Editor’s Note: This is another PPND tradition: to collect suggestions from authors about ways to start the New Year. Our authors have written about building habits, starting rituals, starting small and building on, goals, satisficing, moving to action quickly, and other approaches to making New Year Resolutions stick.
Bridget Grenville-Cleave: Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao-Tzu). Often New Year’s resolutions focus on ways to increase motivation in order to achieve our big goals. But it seems that focusing on motivation, on getting to a place where we actually want to do the stuff we have to do, may be a bit of a red herring.
One of the best tips I ever received about getting stuff done comes from Japanese psychologist, Shoma Morita: “people…think that they should always like what they do, and that their lives should be trouble free. Consequently, their mental energy is wasted by their impossible attempts to avoid feelings of displeasure or boredom, and they fail to advance their self-development…” Morita advises us to “Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish…” In other words, we don’t have to be perfect to get stuff done. We just have to make a start.
Sherri Fisher: If you are setting intentions or making resolutions but not finding success, ask yourself the all-important question: Do you genuinely believe that you can achieve the goal? If the answer is no, no problem! Our beliefs can be changed, a bit at a time, to allow us to experience an emotional shift that can lead to a new action plan. I call these FAB thoughts: Flexible Accurate thoughts that Broaden and Build. This is the foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology coaching and resilience training, approaches that share the approach of practicing small changes in our beliefs over time that lead to new habits. Mindfulness is very helpful at supporting your FAB thoughts. Change a thought, change an action.Senia Maymin: Why not build in a new ritual? We used to do hiking with my family once every weekend, and then it fell off the priorities list. One thing I’ll be re-starting in the new year is the Saturday hike – it feels so nice to look forward to that, and to expect that it’s coming. Once it’s a ritual, it’s harder to drop it one week or another. It tends to stay on the agenda.
Orin Davis: One of my students recently passed this Marianne Williamson quotation on to me: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” We fear that power in part because we fear the responsibilities that go with it. This year, embrace your power…and the responsibilities, too!
Margaret Greenberg: Set habits, not just goals. Create just one positive habit to kick-start the year. If you’re curious about the research behind why habits (rather than resolutions) work, check out our new book, Profit from the Positive. What can this look like? Here are some examples from the different domains of your life:
- Health: Drink one large glass of water when you first wake up.
- Career: Devote just 15 minutes every Friday between 8:00-8:15am to connecting with people on LinkedIn.
- Family: Commit to making dinner together every Tuesday evening, no matter what.
- Friends: Call one friend every Wednesday night between 8:00-8:30 (way better than that TV habit).
- Romance: Schedule a “”date night”” on the same day every week.
- Finances: Transfer money into your savings or retirement account every month on the same day (better yet, automate this).
Lisa Sansom: If you are trying to make positive changes in your world, take the long view. What can you do that will be 1% better? Just a little bit. What is the one little thing that you can do that will have a positive impact? Just one little thing. Who is the one other person that you can bring along with you? Just one person.
Once you get that 1%, that one little thing, that one other person, then you have a better foundation.
Now go for your next 1%, your next one little thing, your next ally. That is how a positive change happens. Slowly, but surely, with patience and perseverance, one little bit at a time.
Scott Crabtree: Hack your work environment to support focus. Turn off email and other alerts as much as possible. Place your monitor so you aren’t distracted by other things you can see. Disconnect from the Internet for hours at a time. Focus and get into flow.
Miriam Akhtar: I have decided that 2014 will be the Year of satisficing (making do) rather than maximizing (going for best). 2013 has been such a busy year. Like many of us in positive psychology practice, I juggle a portfolio of roles as coach, trainer, consultant, and so on. While lecturing at a university I asked the Associate Head of Psychology how he managed to balance all his commitments, including research, teaching, and increasingly having to run a business. He said that it was only through becoming a satisficer that he’d managed to maintain his well-being. This is also what Barry Schwartz’s research shows, that maximizing has a detrimental impact on well-being. I always like to do my best, but in 2014 I will more frequently ask the question of when is it good enough?
