So spring has arrived, we’re now three months into 2014 and I thought it would be a good time to see how well (or not) we’re all doing with our New Year’s Resolutions… Do you even remember what you committed to accomplishing this year?
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
For the record, I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Waiting until the New Year to resolve to do something that you believe will improve your life in some way is the laziest form of procrastination. But I do make resolutions all the time. And trust me; they work even better throughout the year than when you wait until the New Year!
Some of you have already read my previous articles about How I Deal with Failure, Achieving Balance in Life or more recently, pursuing The Path to Happiness. This time, I’m going to be a little more direct and tell you the 6 steps that will change your life forever so you can feel much better about yourself.
#1: Accept the Truth: Real Change is a Daily Process; There are no Shortcuts.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. If you want to achieve anything worthwhile in your life, you will need to invest a worthwhile effort to get there. I’ve written articles about this before several times. There’s no shortcut, there’s no magic pill, or silver bullet that will get you there. Do NOT waste your time with people that just tell you what you want to hear. The internet is full of that crap! Be smart and move on!
Yes, a lot of so called “experts” and “self-help” gurus keep telling people to “Take Action.” But how many times have you “taken action” only to find yourself a few weeks later exactly where you were before? So then, another guru tells you to “Take Action” again and the cycle starts all over again… If change is just about taking action, why are so many people failing then?
I’ll tell you why. People fail because they do just that: they ONLY “take action.” Action by itself is just a short term event that is not going to produce long term results.
If you read the header of this section, you will notice that it says “Real Change is a Daily Process.” “Taking action” is nothing more than the first step of the process. A process is not just one action. A process is a number of focused actions taken over and over again to achieve a mindset change. In other words, your repeated actions will be creating a new process that over time, it will become a new habit.
#2: Creating New Habits Translates Into Long Term Lifestyle Changes.
This is not a mathematical equation, but if I were to create some sort of formula to describe a “Habit” it would look something like this:
Focused Action X Multiple Repetitions = Process
Process X Extended Time (days, months) = Habit
As you can see, taking action alone is just one small step that will never produce long term results. Taking Action is what makes people feel good. It’s just the short-lived act of fooling ourselves into believing that we’re taking a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, that’s all it is: a step. It will take a lot of focused steps to get you to where you want to be. Here are some examples of “taking action” without turning it into a process.
Joining a Health Club/Gym in January is the most common example of “taking action.” It’s the typical “feel good” time of the year when most people fool themselves into thinking that they’re doing something great, when in reality, they’re just adding a temporary (and sometimes inconvenient) chore to their lives. They are fully committed to the idea of getting in shape, but they’re never committed to the process and therefore, it will never become a habit for them. Come February, most of them have quit and are back to their original state. The result; failed action.
Starting a new diet is another good example of a short-lived “taking action” fruitless exercise. Think about it. The word “Diet” already denotes a “temporary change in your eating habits” and that’s why most people never achieve their desired long term results. Most diet promotions state something like “Lose 30 lbs in 2 Weeks!”, “Lose 5 inches off Your Waist in 30 Days!” or “Lose Wait Without Exercising!” Shortcut, Shortcut and Shortcut. We LOVE shortcuts! After all, would you ever buy a “Nutritional Program” with a promotion like “Your 30 Year Plan to Change Your Eating Habits for the Rest of Your Life.” Probably not!
Let’s revisit this formula:
Focused Action X Multiple Repetitions = Process
Process X Extended Time (days, months) = Habit
Or in this case,
Focused Sensible Meals X All (Repeated) Regular Meals = Weight Loss Process
Weight Loss Process X Extended Time (days, months) = Habit -> Healthy Weight & Lifestyle
Once you reach your desired “Healthy Lifestyle” you realize that there are no more “diets” in your life. You’ve just developed a new mindset, a new habit, and in the process, you’ve also created a new automatic way of living for yourself. And that’s no shortcut; this is the type of permanent change that you want.
#3: Set Your Road Map
The Winter Olympics are still fresh in our minds and for two weeks, we all had a chance to see all the athletes whose ONLY focus for the past four years was to win a gold medal in Sochi. Regardless of who actually won a medal or not, they ALL deserve an A+ in focus and determination. They set their own “Road Map to Sochi” several years ago, and they all made it to the Olympics.
What are YOUR goals? Do you have a Road Map to reach your goals? When I’m ready to go on a family road trip, (yes, I love road trips in the 400-500 mile range) I typically, set up my trip’s destination on my GPS and follow the “Road Map” until I reach it. If I’m driving from Phoenix to San Diego, I cannot see San Diego during 99% of the trip, however, my “Road Map” is clear and I know that if I stick to it, I will surely end up in San Diego. It’s even more interesting if I’m driving at night, because then, I can only see about 200 ft. of road ahead of me –the range of my car’s headlights. I just keep driving and driving only seeing 200 ft. of road ahead, but I never doubt that at the end of the trip, beautiful San Diego will be within sight and I will have a great time!
Why do we make it so hard on ourselves to set up the same type of “Road Map” for every other aspect of our lives? If we want to get from where we are now to where we want to be, it should be as simple as setting up our map and following it until we reach our destination. Want to increase your family time? Set up your map to reach that goal. Want to start your own business? Set up your map to reach that goal. Want to write a book? Set up your map to reach that goal. Want to pay off your credit cards? Set up your map to reach that goal. Do you want to travel the world? Set up your map to reach that goal. Run a Marathon? Set up your map to reach that goal. You get the idea. You will never reach your goal tomorrow, (that would be the ineffective shortcut) but if you stick to your “map” and do not take detours, you will surely reach your destination and feel a huge sense of satisfaction after that.
