With the arrival of a new decade, many people are thinking about making changes toward creating greater happiness in their lives. But how many people truly make sweeping transformations in a year? One way to overcome this trap, especially for overachievers, is to set smaller, more attainable goals.
Resistance to Change
Change of any kind is a challenge, as inertia is the easiest path. Why does it seem so hard to make a shift? Neuroscience researcher Joe Esperanza says, “We’ve in fact conditioned ourselves to believe all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily true—and many of these things are having a negative impact on our health and happiness.” He says we’re addicted to our beliefs and emotions of our past — and we often see our beliefs as truths, not as ideas we can change.
Nevertheless, the mind believes what you tell it. That being the case, you might as well direct it to something spectacular. You have the ability to mitigate negatives and encourage more positive outcomes. Yes, you can redirect your thoughts, beliefs, and expectations, creating a different reality. Your perspectives can be managed, better.
A Case in Point: The Overachiever
Let’s take the example of the overachiever. If you’re like many, you strive to get ahead all the time, be it at work, home, or in your personal life. You may be striving for that promotion, want to organize your apartment, lose 10 pounds, or reach a fitness goal. But somehow that relaxation point of achievement is elusive because you haven’t yet trained your mind on how to shut it off. You’re constantly going, constantly falling into the same routine of setting big, nearly impossible goals.
Aim to Do Less
What if one of your New Year’s Resolutions were to modify your goals into half or one-third? Setting smaller, achievable objectives, even on a daily or weekly basis, can bring you an enormous sense of contentment and achievement—versus life-changing goals that are mentally and physically exhausting.
Remember when you were a kid? Did you ever play “opposite day,” being a contrarian? It may be time to resist your normal habits and dare I say, strive for less—as that will likely yield much more. Why? Because the old way is likely causing you to be overwhelmed. At the end of the day, you wish you had just set out to do two or three items on your never-ending to-do list, not 10.
This may be about one goal that in itself takes an army to complete adequately. You may have trouble delegating some tasks, be torn about the priorities—or have other obstacles that keep you stuck.
Whatever the reason, be kind to yourself and take some concrete steps toward change:
- Visualize what you want. Envision the “2.0 you,” whether it’s a more organized person, more financially secure, a top salesperson, individual with a great work/life balance, nature lover, or whatever lifestyle you seek. Picture all the spoils that come with it. Make a vision board, or post images on your computer.
- Make a slow and steady change. If we could wave a wand and have our dreams come to fruition instantly, that would be nice, but sudden change is often fleeting. Steady and thoughtful always prevails. Remember the Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and The Hare”?
- Focus your thoughts. You have complete power over what you choose to think about. Be clear and consistent with thoughts of what you want out of life—and know what you don’t want. If you find you’re having negative thoughts, flip them to positive. Whether you’re dealing with a challenging boss, preparing for a job interview or starting a project, first set your thoughts on a positive outcome. Without direction or focus, thoughts are like paddling in a river flowing upstream—you go nowhere. With an undeterred focus, you allow goals to become concrete realities.
- Learn some habit changing techniques. The words and images you use also create your reality. Modify them to work for you. When someone asks you how you are, do you say, “Fine” or “Great?” “Fine” has little energy while the word “Great” exudes power. Being disingenuous is not the goal, but a little positive self-training is useful and empowering! Use powerful words, such as “excited,” “wonderful,” or “fun.” Write down your feelings in a journal, and if negativity has crept in, change your language. Gratitude and appreciation with a healthy dose of self-love are keys to maintaining a positive, happy attitude toward life.
- Self-correct. Be willing to fail. The most successful people had big dreams and didn’t let failures stop them along the way. They used these experiences as building blocks and naysayers never stopped them. Successful people rethink and adjust their sails. If one job, business or relationship isn’t working, revise or reset. Life is about adjustment and learning—and comfort zones are overrated.
One of my favorite popular quotes about change is, “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” How will you bring meaningful change into your life—differently—in this new decade of opportunity?