In Part One, you answered a series of questions in order to identify what’s most important to you, what you enjoy most, what you want more of, and what you’d like to see less of in the coming year. Based on your answers to those four questions, you then generated a long list of actions you can take to help you attain those things. (Note that when I say “things” I am talking about whatever you wrote on your lists, which I’ll refer to hereafter as “goals.” I’m not talking about material objects, unless one of your goals is to have more of something material.)
In today’s assignment, we’ll pare down that list into a manageable set of behaviors you can practice regularly until they become habit. The way we’re going to do that is by looking for commonalities, setting priorities, and employing my favorite behavior change strategy of all – picking the low-hanging fruit. Let’s get started!
While writing out your list of actions or behaviors yesterday, you might have noticed that some of them applied to more than one of the goals identified by your Q&A. For example, from my Q&A I ranked “My Health” as one of the two things that were most important to me, and “More Energy” as one of the top two things I want more of. When I made up my list of actions that could help me achieve each of those things, there was a lot of overlap. “Eat More Fruits & Veg,” “Get Better Sleep,” “Limit Alcohol,” “Limit Sugar,” and “Meditate” were all actions that both of those goals had in common. These actions are highly valuable, because by doing them, I move toward more than one of my goals.
Right now, look over your list of actions and identify which ones relate to more than one of your goals. Circle those actions. If you’re like me, you still have a fairly long list. In order to make that more manageable, we’ll have to move on to the next step.
By now you may realize that you need to change some of your priorities. If you’ve told yourself that your health and your relationships are the most important things to you (just an example – yours are probably different), then you’ll have to start behaving as though they are the most important things to you. If you’ve previously been spending a lot of time and energy on other things, then this should really shake things up. It’s okay – that’s what behavior change is all about.
Start by looking at your circled action items – those things that help move you toward two or more of your goals. Are there any actions there that tie back to the two or three things you consider to be the most important or most desirable? If so, underline those actions. This should be a much shorter list. If this list feels manageable, then you’ve got your resolutions ready to go. If it still feels like more than you’ve got time or energy for, you’ll need to identify the one or two actions on that list that you think will make the biggest impact on your life over the next month. You might be leaving other things off of your list that seem really important, but unless they are the most important, then that’s okay! Successfully changing one or two key behaviors is much better than failing to change half a dozen. That’s good work so far, but before you pack up for the day, let’s do one more short exercise.
Look for Easy Targets
Actions or behaviors that are easy for you to implement or that automatically give you more time, motivation or energy are what I call “Easy Targets” or “Low-Hanging Fruit.” These things can be added to your resolutions without placing any significant additional demand on you. In my case, I have one such item “Limit time on Social Media and Email.” Although this is a pretty strong negative habit for me right now, it certainly doesn’t amount to an addiction, and for me, removing a negative behavior that is not addictive is easier than adding a positive behavior. By simply committing to do so, I should be able to stop checking my email, Facebook and Twitter accounts 20 times a day pretty easily. If I run into a rough patch, I can even use apps and software that will automatically limit my access. What’s more, by doing so I will free up additional time that I can use to practice my positive behaviors, like meditating or going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night. Look for the low-hanging fruit on your list of actions. If you find any, add it to your list of resolutions.
Now that you’ve got your resolutions set, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I’ll give you the best tips and strategies for implementing those behaviors that can truly make 2016 your best year.