As Im sitting here in December writing an article for January I have to think that I am writing a month ahead. I’m still waiting for us to exchange 2016 for 2017 even though when anyone reads this that exchange has already been made. We’ve had our series of gift exchanges through the holiday season and exchanged many pleasantries over the last week. I always think how much of a better place this world would be if those exchanges happened the other 50 weeks of the year instead of just the final two.
The dictionary definition of exchange is “the act of giving or taking one thing in return for another”. In my mind everything that we do as humans is an exchange in one form or another. When we breathe we exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. When we eat we exchange food for energy. During our whole lives we exchange time for money and money for goods and services. We exchange so many things that one article is never going to cover everything that we do that is covered by that word.
What I did want to write about as we have exchanged one year for another is how to plan or set goals for the next twelve months. The hot topic of discussion in the first few weeks of January is probably going to be “how was your holidays?” and “did you make any New Year’s resolutions?”. Every year you hear a lot of the same things “I want to lose weight”, “I want to travel more”, “I want to spend more time with my kids” or “I want to get out of debt”. Actually according to Time magazine the top 10 resolutions are, Lose Weight and Get Fit, Quit Smoking, Learn Something New, Eat Healthier and Diet, Get Out of Debt and Save Money, Spend More Time with Family, Travel to New Places, Be Less Stressed, Volunteer and Drink Less. If any of these sound familiar you are part of the majority and studies have shown that resolutions last at the most a month maybe two. Anyone with a regular gym membership can tell you that the January you are fighting to get onto equipment but from February to December its smooth sailing with lots of elbow room. So why are resolutions so easily abandoned? There are many reasons and Ill give you the top 10. Unrealistic resolutions, giving up way too easy, lack of honesty, lack of finances, wrong perspective, extremely lofty resolutions, trying to do it by yourself, time management, not believing you can do it and my number one pick for not achieving a resolution is no clear goal or plan to get there.
For years I was the guy who spent some time between Christmas and New Years thinking about what my resolutions were going to be. I would buy a brand new notebook from the stationers and narrow my resolutions down to ten. I would write them out on the first page of this new notebook and then put it in a drawer in my bedside table… never to be seen again, except until years later when you are looking for something else in that drawer and you notice the book at the bottom. You take it out have a little chuckle reading it because you haven’t achieved any of those resolutions then put it back for a few more years. I did that for years but it wasn’t until about ten years ago that things for me changed. I know that this may sound like a little bit of a commercial but I don’t mean it to be. I was up late working (Im a night own even though my wife is trying to change me) and normally I would have the TV on for noise as it helps me concentrate sometimes the music channel sometimes a movie. Well the movie ended and an infomercial started right away. It ended up being an infomercial for “The Secret”. I was hooked and ordered the DVD right away and waited in anticipation for it to come in the mail. To make a long story short for those that haven’t heard about the secret its all about the “universal law of attraction” meaning whatever you keep in your mind you will succeed at. This is not as easy as it seems but being a photographer Im very visual and I came to realize that whatever I had created a photograph or cut out a picture of I had accomplished. The new camera I wanted I had taped the brochure to my wall a few months later I was able to buy it. I was listening to an audio book about Arnold Schwarzenegger and in his teens he had put up pictures of body builders in his room. The point to all this is that there really is no huge secret to achieving your goals but there are tools to get you there.
Once you have decided on your resolutions make them clear, defined and easily identifiable. If your goal is to lose weight you have to set some parameters. How much do you want to lose, how are you going to do it in easily follow able steps and what is your reward? Im in the process of doing that now. Im down 51 pounds as of today and my goal is another 19. Once I hit that I am buying a tailored suit (not as expensive as you might think). I had my goal, my plan and my reward. Keep pictures of what you want to achieve. A different body, the clothing you want to wear, the sunset picture of Mexico. Anything visual that will trigger the desire to succeed.
Make your efforts in small chunks. Many 10 minute walks is easier to manage than going to the gym for two hours. Chart your progress. If you are saving money for a purchase make a savings thermometer, if you are wanting to get into better shape diarize your workouts. See if there are apps that you can put on your phone to help. Have little alarms that tell you that you should be doing something or an app that postpones a cigarette for a length of time increasing every day. Break you plan into steps as little goals are far easier than huge ones.
The biggest help would probably be from your loved ones. Tell them what you are doing. They might want to do the same thing or a different thing with the same reward. Exchange your ideas and your goals and you will have a much greater chance of success.
I hope that helps a little bit and I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2017.