3 Steps to Be Your Best Self in 2016
Start small, be proactive and cultivate an attitude of gratitude for a happy New Year.
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A new year, a new you. Or is it? We've all made New Year's resolutions and committed to being our best. We've made the decision to eat better, get healthy, volunteer more, etc. By February, we have a beer in one hand and a cheeseburger in the other. We've been to the gym and that hurt -- not doing that again! We try to make drastic changes, and that ends up resulting in no change at all.
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Rather than repeat the cycle, try these three strategies to be your best in 2016.
1. Start small.
Successful change requires small shifts in thought and behavior over a long period of time. It's not the big things we do one time that make a difference -- it's the little changes we make consistently over time that bring the biggest payoff.
A great example of small shifts that bring about big results is Google's approach to employee health. Simply educating employees that a smaller plate leads to a smaller waistline has changed the way employees eat. Smaller dessert servings require Google employees to get a second serving if they want more dessert.
Rather than re-vamping your entire strategy for your goals, start by making a subtle shift in behavior. For instance, eliminating one or two interruptions a day can add up to a huge boost in your productivity. When we are in a state of flow, we are firing on all cylinders. After an interruption, it can take as long as 20 minutes to re-focus on the task at hand. Saving 30 minutes a day equates to roughly 22 days a year. That's an entire month minus weekends. That can add up to a lot of productivity.
2. Be proactive instead of reactive.
How many times a day do we automatically react to things and end up wishing later that we had responded differently? A reaction is an unconscious, habitual response to what life dishes out. The problem with reacting is that we subconsciously relinquish control. Reacting allows external circumstances, people or situations to dictate our response, rather than being proactive about the results we want.
There's ample research on the value of being proactive in life and business. Being proactive means having a strategy, a consciously chosen approach we determine before we encounter a problem. For example, when my son's school calls, I see the number on the caller ID, and my heart drops. He has extreme emotional and behavioral challenges, so when the school calls, I know they're not calling to say, "Guess who's having a great day!" I've had to create a plan so that when they do call, I can take action and not let it derail my entire day.
Successful people are strategic in planning their goals and their lives. To be more proactive in 2016, give yourself permission to take the time to plan your life, rather than simply doing what comes next. You don't have to be a hamster on a wheel. Your future and your life are in your hands. Make a commitment to being intentional about your choices in everything from what you eat to what you read, always being guided by your goals, values and priorities.
3. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
What would happen if you decided to wake up every morning glad to be alive and grateful that you have the ability to make positive changes in your life and the lives of others? An attitude of negativity and resentment makes life's challenges more difficult to navigate.
Focusing on gratitude -- even when it's difficult to do -- can change your life for the better by reducing the amount of stress you feel when things get tough. According to UMass Dartmouth, people who focus on gratitude have higher reported levels of happiness, lower levels of depression, place less importance on material things, exercise more and feel more optimistic about their lives.
In essence, we find what we look for. When we look for all of the reasons life isn't fair, we find them. When we look for opportunities to be grateful, we find those too. Keep a running tab of all of the things that bring you joy, make you chuckle or just make you feel good. Start a gratitude journal and write down three to five things you feel grateful for each day.
Life is complicated, but taking steps to improve yours doesn't have to be. Start today to identify one small change that could have a big impact on your life. Be deliberate about your choices, and take time to notice the people and things that bring you joy. Practicing these three strategies will make you happier, more resilient and better able to surmount any challenges that come your way in 2016.