Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolve

OK, it's that time of year again. The time when you decide how the upcoming year will be different, how you will be different. Caught up in holiday jubilance you might have already declared resolutions for the new year, resolutions that you hope will come to pass, resolutions that you may already have compromised or begun to doubt.

Here's a little hint. Manifesting resolutions has nothing do to with hope. Further, resolve is not something that you have or don't have; resolve is something that you do.

So, if you'd like to make this the year where your resolve more than adequately supplies your resolutions, the following guide is for you. Follow the steps outlined below and I guarantee you that you'll more than see your resolutions come to pass.

Establish a Vision
Proverbs 28:9 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he."

At first blush, these seem odd bedfellows. What's vision got to do with keeping the law? You might also ask, "What's keeping the law got to do with resolutions?"

First, the writer of Proverbs recognized that people who simply memorize the rules and then try to implement them, fail. It's unavoidable. While a list of rules and regulations simplifies implementation, it lacks a context or reason. Precise specification of rules and regulations works for computer, but we humans tend to fail when we don't see and understand the bigger picture. At some point we ask, "Why?"

Why am I doing this day after day? What difference would it make if I did something different today? What difference would make if I just bagged this stupid rule?

Without a vision, we have no reason; without a reason, we fail.

The first and most important step in seeing resolutions come to pass is to establish a solid vision of what you want to happen or who you want to become.

Affirmative
If you put any effort into creating a vivid and powerful vision, what I'm about to say will be unnecessary: always state your vision in the affirmative.

"I'm going to quit smoking" or "I want to lose twenty-five pounds" or "I need to stop worrying so much" are statements of intent, not statements of vision. Without a strong statement of the affirmative towards which you're moving, these statements of intent default to visions that are not necessarily inspiring.

"I'm going to quite smoking" defaults to an affirmative vision of "I'm going to experience withdrawal".

"I want to lose twenty-five pounds" leads to "I'm going to feel hungry all the time".

"I need to stop worrying so much" results in worrying about worrying.

Make your vision something that you're moving towards, not something from which you're moving away.

Make It Big
When a child envisions being stronger he has no problem seeing himself as Superman or an NFL linebacker. Put a guitar in her hands and she's playing for a stadium overflowing with adoring fans. He dances for a packed crowd at the Met. She happily accepts her nobel prizes for physics and peace. Creating a wonderfully big and elaborate vision comes naturally; it's an innate part of being human, something that must be unlearned.

If you want to create an inspiring and sustaining vision, make it big, make it clear and make it decadently elaborate. For example...

If you want to lose weight, don't just picture yourself losing a few pounds. Instead, picture yourself walking down the beach in your bathing suit, in the day time, without a cover up, and feeling fabulous.

If you want to play an instrument, forget about making it through a couple of songs; instead, picture a hall filled with people mesmerized by your virtuosity and grace.

If you want to help your child with autism, stop thinking simply about the next steps in his development. Instead paint a vivid picture of him walking down the aisle at his wedding surrounded by hundreds of his close friends.


A vision is not a plan. It's not supposed to be practical. You don't need to have a clue as to how it can be achieved. A great vision is irresistibly desirable, unquenchably inspirational and vividly clear. It's something that you can bring into focus any time you start to doubt or waiver. It'll get you out of bed in the morning. It'll pick you up when you fall down. It'll drown out the voices of the naysayers and doubters.

In fact, unless at least a few people tell you that you're crazy, you just aren't dreaming big enough.

The Disappointment Trap
The number one reason that we limit our vision is because we don't want to be disappointed. You know what I'm talking about. It goes something like, Poor Tommy thinks he's going to be some kind of rock star. I hope it doesn't break his heart when he finds out that he just doesn't have the goods.

Why is it that we think that way? (That was rhetorical.) It's simply because we tie being happy to fulfilling our visions. Worse, we often delay happiness as a motivator to pursuing our visions. It's as though, being happy now would keep us from pursuing something even better.

You can only be disappointed if you make your happiness conditional. Make your vision big and wonderful. In the mean time, be happy.

