Thirteen quick things to change your life today

19 08 2012

If our lives are the sum of things we do, then changing what we do can change our lives, one moment at a time. Here are thirteen things that can be easily achieved.

1. Exercise. If you are currently doing nothing, then ten minutes exercise will make a difference. If you are already exercising, make it an extra ten minutes.

2. Wear sunblock. Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, so as a red-head growing up in Australia, I know what I am talking about! Sun block is not only the one thing most guaranteed to keep you looking young, it may also save your life.

3. Eat some vegetables. Preferably green and leafy ones. A variety of fresh vegetables will keep you healthier and help with weight control.

4. Do the hard thing first. There is probably something you have been putting off, some emotionally challenging thing. Do it. Delaying doesn’t make it any better (in fact it usually makes it worse), and having it dragging around your neck doesn’t help your enjoyment of life now.

5. Act As If. A psychological principle whereby you can trick your brain into believing you are what you want to be. Smile, and your brain will think you are happy, and studies say you will start to feel happier. Michelangelo decided he was the world’s best artist years before he achieved it, but having this image meant he accepted the big projects (Sistine Chapel) that made his dream a reality.

6. Get organised. But don’t be overwhelmed. If your house is a mess, try scheduling fifteen minutes a day to do one room each day. Fifteen minutes is achievable and not overwhelming.

7. Stand up! Studies show that the more you sit down during the day, the earlier you die. It is now possible to get a desk to work at standing up.

8. Make time for a friend. Our lives can become very isolated a we get busier. Make time to enjoy others.

9. Have some downtime. Meditation is ideal, but even if you don’t know how to, have some quiet thinking time in a peaceful place. It doesn’t matter if you all asleep.

10. Get enough sleep. While we don’t really know he purpose of sleep, we o know it is necessary. Regular, sufficient sleep rejuvenated the body and mind, helps us think straight, manage our emotions, and have enough physical energy to exercise, dal with cravings and look after ourselves.

11. Give up one bad habit now. One less cigarette, one less biscuit, one less alcoholic drink – one less s a good thing. Then build on it.

12. Drink water. Water helps flush toxins from the body, helps control hunger, helps develop healthy skin and organs, and can help resolve headaches (some headaches are related to dehydration).

13. Live your life one moment at a time. (thanks to Maggie for this one). If losing weight, getting fit, finishing your study, tidying your house etc is too much, don’t think of he big goal. Just make he best decision for now. Faced with a range of lunch options, pick the healthy one now. How will you spend the next ten minutes?





Top Five New Year’s Resolutions

30 12 2011


According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the top five New Year’s resolutions are:

1. Lose weight / get fit

2. Give up smoking and/or drinking

3. Achieve financial security

4. Spend more time with family

5. Get organised

Yes, sadly, we are not unique, everyone comes up with the same resolutions. And somehow we aren’t all thin, fit, smoke-free, financially secure and living well-organised lives with our lovely and loving families.

The stats also show that 35% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within the first week – or not actually started at all.

But some people do make resolutions (New Year’s or otherwise) and succeed. How do they do it?

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire is quoted in The Guardian as mentioning two factors…

1. Don’t make the resolutions spur-of-the-moment

2. Break the goal down into smaller steps.

So following on from the recent posting on planning …here are a few suggested steps for consideration.

1. lose weight / get fit: aim initially for ten minutes exercise per day. Drink a glass of water before each meal. Cut portion size. Replace one junk food meal a week with something healthier.

2. quit smoking / drinking: this is one area where cold turkey seems to be the best option. However, you are not alone. There are prescription medications available to assist (ask your doctor if they are suitable for you) and over-the-counter substitutes.

3. achieve financial security: set up an automatic pay deduction for savings. Work out a plan for paying off debts. Set up an investment account / share-market account. Read a book to educate yourself about finances. Write a financial plan.

4. Spend time with family: set a particular time to spend “hanging” with the family. Write a list of activities you can do with the family (that they will enjoy as well). Sit down with the family and ask them what they want to do.