#4: Eliminate Obstacles and Distractions from Your Road Map
You have now identified where you want to go and have set up a very good road map to get there. But as with all trips, you may eventually encounter obstacles and distractions that may cause you to derail and ultimately, miss your destination. So you MUST identify your obstacles and you MUST eliminate them from your Road Map as soon as you can.
The challenge is that many times, you may not even know or be able to identify your own obstacles or distractions since they come in all shapes and forms; just like the good habits that you’re trying to establish, those are bad habits that you will need to eliminate.
The most commonly identified obstacle (or excuse) that prevents people from reaching their goals is the “lack of time.” Fair enough. I always say that “Time” is my most valuable asset. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute.
- Do you spend several hours each week on Facebook reading irrelevant posts or posting unnecessary comments, or playing online games?
- Do you find yourself browsing on the Internet for hours going from gossip website to gossip website without even knowing what you’re looking for?
- Do you watch hours and hours of Reality TV or any TV shows for that matter that add no value to your life?
- Do you jump from task to task pretending to be “busy,” lacking focus, and resulting in tasks taking much longer time to complete?
- Do you find yourself “waiting for 5 PM” every day to get out of your office and hang out with your friends?
All of the above are YOUR choices and they happen to be YOUR obstacles too. You may have created the most realistic Road Map to your success but until you eliminate all of the obstacles from it, you will have a hard time reaching your destination. You’re simply not making the required sacrifices to achieve your goals and you’re accepting daily distractions as part of your lifestyle.
“The Life you are living Now if the result of the Choices that you made Yesterday.”
#5: To Achieve Long Term Success You Have to Ignore Short Term Rewards.
Yes, we’re all humans, and by nature, we all prefer instant gratification. We are wired to follow the path of least resistance but when you’re able to overcome this instinct, you realize that the greater success is much more lasting and enjoyable than all short term rewards.
All the obstacles that we identified in point #4 above are the same “instant gratification” rewards that are preventing us from achieving long term success. You come home from work, turn on the TV and before you know it, you’ve spent (read: wasted) a couple of hours watching it.
Or you sit down, turn on your iPad and there’s Facebook, looking right at you with all the meaningless status updates and game requests from people you don’t even care about. Another hour of your life gone that you’ll never get back.
Then you get off the couch and as you walk towards your refrigerator, you get into this dialogue with yourself as you struggle to decide whether that enticing pint of ice cream is good for your newly started diet.
“I can’t have ice cream… I want to lose weight,” … “well, maybe just a tiny bit, it’s not going to make a difference!,” “no, forget it, no ice cream!” … “ok, maybe I can have just a small cup and then tomorrow, I will double my time on the treadmill…” “Yummy!”
Stop!! What are you thinking! You ARE much smarter than that! If your battle is with ice cream, fight the battle at the grocery store and not at your refrigerator! If you don’t buy the ice cream in the first place, you won’t have to fight the battle at home. If your battle is with finding motivation to go to the gym after work, then work out first thing in the morning! You will feel so great the rest of the day! If you want to change careers, get a new job, start your own company, or start a family, move to a different city, buy a new house, whatever it is that you want to do, you will not be able to achieve it overnight. Get over it. If you want to achieve anything worthwhile in your life, you will need to invest a worthwhile effort to get there.
“It only took me 10 years of focused work to become an overnight success!”
#6: Reward Yourself. It is your Happiness Project.
This is the last point but it is just as important as the five points above. This is all meant to be your “Happiness Project” and therefore, it must and will have not just a happy ending but a lot of little happy moments in between! The real magic is that you and only you have the ability to turn each of the above steps into a series of happy moments for yourself.
Let’s review the five steps and see how we can do that.
- Real change is a daily process. It’s not about tomorrow, or next week. Free up your mind. Be happy and focus on your long term goals. There will be rainy days but your forecast is always sunny.
- Convert new habits into long-term lifestyle changes. As you move along, you will realize that your lifestyle starts to change and you find yourself spending less time being negative about yourself and more time enjoying those things that you really love.
- Set your road map. It is a fun trip after all, right? Enjoy every minute of it!
- Eliminate obstacles and distractions. At this point, you’re already having a lot of fun and enjoying your new lifestyle. Now you can laugh at all the external noise (mostly from people that are starting to feel a little jealous of your success) that will constantly try to derail you. You’re becoming more and more happy as you achieve your goals. Now you can start thinking about helping other people achieve theirs too.
- Focus on your long term success and ignore shot term rewards. Do you find yourself every now and then watching a movie that you like so much that you don’t want it to end? You’re having such a great time that you just want to extend it as much as you can. Your life is a movie in which you’re the director, producer, scriptwriter and leading actor/actress. It is the most fun movie that you can create and one that will generate a lot of happy moments for you. Relax, you’re in control.
So there you have it! I can promise you that the above has worked for me and that’s my main motivation to share it with all of you. If you have made it all the way to the end of this article, congratulations! You’ve already traveled farther than most other people. I wish you lots of success and happiness in your life journey.
As always, if you would like to share your thoughts with me, you can simply reply to me via email, use comments section below, or call me directly. I always reply as soon as I can.
Photo by Jeff Kepler on Unsplash