Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome, 2008!

It is a new year, a clean slate, and fairly easy to be optimistic. Of course, we will overcome all our bad habits, reach our goals, and receive our just rewards this year . . . right????? Today is a day when most of us will contemplate what we want to do in 2008. We will make resolutions. We will hope to be better people at the end of 2008 than we are now.

I think this yearly quest that begins on January 1st is a good thing. I think all of us have hidden, unused potential. We can make changes in our lives. But it is not easy.

We are generally optimistic on January 1st. We make our "resolutions," but too often when we "fall off the bandwagon," we give up. We tell ourselves that we tried and then continue on our merry way - living as we always have. While certainly this is not the end of the world, when we give up too soon on our resolutions, we miss out on some good things. Sometimes the things that will really benefit us the most are the hardest to do. How do we stay motivated and keep on track with what we want to do?

Step One: Decide what is most important to you for 2008. Make your wish list and then highlight the things that are most important. Write it down in a journal or notebook.

Step Two: Break your goals down into smaller, easy to accomplish tasks.

Step Three: Make a calendar for the year. I've been making my own journals. I have one journal for my spiritual development. I have another with homemade calendar pages from: Calendar Home.com. I make a "work" journal with at least 6 months of calendar pages with deadlines written on each page. I also have blank pages made from small tablet pages where I can make a to do list for the month, week or day. I like to write these down on paper because it is rewarding for me to be able to either check them off or mark them that I've at least worked on a project. When I write things down, I can go back and look at my week and see visually that I really have gotten things done. But this can be done online with google calendars or with a calendar on your computer. But it is all too easy to let a week slide by and then looking back you can't see that you accomplished anything. A working calendar helps you see visually what you are doing and what still needs to be done.

Step Four: Take a few moments at the beginning of each day to prioritize what needs to be done. We all have mundane chores - laundry, cooking, dishes, etc that get in the way of the bigger things we want to accomplish. But we have to find a balance. I find that sometimes the mundane things get neglected when I'm working on big projects. I struggle to find the balance between accomplishing major goals and keeping the mundane chores under control. By planning the day, I can do a better job of keeping my life in balance.

Step Five: Allow for interruption. Things come up that change what we've planned. Roll with what comes up, but then use your calendar and work journal to get back on track.

Step Six: Don't let yourself get derailed from your plan. We are human. There are days we are going to follow our plan and days when we fall back into our old habits. Honor your humanity - it is OK to have days where you don't live up to those lofty resolutions. But breaking a resolution once, should not give you license to give up on the goal. I've heard that it takes about 3 months to establish a new habit. Don't give up, keep on trying to reach your goals.

Step Seven: Find ways to reward yourself for accomplishing the small steps that will lead you to your goal. Whether it is checking off items on your list, or giving yourself some quiet time as a reward, or allowing yourself to read that book - find a way to reward yourself. As you accomplish your goals you will receive some rewards - praise from your friends, income, new clients, etc. But when you are working the interim steps, find ways that you can reward yourself to help keep yourself working your game plan.

Step Eight: At the end of the year, look back over the year. Evaluate what you've done. Rejoice in the accomplishments and good things that happened. Analyze the things that got in the way. While you are unlikely to accomplish all the goals and resolutions each year, I think the process of setting them and working toward them is an important part of our journey through life.

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