5. Get organised: Write a plan on what areas of your life you want to get organised in, and put in a weekly / monthly schedule of what you will do to achieve this. Perhaps it is one room in the house per week / month.

The steps need to be small, doable but meaningful. They need to build – so you might start with ten minutes exercise per day but build in five-minute increments to half an hour a day. But the most important thing about putting the plan into action is that if you skip it on day or week, that doesn’t mean the entire plan goes out the window. New Year’s Resolutions fail when you see them as all or nothing (one lapse means you have failed) or you allow lapses to snowball (I didn’t exercise yesterday or the day before, so there’s no point in doing it today). Pick up where you left off and keep going. Your plan tells you what you need to do next.

That’s how you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions.

This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths
Being Accountable
Analysis Paralysis





Analysis Paralysis

28 12 2011

Summit of Mt Everest

A friend sent me a blog where the author was saying how he had completed a marathon (from starting as a non-runner), started eating healthier, and got rid of his crippling debt through four easy steps.

And the kicker was, that he had given up setting goals.

Now given the overwhelming focus on goal setting that this blog has had over the past few days, it is possible that she was trying to tell me something……but instead it got me thinking more about goal setting and analysis paralysis.

The author of the blog linked above proclaims that his success is that he gave up setting goals. Instead he focussed on starting small, doing one change at a time, enjoying the process of the small steps he was taking, and being grateful for each step.

Now kudos to him for finding what works for him. He seems to have changed his life in some very significant ways.

But while he may not be writing goals…..he is clearly still setting them. He is looking at his life and deciding what aspects he is unhappy with. And he is developing a plan of small steps to get there. And he is integrating the changes into his life, celebrating the wins and recognising the importance of the changes he is making.

So the question is, do you set big inspiring goals, or do you set little do-able goals? Clearly the answer for me is both, but the downside of the big inspiring goals is they can be scary, demotivating – paralysing. If your goals is so big that you can’t actually see the path there, you might find you don’t do anything. But if they are small and don’t add up to a bigger goal….then are they worth the effort?

PS – this might be an example of confirmation bias – finding things that support your opinion and ignoring those that do not support your opinion – but the following posting on the same blog focuses on the importance of focussing on one thing at a time, and in fact focussing on one aspect that will build to the bigger goal, then moving onto the next. I have to say, that is a plan if ever I heard one!

This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths
Being Accountable





Being accountable

28 12 2011

photo credit Ethan Bloch

Sadly, we aren’t very good at being accountable to ourselves.

Oh, we start each New Year with the best of intentions. And then slowly – or sometimes quite quickly – it gets a bit harder, we break the resolution “just this once”. And next thing you know, it’s the next New Year’s Eve, and we’re making the same resolution agin. And this time we mean it, and we are really, really going to achieve it?

Sound familiar? No? Just me then?

Here are some secrets that Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig know that you should too.

The secret formula to their success is not some magic potion in their diet plans. It’s not some secret tool or chart they give you. The secret formula is being accountable to someone else.

You pay your money (that’s the committment) and then you have to turn up each week and get weighed and talk about how you have gone with your diet and exercise plan (that’s the accountability). And if you have fallen off the wagon, you confess AND MOVE ON. That’s right – falling off the wagon doesn’t mean the end of the goal achievement plan. You just brush is aside and get on with the plan, no excuses.

The study on goal setting by Gail Matthews from Dominican University demonstrated that those participants who made public committments to a friend were more likely to achieve their goals, and those who wrote weekly progress reports (accountability) were even more likely to achieve their goals.

Study on goal setting by Gail Matthews, PhD, Dominican University

So the question is – how do you set up this accountability, with someone who will hold you accountable? For weight loss programs, there are many options as discussed briefly above. Exercise accountability can be set up by hiring a personal trainer, or setting a regular meeting with a friend to exercise together (providing you don’t both make excuses for each other). Career or financial goals can be through an executive coach, smoking cessation might be with your doctor. Get your team together and set up the mechanisms – make yourself accountable for what you want to achieve!