Broadcast It
Great visions are brought to life when they're shared with others. It's a tree-falls-in-the-forest kinda thing. Once envisioned, manifest it. Don't wait until it's fully baked; you can refine it as you go. In fact, it's useful to invite feedback on how to make your vision bigger, better and more vivid.

Although sharing your vision verbally is useful, I suggest a more permanent medium. Write it down. Record it on your iPhone. Post it on Facebook. Text it. Tweet it (though it may take a lot of tweets).

Find pictures that illustrate your vision and pin them to your bulletin board or tape them to your refrigerator. Post your manifesto on the bathroom mirror.

Make your vision real by sharing it with anyone who will listen and keeping tangible reminders in places where you will see them regularly. Bring your vision to life.

Step-by-Step
Once you've entrenched your vision in the minds of others and yourself, it's time to translate it into the steps that you'll take to achieve it. Don't worry about figuring out all of them; there are some steps that can't be determined until after you've taken others. In the end, all you ever need to know is the step that your taking in the moment; in fact, focusing exclusively on the current step is essential to optimizing resolve.

There are many ways to develop a plan. You can consult experts. You can download prefab programs. You can simply start doing whatever it is you want to do and see what happens.

What I've found to be the most useful way of determining steps to follow is to find someone who has gone from circumstances similar to my own to circumstances similar to those of my vision. There are plenty of people who will tell you how to get from point A to point B and there are exceptions to the following rule, nonetheless, the best advice comes from someone who has done it herself.

Since your vision may indeed be unique, you might seek guidance from different people at each step. When I first started playing saxophone, I had a great teacher, one who could take me through the basics of putting together my instrument and learning the notes. After a few months, I pretty much knew all that he did about the sax and it was time to find another teacher.

The second teacher took me to levels of playing that the first never could have; however, he would never have had the patience to walk me through the basics.

In the end, you are the general contractor building your vision. It's your job to evaluate, hire and fire subcontractors along the way.

Accountability
Once you've determined a set of steps and activities, find someone who'll help ensure you pursue them regularly. It can be your partner or a friend, someone at work or one of your kids. Ideally, it will be someone for whom you're providing a similar service.

Set up regular times to check in with one another to see how it's going. It could be every morning before work or every evening after dinner. Perhaps Tuesdays and Thursdays for lunch. Find someone who will hold you accountable for doing what you said you'd do.

Some people are good at going it alone; however, most of us do better in the company of others working towards the same goals. In addition to an accountability partner, you might find that signing up for a class or joining a club is a great way to help you stay on course.

Every Day
The single biggest way to undermine resolve is to assume that you can do something once, twice or three times a week and see change. In fact, some exercise programs actively promote "rest" days between workouts.

Doing so completely undermines resolve by introducing the notion, "Perhaps I should just skip today?" The moment you call into question whether or not today is a day to pursue steps towards your vision, your resolve begins to unravel.

The single biggest booster to resolve is to pursue it every day. If you're concerned about overworking your muscles, then change up your workout plan. If you're concerned about giving things time to settle in, then vary your learning plan. If you don't have time to do all you'd planned, do what you have time to do.

Whatever you do, never ever introduce the notion: perhaps I should make today a rest day?

A Few More
Here are a few more ideas that can empower your resolve.
  1. First Things First: Don't put off til the end of the day what you want most to accomplish. To the best of your ability, make your resolved actions the ones you take earliest in the day.

  2. Break It Down: If you find yourself reluctant to pursue whatever step you've determined to be next, it could be that the step is too big or too hard. If that's the case, break it down into simpler easier steps. If you can't run four miles, then walk them. Slowly introduce running to your walks. Before you know it, your running time will exceed your walking time and you'll be well on your way to running the entire distance.

  3. Celebrate: Don't wait until you've achieved some significant milestone to celebrate your hard work and accomplishment. Celebrate yourself and what you've done each and every day, even on the days that you don't do as much as you'd hoped to.

  4. Share It All: Share your accomplishments. Share when you've exceeded your expectations. Share when you've not met them. Whether you win or lose, make it matter of fact, just part of your everyday.

Whatever you've set your mind to for 2012, if you follow what I've outlined above, you'll have more resolve and success than ever before. I guarantee it!

Happy Sunday!
Teflon

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