From Reflection to Change

Part 2 – New Year’s Day

In every ending, there is a new beginning, which gives us the chance of change.

Author: Nicky Forster

Change is born out of a sense of frustration from where we currently are, a sense that our life would be somehow better if we were to be in a different situation.

The antidote for feeling despondent and frustrated and not being happy in our life is to take on more responsibility. Whatever format that is, when trying to improve ourselves we must identify areas for improvement and begin to take responsibility of those areas. If we are looking to lose weight and get fit and fundamentally, we’re taking a responsibility for our health. If we feel we need to gain a new qualification to increase our chances of earning more money, then we are taking responsibility for our education and financial affairs.

In this situation we often look to people who we see have made the changes we are looking to make with admiration.

However, we don’t want someone else’s vision, that’s not our fate, our own fate is enough, for most of us it’s more than we can ever fully realise.

Of that we first need to realise.

Science says there are five recognised stages of change, precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

Precontemplation is the stage at which there is no intention to change behaviour in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware or unaware of their problems.

People in this stage tend to defend their current bad habit(s) and do not feel it is a problem. They may be defensive in the face of other people’s efforts to pressure them to quit.

Contemplation is the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it but have not yet made a commitment to take action.

In this stage, people are weighing the pros and cons of quitting or modifying their behaviour. Although they think about the negative aspects of their bad habit and the positives associated with giving it up (or reducing), they may doubt that the long-term benefits associated with quitting will outweigh the short-term costs. It’s the time for truth and you will never have a better friend than the truth.

Preparation is a stage that combines intention and behavioural criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action within the next month.

People in this stage have made a commitment to make a change. Their motivation for changing is reflected by statements such as: “I’ve got to do something about this — this is serious. Something must change. What can I do?”

Too often, people skip this stage: they try to move directly from contemplation into action and fall flat on their faces because they haven’t adequately researched or accepted what it is going to take to make this major lifestyle change.

Action is the stage in which individuals modify their behaviour, experiences, or environment to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioural

Maintenance is the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action.

The goal of the maintenance stage is to maintain the new status quo. People in this stage tend to remind themselves of how much progress they have made.

So, change requires a considerable commitment of time and energy.

Identifying the deep lasting changes that we want to make is difficult, it requires a lot of searching. Many people’s goals at this time of year relate to health, after a period of overindulgence it is easy to target weight loss and getting fit, and these are important goals, I’m not for one moment devaluing them, but we should be looking to make daily habits, not resolutions, in all the areas of our components of life. Things that make our life complete and need to be worked on regularly, like the strength of our relationships with our friends, family, and loved ones, our education and employment, our spiritual and emotional health as well as our physical health, our social life, nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

There are so many areas to our life which need constant attention

We become what we practise daily, we become a by-product of our habits.

A goal is an aim or a purpose and there’s no greater meaning than to decide what our ultimate aim or purpose is in life.

Our underlying aim or purpose shouldn’t be to remove all suffering because it’s a fruitless task, we will undoubtedly encounter tough times and tough emotions throughout the course of a year month and day.

We are far better working on coping mechanisms and daily habits that help us to deal with these emotions when they do come our way, especially when they come our way unexpectedly. Having these frameworks and mechanisms in place make a huge difference to our levels of stress and anxiety.

Continued pursuit of a higher purpose such an eternal state of happiness is hedonism by definition and will never bring us lasting happiness, just as we see depicted in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Veruca Salt who gets everything she could possibly want and still is no way nearer happiness, living in that zone of miserable discomfort throughout, suffering from an excess of meaningless.

In the same way many people’s vision of happiness would be sitting on a beach sunbathing, sipping on a cocktail, but that’s not eternal happiness, because in truth if you were to do that every day for six months it would not only come at a huge cost to your physical health, but also to your mental health.

Finding answers to these questions is undoubtably hard.

The difficulty of any aim or purpose is intrinsically bound with the reward.

Aim high, not so high that you can’t manage it, but make it a challenge and then make sure you breakdown your aims into reasonably attainable sub goals.

One of the big problems is that people don’t have their goals clearly defined, laid out with a framework so they know what to do on a daily basis to achieve these goals.

Without this clear road map, it can leave us feeling like we are travelling in the right sort of direction without actually knowing where we are going, and this can leave us feeling frustrated without really understanding why.

That is a hard emotion to express not only to others but to ourselves because we are left with a huge sense of dissatisfaction without really understanding why we are dissatisfied with our current position.

Being specific about exactly what we want and having that laid out as a defined plan prevents our goals from being fuzzy and allows us less wriggle room to get out of it when motivation fails.

When we have a vision, it is important that we also identify counter visions, anti-goals, the things that we don’t want to achieve, the things we want to avoid or eliminate from our lives over the course of a year. These act as powerful motivators when our motivation is low, and limbic friction, the resistance we feel at any given time to perform a given task, is high resulting in a struggle to get off the sofa and take action. At this point reminding ourselves as to what we are trying to avoid in life is a better way to motivate than to think about the point of success, so think how your life would be in one or two or three-years’ time and you are in the same or worse position than you currently are.

These anti-goals often run parallel to the things we’re trying to achieve, in the form of the we are working away from something and towards the opposite.

One of the main reasons why people setting out to run a marathon don’t even make the start line, is that they overload themselves, too much too soon. This results in one of two outcomes, either they sustain an overload injury such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, or they find the training plan too hard and give up feeling that the challenges to be great.

By ensuring the initial steps along the way are small and manageable and progressively overloading over time will offer a better chance of success.

in the same way building muscle in the gym has to incorporate progressive overload over time rather than going to the gym once and lifting heavy weights for 8 hours.

So, if our goal relates to improving your education or getting a specific qualification, don’t be studying 8 hours a day because that isn’t going to work, start by studying 5 or 10 minutes a day, each week, and increase that by 5 minutes each week, do that for a year and by the end of the year you’ll be studying 4 hours a day.

Try to negotiate with yourself and use some reward like after completing the study go for a walk in the park or go out for coffee.

Whatever you choose to do, creating new and lasting habits will always outperform short term resolutions.

The new year stands before us, ready to be written, the next chapter in our book of life

What of you did it, what of you actually did it.

What if you actually achieved all the goals you have.

What would your life look like?

How would that feel?

Have the courage to change

Take action today

Show resilience until completion

Happy New Year

For any questions regarding setting, pursuing and achieving goals

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