This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths
Being Accountable





The Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths

28 12 2011

I mentioned in a previous posting the Harvard Business School Study where a graduating class was asked whether they had written goals, then followed up ten years later. The source of this story seems to have been the book by Mark McCormack, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School: Notes From A Street-Smart Executive. The details of the study are reported to be as follows:

The 1979 Harvard Business School Graduating Class were asked the following question: “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” 3% reported they had written goals and plans; 13% had goals, but not written down and 84 percent had no specific goals. The follow-up, ten years later showed that the 13% who had goals were earning an average twice as much as the 84% who did not have goals. And the 3% who had written goals and plans were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together.

A pretty compelling case, wouldn’t you say? If only the story were true.

Like many urban myths, while there is truth in the sentiment – the moral of the story, if you will – the actual story is not true. This study was not conducted on the Harvard Business School Graduates. Nor was it conducted at Yale in 1953. Yale apparently gets a lot of questions about this and even have a response posted on their website.

Thankfully, Gail Matthews PhD from Dominican University has now done the study – and more . Her study looked at the benefits of having goals v writing the goals down v having an action plan v having an accountability mechanism (in this case, submitting a weekly report to a friend on progress). And the results all support what you would expect.

Study on goal setting by Gail Matthews, PhD, Dominican University

So the keys are:
1. be clear on your goals and write them down.
2. develop a plan on how you are going to achieve them.
3. Develop an accountability mechanism. This needs to be external to you – sadly we are not very good at keeping ourselves accountable, which is why the various weight-watching companies which require you to turn up weekly are all so successful.

This is part of a series on goal-setting. To read the other postings, click below.
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the journey as well as the goal
Being Accountable





It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)

28 12 2011

photo credit pdbreen

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping” Chinese Proverb

So you know where you want to go? Once you’ve set your goals, the next step is to PLAN how to get there.

This is the step that is often missing in New Year’s Resolutions and goal-setting generally. It’s relatively easy to think about what we want, the destination, but often the goal seems remote, unattainable. Or, as mentioned in the previous post, it requires daily effort, daily decisions. Many goals founder on the rocks of daily life.

So the next trick is to make achieving the goals automatic. Take away that decision-making point – make the decisions now and plan out what you are going to do. This is about sensible motivated you-of-the-present safeguarding against tired, unmotivated you-of-the-future.

This is the real reason why you need to put you goals into positive statements, not negative statements. You can plan to DO something, but planning to not do something just leaves a hole and a question – if you aren’t doing that, then what are you doing? If you aren’t having the cigarette, then what are you doing? If you aren’t eating junk food, what are you eating? Too much decision-making at the “crunch-time” will increase stress….and potentially lead to failure as you become more focussed on what you are giving up.

So, if your plan is to give up cigarettes, plan to replace them with something else – chewing gum, knitting, blogging – something that can truly take the place of the time taken to smoke and distract you. Plan to avoid situations where you are most tempted – smokos at work, bars, that friend you always smoke with – but do it by planning something to fill those gaps. Perhaps you can arrange that you have a regular gym-date with the friend.

If you are planning to lose weight, plan how that is going to happen on a daily basis. Perhaps you could have a glass of water when you feel the urge to binge coming on. If you are planning to save money start a business, get organised, plan it out month by month, week by week, day by day, so that when the time comes, you don’t have to stop and work it out for yourself at the time, you can go to your plan, or your list, and just follow your own instructions.

Don’t make your plan unattainable – if you program every last second of your life you will undoubtedly rebel at some stage. If you plan to save every last cent over basic living requirements, then you aren’t going to make it. Set a realistic goal and if you exceed it – great! If you fall down one week – get back on the plan.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” Ursula K LeGuin

Want more on how to stay strong on your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable





Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

26 12 2011

So it’s that time of year again, when we re-evaluate our lives, decide what isn’t working, or needs to work better and solemnly vow (or sometimes drunkenly vow) to do better in the coming year.

