01 January 2008

New Year’s Day Resolution: The 30 Day Trial & Helping Others:

So New Year’s day roles around again and people make all sorts of outrageous promises to themselves. Some wish to get fit, others to make money, the list is endless. But all these people share one thing in common, almost all of them don’t reach their goals, or even get very far. Typically they burnout quickly and then enter February disheartened. How do we solve this?

There are several things to note, but one important thing is that many people set goals that are unrealistic or very very challenging. Pushing yourself a bit with your goals is important, but they must be realistic and obtainable, otherwise you are striving for something almost impossible to do within a set time period. Another thing is of course the burnout mentioned above. People start the year with a lot of motivation but as the days role on and they slug away at their goal they get depressed with the effort, the difficulty and the minor results. Partly this can be solved by having more realistic goals. The other solution is to try to realise that while there are sprints in life, much of it is more an endurance race, and that similarly what you need is a constant trickle of motivation rather than a gush which quickly runs out.

Some people prefer doing things quickly and others prefer easing into them. Different things work for different people. For example, if you want to quit cigareters you can go to the extreme and go cold turkey, or you can slowly reduce the amount you smoke and thus reduce the nicotine addiction and slowly break the habit. Whether you like doing things slowly or fast is irrelevant, one thing that is, is determination. There is a useful little program called a “30 Day Trial” which I suggest you try.

In essence you chart your progress for 30 days and then have an understanding of whether what your doing works or not. For lets be serious, in less than 30 days you cannot be sure if something is really working or not. Often people say something like “Ohh this diet isn’t working after a week I’ll change again”. In a sense you’ve got to have more faith it will work and then simply do it rather than thinking too much about it. I know I for one have a problem with over analysing and thinking too much and sometimes struggle to actually implement things. Thus the 30 day trial is a sort of way of forcing you into sustained action.

Just set your goal and set a little time a side each day for 30 days to get there, and then evaluate how the method you used worked. The simple reasoning behind the 30 day program is simply to stick to something, to do it unfalteringly for 30 days, which is a long enough duration to accurately gauge results. If you found it did have results maybe for you then you can decide whether you will keep going with your chosen activity.

On another note I’d like to say that this New Year maybe you should try making goals that are more in-tune with your values. Maybe you’ve tried to lose weight every year but you really don’t seem to care enough about it to manage, in this case why don’t you try helping support a few families over in third world country through charity? It typically doesn’t cost much. Humans too get a sense of fulfillment and thus happiness through helping others, it’s a primitive sort of connection, it lets us know that we have some important purpose lived also through those that have been helped.

Or maybe you’re unhappy this year so you vow to earn more money. But perhaps you’d in fact be happier if you simply spent more time with your children. I think you understand the point I’m getting to. Often we focus on the wrong goals. Weight and money are great examples of values driven by the media, and often ones we don’t really share. Ask yourself, am I that superficial? If yes is the answer by all means go for it, it is always best to follow your values. But if you find that you really don’t care about how much money you earn maybe its time to stop declaring to earn more and instead go and do something else, like helping people.

I suppose the only other problem with the whole New Years resolution is that it has an emphasis purely on progress. As I have learnt from listening to a few lectures on Buddhism it is very important simply to live in the now. So this New Year, make sure you don’t only set goals which you are in-tune with and can realistically achieve and make progress with, but also be happy with who you are now, with how you find yourself now, so that just in case your New Years resolution doesn’t work out, you’ll still be happy. After all, isn’t that the most important thing?

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