There is a surge of energy in the air as we fly into 2020 and the new decade. 2020 is a Leap Year too, which I believe adds a magical energy. So, in the dying days of the old year, it’s time to think what it you want and think about will make you happy. With that in mind, here are 7 tips to make the New Year fabulous.
The question of what will make you happy in itself can be a stumbling block. This is especially true if your life is already relatively good. From an OK/Good place, it’s easy to just go with the flow. The desire to change becomes much stronger if life is not good, if you have come to the end of the road or hit rock bottom. What might it be like though to begin to make changes before the worst happened?
Make the New Year Fabulous
No matter where you are in your life today, it’s very common to be unsure as to what will make you happy in the New Year. This is typically because we feel it’s selfish, or that you don’t feel worthy. Even as we conceive of something we’d like in our life, its commonplace for our active mind to instantly dismiss our dreams with:—I don’t know where to begin, it’s too much to ask for, I’m not good enough, I can’t do that, ohhh this is impossible—before we have even fully expressed our dreams. Or we worry what we would have to do, what changes we would have to make if we decided to take action. Instead of feeling daunted at the first hurdle, allow yourself time to play with your ideas and dreams. Own them—they are special.
You, me, all of us—we are creatures of habit
We all evolve. It’s simply not true to say people don’t change. However, we mostly make gradual changes over a long period of time and so it seems like we don’t change. Every now and again though, like at the beginning of the year, or at a significant birthday, or when life throws you a curved ball, there is an urge to change quickly. At times like this we tell everyone we are going to; stop smoking / become slimmer / get fit / find a new job / find a new love. Then two weeks later, we slip back into our old ways. We put it down to lack of will power. We beat ourselves up about it, and laugh it off if anyone asks how we’re doing.
Changing things quickly, is not our natural way. This doesn’t mean that changes can’t be wrought quickly—they can. But making big life changes is more challenging than we realise. So first be proud of any changes you have made and are currently working on. If you slip up—and so often in the process of change you will—it doesn’t mean you have failed. It simply means you need to adjust something in the change process, and then have another go at it.
Rewiring the brain
Our current natural way of living, our personal habits, are our default responses to stimuli. For example, if someone pokes fun at you, you have your own ‘normal’ way of reacting. It could be to poke fun back, or laugh, squirm, blush, becoming defensive, or even run away. The way you respond is down to how your neurons (tiny brain cells) ‘talk’ to each other. When we do things repeatedly, strong connections create neural pathways. The pathways of well established habits are like super highways: they allow the brain to access memories, responses and behaviours at the speed of light. To break your old ways/habits (eating, drinking, smoking, how you deal with relationships and so on) means you need to rewire your brain – create new neural pathways.
To create new neural pathways that support your new way of being, the new action/behaviour has to be done repeatedly. Every time you do things in your new way, new neural pathways are formed. If you persist, your new neural pathway will become a super highway. During this time, it’s normal for you to get frustrated because it takes longer and doesn’t ‘feel’ natural to you. Remember what it was like when you first learnt to drive your car compared to how you drive today. Give yourself time for this change to happen. Persistence really pays.
Stages of change
There are many stages of change, but the 4 key ones are:
- The Awareness Stage. You are aware that you want/need to change something in your life. You can be in the awareness stage for weeks, months or even years.
- The New Year’s Resolution Stage. You are ready – and you begin to make changes. However, more than likely, you will slip back into your old ways. At this point, most people give up. PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP! Most people have to go through this stage many times. Each time you do so, you will learn and refine how to make it work for you. And each time you attempt the new way, you are creating a stronger neural pathway – getting closer to the super highway you need to be successful.
- The Results Stage. You begin to notice the changes. Other people begin to notice them too. This stage is highly motivating. Your new outward actions and your internally work are creating a new, strong neural pathways. And it feels good!
- Unconsciously Competent Stage. You now have a new neural super highway. You don’t even have to consciously think about your new way. It’s how you drive a car or tie your shoelaces. You no longer have to remember the individual steps to make it happen. You do it mostly on autopilot. When you’re here, it’s time to celebrate!
And then, in a Zen-like way, when you have mastered the 4th stage, it’s also time to go back to stage 1.
Stage 2 is the hardest one to get past. When you slip up, as you will inevitably do, please don’t be hard on yourself. It has nothing to do with lack of will power, or the person you are. Get-up and try again. What have you learnt about this new change so far? Can you refine it? Is there an easier way to make this happen? Do you need some support?
One thing at a time
When the urge to change arises, people often want to change many things all at once. When you have complimentary changes, like losing weight and becoming fitter, then it is possible to weave these changes together and be successful. But if you want to lose weight, get a new job and move to a new location, then trying to do them all at once is too distracting and demanding. Chose to focus on one change: the one that will make you the happiest.
Prioritise the changes you want to make. Success in one area empowers you to make changes in other areas.
Fast tracking changes
If you are determined to make significant changes quickly, then you have a far greater chance of success if you find (and allow!) someone to help you.
Life Coaching. All life coaches, even those who trained at the same coaching school, work in different ways. I help my clients by ‘walking’ with them. I hold a torch and shine it on the potholes and the new opportunities on the horizon. I teach my clients new life-skills, and help them heal. My style is challenging, as I like to ‘dance’ with life’s wondrous possibilities. I like to help people laugh and the ridiculous muddles we all get ourselves into. And I care deeply about the person whilst I walk along this part of their path with them. My style works for many people, but not for everyone. There are literally thousands of life coaches out there. Generalists like me, and specialists for every area of your life. If you wish to be coached – to fast track your changes – investigate several different coaches to find a good match to you.
Hypnosis, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), EMDR (Eye Movement TFT (Thought Field Therapy) and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) are excellent ways to make changes where the stumbling blocks are fear, emotional or phobia based. The changes are frequently instant and usually permanent. They all work in slightly different ways, but they all alter the neural connections in the brain.
Talking, and sharing with a friend or finding a support group is another great way to fast track changes. Knowing that you are not the only one struggling with the issues, learning from how others see and deal with things, is an incredibly powerful motivator. Helping someone else do what you want makes making your own changes easier to do too.
Invest in yourself to get help make the changes you wish to bring about. This is the best way to fast-track changes in your life.
I know I am like a stuck record on this topic, but loving and accepting yourself, just the way you are, is paradoxically, the fastest way to bring about change. Most of us care just enough for ourselves to get-by. The lack of self worth (and therefore lack self love being administered) is at epidemic levels in our culture. By loving yourself fully, many old, not-so-good habits will naturally begin to change. Loving yourself begins by treating yourself they way you would treat someone who was really dear to you: with tenderness, gentleness, thought and kindness.
Be kind, loving and gentle with yourself. Busting a blood vessel at the gym, starving yourself, working all hours under the sun – this is punishing yourself. You can make the changes you want without being mean to yourself. Give yourself the time and love it takes to make this change happen. You are, as the cliché saying goes, worth it!
Give yourself realistic timeframes
A frequent wish for making the new year better is to become fitter and/or slimmer. Whether this is on your list, or whether it’s getting a new job, moving home, finding your soulmate, it will nearly always take time. Expecting massive changes to occur in a very short time span can be counter-productive. It’s setting yourself up to fail. Instead, set yourself up to win—and in this way, anything that happens faster is a bonus.
Mark your calendar with goal posts to what you desire. Having set dates is a much better way than thinking, ‘In 6-weeks I will have/be/done…’ because 6-weeks can easily slip, whereas ‘By the end of January / my birthday / Easter…’ is less likely to be put off or ignored.