Having just completed an MBA subject called Managing Change (which was fabulous by the way, really interesting and practical), I decided to apply the change models to my New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of resolutions in the sense of the types of changes we make to our daily lives rather than a bucket list type of resolution. These are the types of changes that take daily effort – daily decisions to do something differently. And for that reason they are harder to achieve. So my aim is to make the change as easy – and as automatic – as possible.

Now generally, change models more or less cover the same sort of key points. For ease, I will use Kotter’s Change model, because it is relatively succinct and is quite well known amongst change models.

So how can change theory help with setting – and more importantly, achieving, your New Year’s Resolution goals?

Step One. Create Urgency
In organisational change management this is often referred to as the “burning platform”. In your resolutions, you will need to have some compelling reason why this change is needed, and need NOW! If you can’t do that, then you need to either rethink your goal, or develop a burning platform. Often it takes a health scare to motivate people to lose weight / eat healthily / get fit / give up smoking. The only person you need to convince of the urgency is yourself – so keep going until you have your compelling reason.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition
As the Beatles song says “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Your coalition is there to help you achieve your goals, keep you on track and keep motivated. They may be friends – or they may be your personal trainer, a careers coach, a financial planner. It may be your bank, setting up automatic pay deductions into a savings account. Get your team together and set it up so it automatically drives you towards your goals. Make it as easy for yourself as you can.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change
You need to have a clear vision about what you are heading towards. What is the change you want and where will you be when you have achieved it? This needs to be a vivid, clear compelling picture – in NLP terms, a bright, brightly coloured picture with action and sound and excitement. You need to be able to summon it in your mind and see it as a real picture.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision
In organisational change management, communicating the vision is vitally important – you need to share it effectively to get people on board. For your resolutions, the only person you need to convince is yourself. (If your goal is to change others you might need to rethink how realistic it is.) There are many tricks for keeping your goal in the front of your mind – creative visualisation techniques, meditation, posting key words or photographs of your goals in places where you will see them. Whatever works for you. Make sure it is always there to remind you when you make those daily decisions – what shall I eat today, will I get up early to exercise, shall I spend my savings on this dress…..

Step Five: Remove Obstacles
You know yourself, you know what has prevented you achieving the goal in the past. Your current self needs to safe-guard against your future self’s poor decision making / tiredness / lack of motivation. If you want to lose weight, make sure you are stocked up on food you do want to eat when you are hungry, and the junk food is not around. If you are going to exercise, make sure there is an easily available option that is not going to fall victim to too tired / too cold / too hot / too far / too rainy / etc. If you have a friend or relative who habitually undermines you, work out how you are going to deal with them or avoid them. If your obstacle is time, then make space for your goals – get up 15 minutes earlier, do it in lunchtime or stay up an extra 15 minutes. Plan for the obstacles and make sure they don’t get in the way. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Too often our goals are BIG goals. Losing 30kgs. Giving up smoking. Saving $20,000. These are great and worthwhile goals, and it is important to have inspiring worthwhile goals. But give yourself a plan – a ladder – to get there. These are the small goals which add up to the big goals. So maybe your first goals is to lose 2kgs in the first week. Or to cut out alcohol entirely. Or to save $200, or $20. Plot out how the small goals add up to the big goals – a chart or a diary can help to keep you on track. And celebrate the little wins, but don’t crucify yourself if you don’t quite make it or you backslide one week. Just refocus on your plan and keep going.

Step Seven: Build on the Change
Celebrate the little wins – but keep it in context. The little win is a win because it is one step in the bigger plan. Don’t let the little win be more important than the big goal, and don’t stop when you achieve the little goal. (And don’t do a George W Bush and declare victory too early.)

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
So you’ve made the changes and are well on the way to achieving the goal? Great. The next step to making it easy is to make it part of your normal life. Don’t think of it as a diet – it is now the normal way you eat (that’s why crash diets don’t work long-term). It’s not a fitness fad – you now exercise every day. You now meditate when you get up every morning. Integrate the changes into your normal routine and they will become less effort.

What tricks do you have to stay motivated and achieve your goals?

Want more on how to stay the course with your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable