Forget New Year Resolutions. Start Theme for the Year!

Be different!  Forget New Year Resolutions, Start a Theme for the Year.

New Year brings about new and exciting opportunities as well as challenges.  For most of us we look forward to a new year mainly because we want to get over the “bad” parts of the past year and we can start with a “clean” slate of sort.  We are motivated to have new year resolutions or goals to kick start the year.  Probably because it’s what everyone is doing or talking about. We desire to change old habits, create new habits, accomplish new goals, right the mistakes of past and generally to create a Me.2.

Then we read articles on how by the 12th day of January, most people’s new year resolution would have failed and by March, its long forgotten and nothing has changed, we get discouraged even before we truly start.  Maybe its time for a different strategy. 

A new strategy would be to start creating a theme for the year.  Start it after the 12th January 2020 just to be different from the majority of the people.  Instead of starting with a goal or resolution, create a theme for the year.  A theme is a broader umbrella for what you truly want to see and experience.  A goal is very helpful to keep you laser focus but a theme will help you view what you want to accomplish in a broader and sometimes unexpected context.

For example, a theme like Optimize.  This theme can and will encompass a whole range of areas in your life.  It could be how best to optimize the time that you have in a day.  It could be what’s the best method of optimizing a certain task.  It could even be how to optimize your resources such as energy or money.  A theme will help you expand your thought process and provide you with the flexibility that will keep you going because it is not confined to one area.  You can adapt the theme to your circumstances and as the year progresses, you are able to mix and match what works for you.

Once you have established a theme for the year and for the purposes of this write-up, its “Optimize”, you can then decide that maybe for the month of January, you will explore how best to optimize your finances.  What is the best investment strategy for you?  What is the best savings plan that you need to have in place?  How do I optimize my income?  The list goes on.  The focus will be optimizing what you have.  You can break it down by month or category or whatever area that you want to make the initial change.  The main idea is not to overwhelm yourself with a series of goals but to tackle one area at a time based on a focus theme.

You can literally put into action and create new habits one act at a time based on the theme for the year.  To put into practice the theme, you can decide how it is to be embedded into whatever that you are doing.  For example, if you are already exercising 30mins a day, think about how best to optimize that 30mins of exercise, maybe its adding a little more strength work in between or exercise in a fasted state to optimize fat loss.  With practice, your mindset will change to filter what you think and do through the theme filter. Your habits can be optimized or modified based on a small change in how your think and act.

I have personally been practicing this for the last 3 years and I have found it to be life changing.  Life changing because:

  1. I don’t feel guilty or as a failure if I do achieve a “goal”.  That is the freedom and the advantage of this.  I have the freedom to implement the theme as I go along and change the actions incrementally.  I can then creates specific goals if I choose to.
  2. Intentional practice and application. I choose to incorporate the theme consciously and intentionally.  I become more intentional with what I do, and my mindset is always thinking about what I could do differently depending on the theme of the year. Questions such as “How could I optimise this situation?” “What areas do I need to optimise?”.
  3. It’s a growth vs. goal-oriented mindset.  A theme should challenge you to always be looking for new ways to incorporate it and a natural byproduct of that is a growth mindset.  You will want to learn more about how to “optimize”.  You will focus your learning and reading materials around the theme of the year.  It helps to focus you without hemming you in a set series of goals.
  4. Expansive vs. Limiting.  The theme applies to any and every area of your life not just in one area that you have set.  You can incorporate it in your attitude, behavior, habits, perspective and mindset.  It is not solely based on your actions. 
  5. Experiment and test the boundaries.  The theme is as big or small as you want it to be.  You can start small and as your confidence grows, expand the boundaries.

The theme I had in 2019 was “Overcoming Limiting Belief”.  The theme has helped me to take on challenges that I would normally have passed up. It has allowed me the freedom to try new things which my previous limiting belief stronghold would have said “No. You are not artistic and therefore cannot paint.” Not only did I take up watercolor painting but discovered that I enjoy it and am pretty decent with it.  I have learned new skills and taken up new challenges because my mindset was centered around that theme.  Everything and every time I thought of saying No, I would think about my theme and then decide to just give it go as I am on this journey of overcoming my limiting belief. 

For me personally, I have grown and learned and accomplished a lot more than I would have otherwise.  Give it go.  What have you got to lose?

