Monday, December 14, 2009


It's that time of the year - That Holiday Time.
Time for Holiday songs, holiday cheer, time with friends and family - that magic time.

It is also the time of the year when most of us make the dreaded New Year's Resolutions. The time when we make promises we know we will not keep; when we delude ourselves into thinking we can change just by throwing together a hastily done thought or two about how to make our lives better.

Haven't started thinking about it yet?

Here are some points to consider:

1) Goals need to be concrete and achievable
This means a goal must be measurable, so that you know when you've reached it - otherwise it cannot be achieved. Thus, "being a better person" does not do the job unless you can specifically isolate and measure those traits you think would make that goal reachable, such as "making a mental note every time I say something hurtful to someone else - marking down such occassions so that over the course of the year I can reduce them every week until the number reaches zero"

2) Big Journeys Start From Small Steps
Setting an unrealistic goal in January is the easiest way to give up by February. Goals like "never eat meat again" are fine for people who are close to a vegetarian lifestyle already, but not as achievable for someone whose daily pleasure is eating meat. Try to limit your goals to change gradually, and keep them in the scope of reasonability. As well, a little time spent daily on a goal adds up to a lot of time over a year. Do not underestimate the power of a focused 10-15 minutes every day in helping to make your life better.

3) Focus on the Big Picture
There is little point in going to the trouble of changing your life if the change will not be of noticeable benefit to you. Spend some time to be honest with yourself about those areas which can really help you to live a fuller, richer, happier life. Aim to make gradual changes over the course of the year and surprise yourself with how much the quality of your life grows.

4) Do Not Punish Yourself
Setting harsh punishments for resolutions is another way that we end up giving up on them. We all want to avoid punishment, but it becomes far too easy to lie to ourselves rather than be honbest about our changes. The goal should be awareness of ourselves and our habits, so that we can control them - NOT to make ourselves feel guilty every waking moment for what we cannot do. Emphasize the rewards of your positive behavior changes and follow through in rewarding yourself for following.

5) Focus on what you CAN DO, rather than what you CAN'T DO
The language you use for your resolutions matters. Try to phrase your changes positively, focusing on what you can do in 2010, not about what you cannot do. Instead of "I cannot eat potato chips" try "I can eat healthy snacks such as carrot sticks or apple chips"

6) The Contract to Yourself
I think this list is best made into a very specific contract between you...and you.
In every legal contract, there are a set of actions by one party, done for consideration by the other. There are terms for violating the contract (see above), and rewards for adherence. I like to sign the agreement and post it where I can see it every day (next to home computer or on refrigerator). I think it is important to look at this list for at least a brief moment every single day for the year.

7) Keep It Fun!
The goal of this exercise is POSITIVE CHANGE. It is not designed to make your life a living hell.
Review your goals and your progress periodically (I like to do so at least monthly) and feel good about being in control of yourself and your life. People around you will see the change in you, and this will make you feel even better. I promise!!

Here are a few ideas I have for myself for 2010:
1) Spend at least 10 minutes a day in quiet reflection
2) Make at least one meal every day purely vegetarian
3) Take 5 minutes out of every day to remind myself how lucky I am - use this time to review everything I am thankful for for that day
4) Make eye contact with everyone when I speak to them. Be aware of anytime I do not and correct it.
5) Wear a "complaining band" on my wrist. Whenever I hear myself complain, move it from one wrist to the other as a reminder not to complain. The goal is to go for a full day, and then a full week without moving the band.
6) Tell my wife how much I love her
be sure to say it, and mean it, every single day - and do not go to sleep without having said it.
7) Remind my children that I am proud of them, and that I love them no matter what
8) Find at least 15 minutes every day to do some activity related to martial arts - stretch, twirl sticks, step a quick footwork pattern. Put that 15 minutes in my calendar EVERY DAY

Send me any questions you have on this. Hopefully, all of us can make 2010 a year to become even happier!!

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