Did you start the New Year with a positive attitude, but have a hard time following through?
Did you start the New Year with a positive attitude, resolving to change something about yourself or your life?
The New Year is traditionally a time when many people take stock of their lives and decide that there are things they want to change (or decide that they are not "good enough").
Despite all the hype, good intensions and associated anxiety of committing to self-imposed sacrifices, positive thoughts and promises, by the middle of January, resolutions have usually fallen by the wayside and self-esteem takes a hit.
Have you ever considered that this annual ritual of adopting a positive mental attitude may not be working, and that it is time to change the record?
Much has been written supporting the view that all you need to do to change your life for the better is to think positive thoughts. The same people will often suggest that rejecting any negative feelings is crucial if you are to live a happy, fulfilled life.
I would be the last person to dismiss the importance of being positive, yet I believe it's simplistic and hugely unhelpful if you want to manifest a change in your life, particularly if you want that change to be both positive and sustained.
My personal experience of dealing with significant challenge and that of working with hundreds of people to help them create a sustained and beneficial change in their lives demonstrates that there has to be a multi-layered approach.
Making a real change doesn't need to be complex. My strategy is built on the following six principles:
- Creating Lasting Positive Change: Unless there is a really powerful reason to change it is unlikely that real lasting change will occur. Identify what you want to change and why it is important to YOU. To create change you need to choose to do things differently rather than feel you should or shouldn't, you must or mustn't, you ought to or ought not to. These feelings bring baggage from childhood—parents and teachers impressing on you their beliefs and rules— that can easily sabotage the change process. Choosing to do something because you really want to has a very different feel, and it's a good place to start.
- Give Yourself Permission: So many of the people I have worked with fail to create the change they say they want in life until they give themselves permission. Don't get caught up with what other people will think. Many people are stuck because they fear that other people will think badly of them or that if they make the change it will destabilize their relationships; they worry that if they change people won't like them. Giving yourself permission to move on and to do or be something different can be incredibly empowering.
- Shine Your Light: What holds you back from creating lasting change? Is it fear of failing or perhaps you fear success? The quality of your thinking has everything to do with the quality of your life. Dealing with the beliefs and fears that hold you back are a vital piece of the jigsaw. Unless you deal with these, they will continuously rear up, potentially sabotaging any progress you make. Doing this by yourself can feel really daunting, if it does it is really worth getting some help.
- Acknowledge Negative Emotions, And Learn The Lesson They Offer: Negative emotions have a significant purpose, they are not good or bad—it is what we do with them that makes a difference. Negative emotions offer a call to action to do something different. We feel negative emotions when something doesn't match our core values. Emotions that are buried or ignored are easily triggered, and they can become overwhelming. A useful strategy is to acknowledge the negative emotion and to be curious about the lesson it offers. Once that is identified it is then possible to deal with the underlying problem differently.
- It Is Not The Challenge Which Defines Us, But What We Do With It: Whatever challenge life offers, it is your choice how you deal with it. Everything you do is a choice, even not choosing is a choice. Where you cannot impact on the situation, it is your choice how you react to it. Your perception, the meaning you give any situation, how you respond to things is all your choice, and every choice we make has consequences. It is your choice whether you see yourself as a victim to circumstance or whether you give yourself a more empowered role.
- Small Steps Taken Consistently Create Lasting Change: You wouldn't want to eat a cow in a single sitting, yet meal by meal, mouthful by mouthful, it offers a very different prospect. The same is true with change. Many people falter because they go for the grand gesture and then find it is unsustainable. How often have you heard people say they want to get fit? They join a gym and tell you they plan to go for an hour, five times a week. They go for their assessment and twice after that and then can't move for days as they are so stiff and sore. They fail to meet their own unrealistic expectations and very quickly lose heart and stop going all together. It is important to create a sense of success and to be able to incorporate the action into your daily living on a regular basis. Dont underestimate the power of making seemingly small changes that become a consistent part of your daily routine. This is true of your focus, your language, your actions and your thinking.
Gina Gardener is an Inspirational Speaker, Master NLP, Business and Life Coach, and author of Chariots on Fire a remarkable story about how to create a positive advantage.