The end of 2018 is fast approaching, and I find myself wondering how many people made New Year’s resolutions at the start of the year, and how many have actually achieved their goals. A very quick trawl of the Internet would suggest that about half of us make resolutions and by February most resolutions have been abandoned. Which, frankly, is not a great success rate.
In many ways it’s easy to have great resolutions. A shiny list of all the good that we plan for the year ahead. We’re then hit by the reality of life, the barriers and obstacles, the self-doubt, the lack of instant success, the defeatism… the list goes on… and on. And another great idea is set adrift to that place where all broken ideas end up, a place called “Some Day Isle”.
What, then, can you do differently? Make sure you aim for something positive, really positive. Negative goals, what you don’t want, will get you moving and this will not last, so aim for what you want. Make sure you can see yourself doing the goal, whatever the goal is. You want a picture with you in it doing what you want to achieve. And really describe the picture; what you’re doing, what you see, what you hear, what you feel. And while you’re at it, include what you taste and smell. Make the picture as real as possible. Set a first step. Set a hugely detailed first step, with exactly what you will do, what you will achieve and when you will do it. And then make sure you do it.
Of course, all of this is great. The only way, though, to achieve success is to make it happen and take action. So take action. If what you do turns out differently from what you wanted, stop and take stock. Learn from what you did. Make changes. And take action again. You know that you can get there. And just imagine how good it feels to reach your goals. Because life is amazing when you’re exactly who you want to be, isn’t it?
The idea of perfectionism is fairly straight-forward to understand; striving to do everything in a way which is perfect, flawless, without error. And I’m sure we all know people who are perfectionists, for whom second-best simply will not do. It all seems harmless enough and, is there anything wrong with wanting everything to be just right? Research published in 2017, carried out by Thomas Curren and Andrew P. Hill, shows that from 1989 to 2016 there has been a significant increase in self-orientated, socially prescribed and other-orientated perfectionism. In other words, we are demanding more of ourselves, peer pressure demands more of us, and factors external to us are also expecting more. Again, is there anything wrong with wanting ever better?
The answer, it would seem, is that there is a lot wrong with this perpetually increasing push for perfection. There is a year-on-year increase in the number of people experiencing and reporting negative mental health issues, something which appears to be disproportionately affecting young people, although the rest of us are far from immune. Advertising, the media, social media; all seem to be promoting an increasingly glossy view of the world to which many of use simply cannot aspire. This surely has to take its toll, which the work of Curren and Hill confirms.
It is time to stop. Time to reflect. Time to work out who we really want to be. And all we really need to ask, no, demand, is for each of us to be the very best version of ourselves. Nothing more and nothing less. I know I can do that. And you know that you can too, don’t you?
There is a plethora of self-help books, articles, websites and the like out there, and many perpetuate the myth that it takes 21 or possibly 30 or possibly some other random number of days to embed a new habit or behaviour. The truth about embedding change is somewhat different.
In 1960 Dr Maxwell Maltz published “Psycho-Cybernetics” in which he shared his views on behaviour change, and this included his observation that change took a minimum of 21 days to embed. This was not a random number, but a number based on his observations of how long his patients took to adjust to surgical changes to their bodies as well as his own observations of how long it took him to change his own behaviour.
With the passing of time, the minimum of 21 days became 21 days or 30 days or another number of days. The reality is we are all different. Some changes can and do happen more quickly, whereas others can take time. The important first step is wanting to change and then knowing what that change will be. If you can do that for yourself, do it. You also know that you can seek help, because the most important is becoming the very best version of yourself, isn’t it?
In May 2018 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported a further increase in the number of people going to work when unwell, and a similar increase in the number of people using annual leave to work. This is a far cry from John Maynard Keynes’ view that we would all be working a 15-hour week by 2030. Where did that seemingly utopian dream go?
If indeed we are all working more, I am left wondering what we are sacrificing. Family? Friends? Hobbies? Our health? And for what reasons? There is a growing body of evidence that working less, rather than more, makes us more productive, healthier and, as a result, happier.
Stop and take stock. Do you really need to work all of those hours? And ask yourself what you are not doing by doing so much work. Is this what you really want for yourself and those around you? You already know the answer, don’t you?
I am fascinated by happiness. I’ve worked with people for many years and I’ve lost count the number of times when people tell me that all they want is to be happy. And who wouldn’t agree with that sentiment? I know I’m certainly looking to do what makes me happy and avoid or remove the things which don’t. I’m also a generally “glass half full” type of person; there’s always negative stuff going on, and always loads more good stuff happening, and that’s what I end up focussing on.
Despite this, we all know people who seem unhappy for no apparent reason, and when something bad actually happens to them, it appears to give them something to hang their unhappiness on. And it leaves me wondering how some can be so miserable when others can be so happy.
I recently read a BBC article “Why things may not be as bad as we think”. This article suggests that we are programmed to react more to the negative than the positive, which means that bad news stories will stay with us longer than good news stories. Happiness researcher, Gretchen Rubin, points to research which suggests about 50 percent of our ability to be happy is hardwired, meaning some of us are hardwired to be more happy than others, who are hardwired to be less happy. 20 percent is a response to life events and circumstances, which means that 30 percent is within our immediate control. In the article “The Reason Some People Just Seem Happier Than Others” Rubin goes on to talk about the changes that she made to improve her overall sense of happiness. As with so many changes, she successfully improved her level of happiness by making small but concrete changes in her everyday life.
