Today, as you read this, you should have your lists in hand and know where you intend to begin making changes in your life. You should also have printed out that calendar and written your first change in the first month, second in the second month, and so on. Did you do this? Good. On to step two. This is the hardest step of the three because it takes discipline and the desire to succeed. But if you've stayed with me this far, there is no reason you can't do this.
Now, beginning the first day of the first month on your 12-month calendar, you make the small change written on that month. And continue to live it every single day of the month. I began my quest to improve my life around New Year's, as so many do. January's change was to drink only water. No soda, no juice, no other fluids. Just water. And to try for the 64 ounces a day. I've never been a water drinker. It wasn't easy. For one thing, I had to find a water I liked enough to drink in volume.
Not all tap or bottled waters are the same. And flavored waters were a no-no. One, I don't care for them, anyway. Two, many have tons of sugar, and that defeats the purpose when I'm trying to get healthier. Our tap water tastes awful, so after much trial and error, I settled on Dasani in twelve ounce bottles. In fact, there is one on the desk with me as I type this article six months later. In that six months, I have lost about ten pounds of the twenty I hope to lose by the end of the year, my skin has cleared up and my anxiety attacks have all but disappeared. Not bad for one month's work.
It is said that it takes twenty-one to twenty-eight days to establish a habit. And I want good habits. Don't you? By the end of January, drinking water was my first good habit. Now that it was an established habit, I could look forward to repeating the process with my February change. My goal in February was to eat more greens. I carried the good habit established in January over into February. I didn't have to focus on drinking water anymore, so I was free to focus on making sure I ate at least two cups of green veggies a day. The point of this system is to establish one individual habit before working on a new one.
Not all of my attempts at change have been successful. Writing every day has been one of those difficult changes. Life keeps getting in the way. Yet, I know that if I want to reach my goal and establish a freelance writing career, I have to write. When I run up against a habit like this that I can't seem to change, I take it to mean I haven't done something else I need to do in order to be ready to make that change. Then I step back from my life a bit and try to see what the first change needs to be. Instead of writing every day, I have decided to try setting a weekly writing goal. Perhaps it will be easier for me to write one thousand words a week for a few months before I commit to writing something every single day.
Are you having trouble making a change? This might be a way to deal with it. Don't beat yourself up over your lack of success. All that does is drag you down. Instead, look at it as an indicator that other work needs to be done before you are ready to make that change. Once you determined what that work is, you can revise your lists and your calendar to reflect your new direction.
Some changes can be scary. That is to be expected. Nothing worth doing comes without a certain amount of fear. Just keep in mind that fear and excitement create the same chemical changes in the body. Your perception of it is what makes it one or the other. Try changing your perception. One of the upcoming changes I will have next year has to do with overcoming my needle phobia. I have a list of progressive steps to take to accomplish this goal. The very thought strikes fear into my heart right now. Perhaps by the time I get to that first little change, I will be ready. If not, I will feel the fear and do it anyway. Will I succeed? Maybe. I don't know. But I am determined to give it my best effort. Are you willing to give even the scary changes your best effort?
The third and final step is simply to monitor your progress. You do this in part by assessing whether a failure is due to need to make other changes beforehand. Another part of monitoring yourself is to put a star or check mark next to each change that you've implemented. As your lists evolve, don't leave out these accomplishments. Keep them on the lists as a memorial to the great job you are doing changing your life. Be sure to continue to monitor your own progress. It will give you incentive to continue making changes even when the going seems slow.
At the end of each month, when I assess my success or lack thereof, I review my lists and make sure they are still filled with changes I want to make. Sometimes they aren't. When this is the case, I rewrite them to reflect the new direction I have chosen to take. Doing this keeps me on track with my bigger goals and dreams. It also allows me to track my progress. Rather than take accomplished changes off of the lists during revisions, I just leave them in the order they were accomplished and put a bright red star next to each one. What a motivator they can be to keep me going. These steps, like the first one, are an ongoing process. All three steps, the lists, the implementing of the changes, and the monitoring of your progress all work together.
As of today, I am still working my way through my 2004 calendar. I drink water, I have cut carbs (read: candy). I have a cardio workout program I do at least five days a week. At the end of each month, I note on that particular month how well I've done or not done with each habit and how I feel about it. If I am not successful, I don't beat myself up over it. Instead, I focus on the changes I have made and how they make me feel. I also look forward to the upcoming changes. It may take longer to achieve some goals than others, but I know that doing it one step at a time, I can achieve anything. So can you.
If you try this system, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me hear from you.