“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” ~ English nursery rhyme
“Make any New Year’s resolutions?” Darlene asks me as we get into the elevator after the holiday.
“Yup,” I say, grinning, “sure did. You?”
“Nah,” she says. “They never work for me. What’s yours?”
“Well! Since you ask,” I say with great drama, “I resolve to turn up the heat on my happiness. To suck all the marrow I can from life. To ride that positivity spiral right up to the sky and keep soaring. That’s what I’m gonna do!”
She laughs, shakes her head and rolls her eyes as the door opens to her floor.
She’s right you know. Resolutions don’t work. At least not the kind that we make on New Year’s Eve. You know, the standard “quit my bad habits,” “get fit,” “start my own business,” “live within my budget” ones we make. They’re really more wishes than they are resolutions. And even if we squeeze our eyes shut really tight, cross our fingers and click our heels as we make them, chances are pretty slim that a pony will materialize.
The Stages of Change
Change doesn’t happen that way. It doesn’t come through wishing. It comes through choices and commitment that develop through stages. The stage you need to step into when you first recognize that you want to make a change is not commitment and action. Not if you want to succeed.
The step that follows your recognition that you want to do something different in your life is a stage the behavioral scientists have labeled “contemplation.” You need to take some time to think things through, to try your idea on for size and get accustomed to thinking of yourself in a new way.
Even then, after you have thought things through, you’re not ready to make the leap. You need to go through a phase of preparation, of putting things in place to allow the change to occur.
Changes are like falling dominoes; no major life change happens in isolation. It impacts a whole series of related behaviors and patterns; it affects those around us. The preparation stage allows you to anticipate the way your change will ripple through your life and environment so you can make its impact is as positive as possible.
Where to Start
If the New Year brought to mind some changes that would move you nearer to living your ideals, good for you! To see the arenas of our lives that we can enhance is a beautiful thing. Now take the time to think them through. Choose the one that’s most important and appealing to you and get ready to make it happen, for real, in your life.
To get started, spend some time thinking about, and writing down, the answers to these questions:
- Why do I want to make this change? What will it do for me? Spend some quality time on these questions. Paint as clear a picture as you can for yourself of the benefits the change will bring you. How will it feel? How will you feel and act once the change is a real part of your life? What doors will it open for you? What new opportunities will it bring your way?
- What will I need to release and let go of in order to make this change? Your current behavior pattern provides you with some rewards. What are they? What’s in it for you if you don’t make the change? Are you willing to let go of those rewards in place of the new ones the change will bring you?
- If the change will require an investment of your time, what are you willing to give up to make room for it? Will you get up an hour earlier? Work on it during your lunch hour? Give up some TV or Twitter time?
- Will the change require a financial investment? If so, from where will you pull the necessary funds?
- Will it require that you create a physical space in order to do it? If so, where will you set it up? What materials will you need? Where will you get them? When will you need them?
- Do you know how to do what you want to do? Do you need information? Training? A mentor or coach? A support group? If so, where can you find what you’ll need and how will you go about accessing it?
- How will your significant others and close associates react to the change? How will it impact their lives? How can you enlist their support?
Asking yourself questions like these will not only help you prepare for change, it will add depth to the power of your intention and will signal your subconscious that you’re serious.
You’ll find yourself noticing reinforcing ideas, drawing unexpected support and getting more and more confident that you truly are going to see your vision become your new reality.
Finally, set a date and begin—boldly, and with enthusiasm, commitment and faith.
Do you have a New Year’s wish that you plan to make real in your life? Are you making some plans? Share them so we can wish you well!
Then, come the end of March, I expect to see you riding in on a brand new pony.