Being happy rather than sad surely has to be better. There are, though, some benefits to being down, as the article “The emotion centre is the oldest part of the human brain: why is mood so important?” points out. The article also looks at the autobiographical memory and cognitive memory, and the part that they play in mood disorders and the potential treatment options for those disorders.
What is clear is that being happy, which a great aim in itself, is a poor goal. We can have everything we want yet be anything but happy as a result of immediate events and circumstances around us. In simple terms, great goals are about doing more of the things that we like and less of the things that we don’t. Some of us may have to work a little bit harder to overcome the negative emotions and the limiting beliefs, yet it is all within our control. Even if we are being held back by any one of the many mood disorders, we can learn to be positive and, using that new-found positivity, achieve our goals. You know that it you really want it, you can achieve it, don’t you?
"If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. At least, that’s how the saying goes. And I guess that there’s nothing really wrong with trying again. There is, though, everything wrong with trying again, so let me explain.
There will be times when we do something that we’ve not done before. It may work out fine the very first time that we do it, and that’s great. If, however, we get a different result to the one we wanted, what do we do? If we try again, we may simply repeat the same erroneous steps, and end up with the same result. We may give up, consoling ourselves with the notion that “at least we tried”, and giving ourselves a false sense of achievement. We are at least better than those who did nothing, yet we are still so far from those who actually did it.
Instead, think about it another way. Decide to do it or decide not to do it. Be bold and resolute either way. If you decide to do it, commit to doing it. Leave the trying for others, and be the one that does it. If it works out, celebrate what you’ve done. You decided to do it and you did it. If you get a different outcome, don’t try again. Stop. Work out what worked and do more of that. Work out what could have been better and do it better. And then do it. And when you’ve done it, celebrate what you’ve done.
Of course, you may reach a point where you just cannot get to where you want to be. In which case, celebrate your progress. Celebrate all that you have done. Celebrate all that you have learned. Celebrate that you’ve moved forward. Remember, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Then decide what you want to do next. And do it! You can do that, can’t you?
The vast majority of us have no choice but to go to work. After all, living is not free and we all have bills to pay. If you’re fortunate enough to love the job you have, the chances are your days will mostly end on a positive note. However, whether you are in your dream job or not, the article “4 Simple Ways to End Each Workday Happy” provides four great ways to ensure that your workdays do end well.
All four suggestions are great, and the first really stood out for me. We frequently forgot to praise what went well and all too easily slip into the criticism of what didn’t go as planned, allowing this to overwhelm us. Taking a few moments to review all of our accomplishments, however small, is a real boost.
Read the article. See what works for you. Try them out for 30 days and see what a difference they make. If they make your great job even better, that’s brilliant. If you realise that despite everything you do to find the successes, it’s still not the job for you, then it’s time to make some changes. Work out what you want, set some goals and go for it. You can do that on your own or with help, can’t you?
Anxiety can range from a sense of mild apprehension to an overwhelming feeling of paralysis, stopping you from doing anything at all. It is all very well in these situations to tell yourself to keep calm and do whatever you have to do, so easily said and yet so difficult to actually implement.
Two articles, “10 Ways to Cope With Anxiety” by Robert L. Leahy, and “Surprising ways to beat anxiety and become mentally strong – according to science” by Olivia Remes, both provide some excellent ideas on how to overcome anxiety and get on with, well, just about anything and everything.
NLP provides some excellent tools to help people overcome anxiety. Time Line Therapy™ techniques work by establishing the root cause, taking positive learnings from that first experience, and then applying the learnings to all subsequent negative experiences. Anchoring can be applied in various ways, from embedding positive emotions to replacing negative, unwanted emotions with positive, forward-looking ones. And, of course, coaching can help you set the goals to take you from your current anxious state to one where you are in control and achieving your goals. You know that you can do this, don’t you?
Simone Scully, in the article “How pilots deal with stress can teach us all something about the importance of self-care” looks at the range of ways that pilots manage stress, which is critical if they are to do their jobs well. The article raises a number of useful ideas, many of which revolve around planning. And planning, it has to be said, is the key on so many occasions to achieving our goals, from managing stress to managing the changes we want to make.
Planning, though, always sounds so easy yet can at times prove to be almost impossible to work out. If you can do it for yourself, get on now and do it. If, however, you need support, think about how coaching can make the difference. You’ve everything to gain, haven’t you?
In what appears to be an increasingly busy world, finding ways to achieve a good work-life balance takes on an ever-greater importance. It also links in with a greater interest in looking after our mental well-being and the growing recognition of the damage that stress can do.
A quick Internet search reveals a real smorgasbord of tips, advice and ideas to achieve a better work-life balance. I was particularly taken with an article by Deborah Jian Lee, “6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance”. All six tips make great sense, and it was the final tip which really resonated with me. It suggests starting small, rather than attempting major changes, to build sustainable change. This is the ideal way to get to where you want to be; work out the end goal, and then establish the steps to get there.
If you get can there on your own, with the resources that you already have, then go for it. If, however, you are not sure, coaching provides real support in setting those goals and working out how to get there. You know that, don’t you?