5 attributes that Limiting Belief Stops You from Becoming

Limiting belief sounds scary.  The word “limiting” already implies a negative.  And it does.  Much like the word “cannot”.  It indicates a stop.  A stop in our thoughts, beliefs and actions.  It prevents anyone from doing something that might be potentially beneficial or dangerous.  Stopping from taking unnecessary risk or embarking on a dangerous path is a good thing.  Limiting beliefs are rooted in fear.  Fear of failing, disappointing people, not meeting expectations and so on.   A far reaching effect of limiting belief is it prevents you from learning and growing.

In fact, there are many situations where we should not even “test the waters”.  For example, testing the waters with narcotics is never a smart thing and never a situation to challenge your “limiting” beliefs.  There are, however, many other situations where challenging your limiting beliefs are a good thing.  In those situations, challenging your limiting beliefs will empower, encourage, inspire and impact positively on your skills, experience and maturity.  More importantly the true impact is on who you could become. 

Limiting beliefs stops you from becoming a person who is:

  1. Self-Aware.  Self-awareness is very much an understated competency.  Most of us don’t realise what it is and how critical it is for us to not just know who we are but aware of our presence and the impact around us.
  2. Resilient.  Resilience is a critical attribute to possess.  No success can be achieved without resilience.  To learn and grow in resilience requires a never give up attitude which comes from constantly challenging limiting beliefs.  Faced with every challenge, your limiting beliefs will stop you from moving further.  To overcome that you must overcome those limiting beliefs.
  3. Mature.  Maturity comes from facing the challenges that life throws at you.  It comes from learning how to handle success and failures.  It develops through the many ups and downs of life.  It comes from getting up every time you fall down.  You can’t get up if you never fall.  You will never fall if you don’t take steps to overcome your limiting beliefs. 
  4. Impactful.  Making a difference.  Creating impact.  These are all powerful motivators for why we work hard, strive to excel and to be the best.  It is because we want to contribute and serve.  It is because we want to be more than just merely exist.  Making a difference requires that we get out of our comfort zone.  To get out of our comfort zone is to get out of our limiting belief constraints.
  5. Humble.  That might seem strange and out of place in this modern time where humility is seen as a weakness rather than a strength.  However, I beg to differ.  No one truly admires a arrogant fool.  We all admire people who are humble in their strength.  Humility comes from strength and confidence in truly knowing who you are.  You can only learn that when you acknowledge your weaknesses and work towards becoming better.  Unless you challenge your limiting beliefs, you won’t be working on your weakness to be better.

Everyone has their private list of limiting beliefs.  Those who are successful are able to identify their limiting beliefs and work towards overcoming them.  It is difficult but certainly possible.  Don’t let your limiting beliefs stop you from becoming the person that you were meant to be.

Growing Up vs. Growing Old

With each passing year, I can’t help but ponder about the age-old question of “Am I wiser or just older with time?” I would like to believe that I am growing wiser or just a little more grown up with time.
Growing old and growing up are very different. The outcome or result is clear for all to see. One of it does not involve any choice or thought but the other requires discipline, focus and hard work. One demonstrates matured judgment and decision-making while the other is like a life living in a time capsule making decisions and handling situations as a 20-year-old when you are a 40-year-old.
Growing old happens to everyone whether we like it or not. We don’t have a choice. Let me just say that your body grows, peaks and then its all downhill from there on. I wish I was kidding but we know the reality of this life. We start out being helpless like a baby and we pretty much end in the same condition except not as cute.
Growing Up on the other hand is entirely in our hands. It is based on the choices, decisions and actions that we take. The choice to learn, to change our words, thoughts and actions for the better and to contribute to others. The growing up that we need to do is centered around our emotional and mental aspects.

Keys to Growing Up

1. Learning never stops: The awareness and curiousity to want to explore, take risk, get out of your comfort zone and experience what life has to offer. The intentional focus on to continually learn and grow not just in knowledge but also in experience. You must have the desire to always want to improve and be better. Not satisfied with the comfort zone.
2. Tough decisions: There are moments when the hard and tough decisions must be made. Short vs. Long term moments that will define your next steps. Tough decisions will always involve deliberation and not just emotionally charge decision-making process. To be able to see all angles and different views before deciding are required. To have the courage to make the decision and not to avoid. The courage to make a stand even if it is not popular.
3. Sacrifices must be made: Along with making the tough decisions, sacrifices will have to be made to achieve what we want. Nothing comes on a silver platter, to achieve anything worthwhile, hard work and sacrifices are required. What are you willing to sacrifice? A student must sacrifice certain activities if they want to achieve academic excellence. An employee must sacrifice some “home” time if they want to climb the corporate ladder. A professional athlete must sacrifice a lot to be an Olympian.
4. Growing up is a choice: We are all given choices in this life. We either choose to grow up or just cruise in life. We choose to either be a giver or taker in this life. We choose who to befriend and spend time with. Life is full of choices and the choices that we make will result in the person that we become. Therefore, to be mature or wise is a choice. We choose to learn from our mistakes, failures, success and difficulties in the life so that we become smarter, stronger, wiser and more resilient. We choose to accept responsibilities or blame others. We choose how we want to grow up.
5. Practice makes permanence: That’s right, practice makes permanence and NOT perfect. No matter how long and hard I practice my golf, it will be “my” golf swing and never the “perfect” golf swing. The permanence of my golf swing becomes muscle memory and in an ideal situation, I would be swinging without thinking too much about it. Life is a series of practices. We are in a constant motion of practicing what we do until it becomes a habit or permanent routine. Our minds are wired to be lazy and hence once a habit is formed, we will just follow it. We must be conscious of our habits and thoughts and know that we can change those that we want to with a deliberate and purposeful decision and actions that follow.
6. Commitment to growth: We need to be committed to the growth process. This ties in with the learning mindset. We must be committed to growing up and not just growing old.

Signs you are growing old and NOT growing up

1.  You are self-focus: Your view of your role in this world is centered around you and you only. It’s all about ME. Much like a child, you only want what you want, and you want it now. It does not matter to you what the cost is to those around you or to the much greater environment that you live in.
2. Instant gratification: The way in which you respond to situations or people around you demonstrate that it is all about getting what you want NOW. It is about getting rich, fast. Getting to where you want to go, Now. Desiring whatever you see, Now. There is no long-term thought process. It is all about achieving short-term needs.
3. Taking people for granted: You don’t show or appreciate people around you. You consider them as a necessary means to an end when you need them. You have yet to learn to appreciate and love people. You do not value relationships and connections beyond using them to achieve your goals.
4. Always comparing never achieving: You are always driven by comparing what you have e.g. house, car, job, money, holidays etc. with others and never being contend. You have not learned that it is not about what you possess but it’s about how you impact others. Life is about giving and making a difference and not an accumulation of things that you can never take with you when you die.
5. Taking and Never Giving: You are always expecting people to give to you. You are always taking from people around you and never giving anything in return. You are not sharing what you have. You are certainly not giving a thought to someone in need. It is all about what you can get for yourself.

Time to take stock

It is always good to take stock of where you are. Self-awareness is an important attribute to have. It requires an honest and open reflection of yourself. Know who you are and what you are here to accomplish. Ask yourself:
• Am I growing in experience and knowledge?
• What improvements do I see from the decisions that I am making?
• Are people coming to me to ask for advice?
• How do I view my purpose in my family, workplace and the greater world? Am I fulfilling it?
• What am I doing to learn more?
• Am I challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone?

There is no better time than now to decide to continually grow up and not just let time dictate your growing old.

Vision that Drives You

“If You Are Working On Something That You Really Care About, You Don’t Have To Be Pushed. The Vision Pulls You.”- Steve Jobs

Vision.  Have you ever thought about just how critical vision is to your life?  Not only in the literal sense of being able to see what’s in front of you but also the invisible vision of seeing the beauty and wonder of life around you.  Your eyes are not the only vision enabled organ.  In fact you are able to “see” with your mind, heart and touch.  You are able to visualize a memory, a thought and a feeling.  We are visual creatures and therefore we dream in pictures.  We see our purpose or calling in visions of what our life will enable and the impact it will make.

It is therefore all that more important to know what your purpose and goals are in order for you to draw a vision of what it would look like as well as how to achieve it.  It is like putting all the Lego pieces together in order to build something.  It all starts with what we imagine the outcome to be.  We start by knowing what we want to end up with.  We start with a picture of the final product.  We then break it down in to each individual piece that is required.  We then put the pieces together.  The pieces might not and usually does not all come together at the first attempt.  In fact it might take more attempts than we would like to admit but the end result, if we do not give up will be an achievement that you will be proud of.  It is all because you dreamt it and persevered to build it.

