The New You – The Sustainable Way
This week many of us will embark on New Year’s resolutions which we hope will lead to a personal breakthrough for our health, happiness, or career. Others may not bother with these resolutions. They may have tried them and did not experience the change they desired.
It’s tough. Making changes which run against the norm is a tough thing to do. If they were easy we wouldn’t need a New Year’s resolution to make them happen. I’ve experienced this personally many times. Sometimes, the changes have stuck. Often, they haven’t.
So what’s different about 2017? Well, over the past few months I’ve been on a personal journey with the aim of seeing some of my personal goals and ambitions become a reality. It’s been a time of great learning where I have gained a deeper knowledge of myself, and throughout January, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learnt with you. I’ve also got a few tools to help you put into practice the changes you’re going to make.
Step 1 – Be Proactive
If you’re reading this, you already being proactive. Even if you’re just thinking about how to make changes in your life, you’re being proactive. Being proactive is the first habit of the seven habits (SR Covey, 1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (7HHEP) by SR Covey has been a big part of my learning over the past few months. I have heard about this book on many occasions, however, I was always put off by its title. It sounded to me like a quick step guide to self-improvement. I’ve tried these before and the changes I made didn’t last long. However, 7HHEP deals with some deep issues about what makes us human and though you can put into practice some of the tips, such as being proactive, it requires changes to your heart as well as your head to stick. I’ll refer to the 7HHEP throughout January.
Anyway, back to being proactive. The principle of proactivity is that:
* You are responsible for you
*You can make changes to your life
*You are not your emotional state
Something that has stayed with me from the first habit is that I am responsible or, as SR Covey puts it, I am response-able. In other words, I can choose my response to all and to any situation. I am not the sum of my emotions. I can choose not to react to situations and, instead, choose to respond in a way that reflects who I am. When I read this back, it seems so simple. I agree with each of the sentences, each of bullet points. However, when I am in an everyday situation, these statements are not often at the forefront of my mind. For example:
*My resolution was to start going to the gym three times a week. However, the weather is cold, wet, and miserable. The house is warm and I would really like to watch the highlights from the Leicester game on Match of the Day or that New Sherlock episode. Am I going to choose the gym?
*My resolution was to be less reactive with those closest to me and to spend more time listening to them. However, the next time we speak, they’re still talking about an issue that I believe has been fixed. It’s frustrating. Am I going to choose to listen, understand and respond?
*My resolution was to cut out sugar from my diet and be in better shape. However, there are bits and bobs around the house from Christmas – chocolates, biscuits, chocolates, cakes, and chocolates. I’m peckish. To eat well requires a big shop. Am I going to choose to get out to the supermarket? What will I do with all this sugary food? What’s going to be my response?
In all the above examples, I can choose my response. If I choose the path of least resistance and not go to the gym or over react or eat a slice of Christmas cake, I must accept responsibility and can’t blame the weather, the loved one, or cake being in the bread tin at my moment of decision. The path of least resistance, this choice, will not get me to my personal goal of being a healthier and happier person.
However, the truth is you and I can choose our response. The truth is that, regardless of how I feel in that moment (my emotional state), I can choose the outcome that will get me a step further forward towards my life goal. I am responsible for me. You are responsible for you.
Over the past few months, I have found this revelation to be very helpful. I have sometimes forgotten the truth in the moment but thankfully it hasn’t taken me too long to make amends. The more often I practice my response, the easier it becomes.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be continuing to add to this series on The New You – The Sustainable Way. In the next blog, we’ll look at where you are right now and choosing your goals for 2017.
Until then, think about how you can be proactive!