5 Steps to a More Successful 2015

As you approach the New Year, you may be considering how you might change some of your less helpful habits—habits that are holding you back from being your “best” self. Or, perhaps you are thinking about which of your “bad” habits are preventing you from being happier, healthier, and more successful.

As a stress management coach, I offer specific strategies on how to manage and reduce stress in the lives of my clients. These strategies also help them become more resilient in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.

For the purposes of today’s message, I would like to focus on 5 steps that you can start taking today to take you to a better 2015:

1)  Make a decision. The first step you must take before making any change, much less maintaining a better habit, is actually to make the decision that you are going to change. You must first decide that you are going to change and maintain an improved habit (or habits) in the upcoming year. A decision is different from a wish, a hope, or a dream, and making a decision to change something in your life is the first step toward making any meaningful change that is likely to last.

2)  Change only one thing at a time. People don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions—and let’s face it, most don’t—because they overwhelm themselves with making a dozen “resolutions” when they need to focus on one change at a time. If you have multiple areas of your life where you want to make significant changes, you need to choose the top one that you feel is the most urgent to your health, happiness or success, and start there. If you try to make more than one change at a time, you are dooming yourself to failure before you even get started.

3)  Create S.M.A.R.T. goals. “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attainable), Relevant, and Timely (or Time Limited).” A habit is something that is deeply ingrained. You engage in the behavior in question automatically and without thinking. That’s why it is called a habit. There is no denying that habits are hard to break. If that weren’t the case, we would drop bad habits in a hurry with little effort, right? But habits are sneaky…they drive your actions through your subconscious. So turn changing the habit into a goal and then establish parameters around how and why you want to change by creating S.M.A.R.T. goal language around it.

4)  Write your goal on a piece of paper and refer to it daily. There is something about writing down a goal that makes it feel more achievable than when it is just rattling around in your head. Write down your goal and write it in terms that comport with the S.M.A.R.T. goals in #3. In addition, write down why you want to change this habit. If you are a smoker and you want to quit smoking, write down why you want to do that. Is it because you don’t want to be a poor role model for your kids? Is it because you are tired of your clothes smelling like a stale ashtray all the time? Whatever the reason for your making the decision to change your habit, write it down. Then, carry the paper with you so that when you are tempted to revert to the old habit—and you will be tempted many times—you can remind yourself of the reasons for wanting to make the change.

5)  Share your goal with others and/or get a coach if you need one to hold you accountable for your actions. There is something about sharing goals with other people that keeps you more honest than if you keep the goal to yourself. If you make a decision to lose ten pounds between New Year’s day and March 31, 2015, that is something you CAN do…it falls under the heading of something you can translate into a S.M.A.R.T. goal…and if you stick to the resolve you felt when you made the decision, it is definitely doable. There are going to be times, however, when you will feel tempted to go back to your old habits of eating poorly and not exercising enough to be successful. You will be tempted to give up. If you have shared your goal with someone else, you are far more likely to stick with it. You may choose a friend or a buddy who will hold you to your promise to yourself. Perhaps you could use a coach that you hire specifically for the purpose of helping you stay motivated and to keep you honest throughout the process.

I have participated in a program around setting goals for myself as a business woman for the New Year. One of the important distinctions that the program offered is one that I believe might be helpful to you as you enter 2015. That distinction is to remember that your past does not define your future. You may have tried to quit smoking before and failed. You may have attempted to lose ten pounds before and gave up because it got hard or was inconvenient or you just couldn’t stick to your resolve.

That was then…this is now…it is a new day. This time you CAN be successful! You must first make a decision that this time is different, however. Decide once and for all that whatever it is that you want to change is not only something you wish you could do or just want to do…decide that it is something you will do…no excuses…and then follow the other four steps offered above to get you there. Tackle one bad habit at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once. One habit at a time, one day at a time…you can do this. Happy New Year.

For more information about Kitty Boitnott at Boitnott Coaching, LLC, contact her at BoitnottCoaching.com and subscribe to her newsletter by opting in for the free stress management evaluation that is available on her website. Or, fill out the form below:

How to Manage Your Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress - Photo by Shutterstock

Holiday Stress

Photo by Shutterstock

The holiday season is supposed to be the “happiest time of year.” At least that is the message that we hear in the songs, holiday specials, and all of the other messages–both overt and subliminal–to which we are subjected during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (And let’s face it…the holiday hype now begins long before Thanksgiving.)

The fact is, however, that for many people, this isn’t the happiest time of year. Moreover, it is a time when stress levels just ratchet up and up and up. There are pressures to spend more money…sometimes money we don’t have…so the credit cards get a work out with only passing thought to how they will get paid in the new year.

There are also pressures to eat things that we know aren’t good for us; but they go with the season, right? The standard Christmas gathering isn’t complete without fudge and Christmas cookies of every shape and description. Many of us just resign ourselves to gaining 5 or 10 pounds during this time of year…again, with little thought as to how that will make us feel as we hit the new year.

And then, there are the family get togethers and relationship pressures that we all face. Getting together with certain family members that we would rather not see, but they are, well…family. You have to deal with their intrusive questions that are supposed to show that they care but really make you feel like shouting, “It’s none of your business!”

All of these pressures add up, and instead of feeling happy, many of us just feel isolated, depressed, and dejected. For strategies for managing stress during the holiday season, go here for a “cheat sheet” on how to manage and reduce your stress as well as building natural resilience so that you feel less stress even when you are experiencing stressful situations. Continue reading

What Happens When You Can’t Trust Your Institutions of Power?

I have been heartsick over the last couple of days. I was deeply disappointed in the way the Michael Brown grand jury went a couple of weeks ago, but I comforted myself with the thought that at least the grand jury had the goods on the officer who killed Eric Garner. They had the video, after all, and the coroner had deemed the cause of death a homicide. It was a slam-dunk, right? No, I guess not. I am still shaking my head wondering how this could happen.

I also keep thinking about the children—the black and brown boys and girls—that I used to teach. They are teenagers now. What must they be thinking as they hear the news and listen to the adults talk about these cases? How are they internalizing the messages, both overt and subliminal? Are they wondering if they are going to be the next victims of police over reach?

When I was a child, I was told repeatedly that if I ever had a problem or got lost or needed assistance of any kind to look for someone in a police uniform. The policeman was a symbol of safety, security, and comfort. I could trust a policeman. Gee whiz…my uncle was a policeman! Now, that teaching is suspect.

At the same time, I wonder at our judicial system as a whole. It used to be that the measure in the law was “What would a reasonable person do? What is “reasonable” these days? Can we really trust the judicial system to rightly measure reasonableness? Our own Supreme Court has deemed that corporations should be accorded First Amendment rights, so I have trouble trusting the highest court in the land to be reasonable, much less the lower courts that are driven more and more by politics and ideology than by standards of “reasonableness.”

As I watch the political pundits on both sides of the extreme try to justify their points of view, I just have to shake my head in sadness and wonder how much more division and disruption can our country take? When will more “reasonable” heads prevail? How do we work ourselves toward being a country that is reflective of the ideals we say we hold to be true…that every man—and woman—is equal in the eyes of the law. How do we demonstrate to the world and to each other that we truly believe that every life is important regardless of race, or class or color? When will we come to see the hypocrisy of our telling other countries how they should behave with regard to human rights when we so clearly live in a glass house ourselves?

I pray for our country. I pray for all of the families who have lost loved ones to police violence—or any type of violence for that matter. It is hard enough to lose a loved one to “natural” causes. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish of one who has lost a loved one due to the deliberate savagery or the gross negligence of another person. I am trying to understand. But I admit, understanding is slow in coming.