do it a week from now. People who are serious about a goal don’t put the goal off. People who put off goals have the wrong goals in mind. Tell yourself you are going to make an improvement in your life right now. This minute. Then keep reading to figure out how to do that.

1. Pick one small goal.

Big goals entail lots of little goals, which is why big goals fail. If you want to wake up early, for example, the first thing you have to do is stop accepting invitations for stuff that will get you to bed late. Getting up early is relatively easy if you go to bed early, but going to bed early is relatively hard in a world where few people do it. And, you have to do it every night to train your body. Big goals need to be broken down into pieces and tackled this way. This is why the classic New Year’s resolutions — lose weight, exercise more, eat better — are guaranteed failures.

2. Give the self-discipline part of your brain a workout.

If you want to do something and you’re not doing it, it’s an issue of self-discipline, right? The good news is that self-discipline is something that snowballs. If you have a little of it, you get more. It’s sort of like “the rich get richer” — the self-disciplined become more self-disciplined. This is because self-discipline is like a muscle in your brain, and in many of us, it’s a weak muscle. It’s no wonder: It wasn’t a high-priority as people evolved. The impulse for immediate gratification (food) and the need to fight or flee (survival) were stronger than anything in the newer, front part of the brain where delayed gratification (self-discipline) occurs.

So you have to exercise the self-control mechanisms in your brain to make them stronger than the immediate gratification/fight or flight part of your brain. To this end, if you do one, very small thing (like, say, make your bed every morning), then other things will happen without trying. This is because it takes concentration (mindfulness is the buzzword here) to get yourself to change your behavior, even if it’s something seemingly as simple as making your bed. This small step-and the concentration that’s required-stays with you and begins to help you make other changes. So instead of making a big resolution, resolve to change one small thing about your day, every day.

3. Tell someone.

Private goals are excuses to not do them. If you don’t tell people it’s because you don’t want to fail. When you win a prize, you tell people, right? Because it’s certain. So why not act like your increase in self-discipline is certain, and tell people about it. Act like someone who is successful, and you’ll become someone who is successful. It’s oft-told advice, I know, but it works. So start believing in yourself. Note that telling people your big goal is actually detrimental to you. But telling friends the small things you are doing right now, on a daily basis, is useful.

Sure, your friends might wonder why you’re telling them you’ve started making your bed. But so what? It might open the path for conversations about other things you’re tackling as a way to achieve goals. And, ultimately, talking about these things, however little they are, will help you succeed.

4. Hang around successful people.

Successful people don’t need New Year’s resolutions. People who understand goal setting are successful. They have daily to-do lists and they prioritize their goals for their life. And, most importantly, they attack big goals by breaking them down. They don’t need New Year’s resolutions because they are making resolutions all year long. And keeping them. Find these people. They’re easy to spot. Hang around with them, and skirt the New Years resolution frenzy in favor of a well-examined life.

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