Break the Routine
How many Friday evenings do you get home from work feeling frustrated? Maybe you didn’t say what you wanted to at the client meeting. Someone else took credit for your idea. Your boss postponed your annual review — again. And then you find out your weekend is already booked — by the kids’ games and practices, by your husband’s TV sports schedule or your neighbor’s party that you said yes to a month ago.
What are the chances that a year from now, you’ll walk in the door and feel the same way?
If this sounds like you, the reality is that you’re in a rut, and you’re a victim of bad habits. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Each day represents a chance at a new start: an opportunity to acknowledge the behaviors that are holding us back, confront them head on and move beyond them to a better, happier and more satisfying place.
Here’s how to do just that.
Establish Clear Goals and a Timeline
So many of us are frustrated by not achieving our goals in our personal or business lives. And as that pattern repeats itself over and over again, we fall into a vortex of self-doubt which only exacerbates the problem. The key is to visualize the desired outcome in your mind, then work backwards and note every step that has to be taken to get you where you want to go.
For instance, let’s say you want to be in a new job or a new relationship one year from now. Visualize the specifics of the job — or the new partner — down to the minutest detail. Once you have that locked in, think about each of the steps you would have to take in the next year to get you there. Then, once you have listed the steps in order, put a timeline to them so you can hold yourself accountable and measure your progress as you move through the year. There should be weekly and monthly goals to meet as you move forward — always staying focused on the ultimate goal you have set for yourself.
You’ll be surprised what big goals you can accomplish when you set out on a clear path, knowing what needs to be done — and by when.
Create a New Narrative
Many of us have a script that plays over and over in our heads: We’re not smart enough, pretty enough, brave enough, capable enough, etc. As we are confronted by life’s choices and decisions, we are guided not by our instinct, intelligence or wisdom — but by the voice inside that holds us back. Silencing the voice takes work, but the rewards are tremendous.
First, write down the characteristics of the person you wished you could be. Then, write down all the reasons you can’t be that person.
Show those lists to the person you trust most in the world and see what they say. Odds are they see you far differently than you see yourself. Together you can explore each of the characteristics you aspire to have and find examples of when you have lived them. Then you can chip away at the list of reasons you can’t be the person you want to be, and before you know it, that list will lose its power over you.
A little confidence breeds more confidence, and over time, the voice that says “you’re not” will diminish in direct proportion to the confidence you gain that says “you are.”
Don’t Stand For Unacceptable Behavior
It’s a familiar song: We stay in jobs or relationships we know are bad for us because we are willing to accept unacceptable behavior. And, sadly, the longer we accept it, the more we convince ourselves it’s normal, or the way it has to be or that it will be too difficult on us, or the other party, to break the pattern.
The answer is to learn how to have courageous conversations.
Write down the values you believe most in the world about human behavior. They might be things like, “I believe in treating people with dignity and respect” or “I believe in being thoughtful and kind.” Next, say them out loud and write them down. And if you’re really brave, send them to a trusted friend. Nothing is stronger than a published set of values because they force you to be accountable to what you say you believe.
Now, assess your relationships and be honest about those that are not living up to your own set of values. Think of the pain those relationships are causing and encourage yourself to trust your instincts, marshal your strength, hold tight to your principals and have authentic conversations about what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Be sure in the knowledge that there may be consequences in the short term — but in the long term being true to yourself and your values and having the courageous conversation will ultimately set in motion a journey to a much better, happier and more fulfilling place.
Stop Doing Without Thinking
With all of the many demands on our time, it’s easy to be in a constant state of reactive doing, where there is little planning or forethought — just energy used to stay ahead of the latest fire we’ve had to extinguish. And it’s no wonder. Who has time for quiet reflection when there are work issues and child care concerns and partner demands and money issues to deal with?
But one hour of thinking time is worth five hours of doing time.
Simply put, find some time to think. Turn off the TV, cell phone, computer and every other electronic device in your world, and learn to spend some quiet time in your own head. You’ll be surprised how much more purposeful your life will be. How much clearer your intent, focused your goals, consistent your behaviors, premeditated your actions and successful and happier your outcomes.