Start with the vision.  How do we go about having a vision?

I would like to suggest that it starts with asking and answering these questions:

  • What drives me?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What am I good at? What am I not good at?
  • What would you regret not doing?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What change or impact moves you strongest?

Putting the pieces together.

Just like Lego or Ikea products, it all starts with the plan or vision.  Then the pieces that you would need to put together.  What are the pieces?  Pieces would consist of:

  • Resources: What do you need to achieve the vision?
  • Time: How would you allocate time and energy?  How to prioritise time?
  • People: Who do you need to help achieve the vision?  Identify people who are able to help in each stage.
  • Focus: Prioritise and focus.  Without focus, you will not be able to start or complete.

Expect mistakes and failed attempts.

It is important that we have the right perspective of how things are going to pan out.  You might be the small minority that gets it right the first time.  However, more often than not, it will take many attempts and learning from mistakes before getting to the point that you are seeing all the pieces put together in a manner that it resembles what you had envisioned.  All too often, we fall into the trap that success will come automatically just because that’s the expectation.  Having the right expectation is important as part of building the plans that will not only anticipate but also overcome challenges as it comes along.  No journey is without speed bumps and potholes.  Don’t let set back stops you from persevering and finishing the vision.

Let your vision grow.

Once you have accomplish one vision, allow the vision to grow and mature.  Vision is a starting point and then it will grow and expand as our experience grows.  It grows and mature as we grow and mature.  Vision is a living “organism”.  It is not stagnant and unchanging.  In fact it is a guide for you to achieve at this point in time but not necessarily forever.

Don’t live a life without going after at least one thing that is important to you.

You are unique and therefore your contribution to this world can only be achieved by you alone.

Make an impact with different categories of Goals.

We know all about goals.  We understand its purpose and importance.  Have you ever considered whether there are different categories or types of goals?  Depending on the desired outcome, different types of goals should be considered.  Different categories of goals would also require different types of questions to be asked and answered.

I find that there are 3 basic categories of goals.

  1. Reflective or Assessment type goals. This type of goals aim to achieve changes as a result of assessment from past results and actions.  Therefore there are 4 key questions that needs to be answered:
  • “What would I change?”. Questions that focus on assessment of a performance and what development changes needs to place.
  • “What went well and what did not?”. Questions that focuses around objectively identifying the positives and negatives.  Reflecting on what was good and what bad.
  • “How could I be better?”. Questions that focuses around improvements whether its increasing sales performance or improving running times etc.
  • “What do I need to stop or start doing?”. Questions that would focus around actions or behavior that should be changed or stop altogether and new actions that needs to be taken.

 

  1. The “Future or Impossible” goals:
  • “What if?”. Questions that would bring about future oriented goals.  For example,
    • What if I could do whatever I loved, what would it be?
    • What if I could change one thing, what would it be?
    • What if there were no risk in doing something, would I do it.
  • “No limits”. Questions that would help you to explore options that far beyond your current perspective.  Questions such as
    • If you could do anything you want, what would it be?
    • If you had no fear, what would you do?
    • What do you love doing that you would do if not for …?
  • “Dream”. Questions would center around your greatest dream or passion.
    • What have you been dreaming of doing?
    • What are you most passionate about and would do if …?

 

  1. The “present reality” goals:  Goals that are measured by achieving them in the now and in the moment.  These are the most goals and they would consist of answering questions:
  • “How much and time bound” Questions that would lead to goals that are very specific and time sensitive.  For example,
    • How much weight do I want to lose in the next week?
    • What do I need to do to achieve that outcome in the next week?
  • “Resource requirements” considerations and questions. Questions that would have assistance and structure support in order to achieve the goal.  For example,
    • what assistance do I need to achieve the goal?
    • What additional resources do I need to ask for?
    • What is the budget requirements?
  • “Fix-It”
    • What do I need to fix now?
    • What do I need to modify?
    • What changes to the process do I need to make?
  • “What To do next” Questions that would focus on the next steps.  Questions such as,
    • What would you do next?
    • What are the next steps in this process?

A simple and structured way to identify and ask the relevant questions to achieve the outcomes that you desire.  This will also help you focus on the goals that you want to achieve without being a little haphazard with the questions that you are asking yourself or your team.