Merche Ovejero: For this New Year, I have several challenges. But perhaps the most important challenge is to discover character strengths and talents of my college students and try to encourage them to discover their best possible selves.Scott Asalone: Every year we set yearly goals and life-long goals. They have included everything from publishing a book to establishing a foundation to focusing on well-being and health. We discuss the list and then post it on the refrigerator. Every day we see our goals right in front of us. It’s also amusing when friends and family visit and question us about our goals and our progress. It’s a great encouragement.
Emily vanSonnenberg: Unplug to connect.
Enhance the levels of satisfaction and sense of connection in your daily relationships by substituting the time you’d spend on social media sites by spending 5 of those minutes (or more) communicating verbally or non-verbally with those whom you love. You can even aim this extra attention toward your pets.
Try this out at home: Walk through your front door after work and engage fully with those beings whom you love. Give them all of your attention for a full 5 minutes, and make a habit out of this act. Try this for 1 month and see if you miss social media and if your relationships feel more connected. Happy Holidays!
Elaine O’Brien: Personally, 2013 has been a challenging year. Though I aim to maintain my strengths of gratitude and perspective, I’ve seen some of my cherished friends and family members suffer some real losses: loved ones, physical and mental illness. Though we were relatively fine, my neighborhood is still reeling from the devastation from Hurricane Sandy last year. My cherished Uncle Lou recently passed away after a relatively short illness. He was playing golf one day, and then he was gone. I know he knew I loved him, but I wish I had one more chance to tell him. Per Dr. George Vaillant, I’m aiming to love more, full stop, passionately and fearlessly. I don’t want to hesitate in showing my care for another. My thought is in savoring every day, and to be more mindful about my movement in each day-to consider what am I doing to promote health, peace, and love in my home, practice, community, and the world.
Shannon Polly: I’m going to pick three things to work on for the whole year. Big things. I have a tendency to try to do too much and it gets diffuse. But having to rank order what I want to do focuses the mind!
Tom Heffner: Spend less time planning, analyzing, or deciding what your New Year’s solution should be and more time prototyping and experimenting with those solutions. Bias yourself towards action, and get down and dirty with an innovative approach towards the New Year’s solutions.Amanda Horne: One of the earliest things we learned in Positive Psychology training was how to apply the VIA strengths and Positive Emotions in our life and work. A great way to start every day in 2014 is to pick 2-3 strengths and / or positive emotions and ‘carry’ them around with you. They will shape and flavor your day. Here’s another great tip: I asked my husband what he would offer as advice for 2014, and he wisely suggested “Be good to your wife.”
Kathryn Britton: I’d like to ditto Tom’s suggestions. I hope he’ll soon have an article on design thinking for our readers. One of the most useful ideas for me in 2013 was thinking of change in terms of small experiments. Try something. Then contemplate what happened. If it worked, great! You’ve got something to practice and make into a habit. If it didn’t, great! You’ve got a chance to learn more about your own particular way of living in the world, something that nobody is going to capture in a book. Just as good science requires being ready to learn from ideas that fail, good living benefits as well.
Also, collect your heros, people whose behavior inspires you to be the person you want to be. Here’s one of mine: Vimala Rajendran. Thinking about what they do can make change seem possible.
Remember to care for your whole self: not just mood, but also adequate sleep, just enough nourishing food, and moving your body go into a flourishing human.
Let us know your ideas, or your experiences with any of the ideas listed above.
Greenberg, M. & Maymin, S. (2013). Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business. McGraw Hill.
Morita, S. (1928/1998). Morita Therapy and the True Nature of Anxiety-Based Disorders: Shinkeishitsu. State University of New York Press.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. New York: Ecco.
Shaar, M.J. & Britton, K. (2011). Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance. Philadelphia, PA: Positive Psychology Press.
Tabata, I., Nishimura, K., Kouzaki, M., Hirai, Y., Ogita, F., Miyachi, M., & Yamamoto, K. (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 28(10): 1327-30. Abstract.
Tabata, I., Irisawa, K., Kouzaki, M., Nishimura, K., Ogita, F., & Miyachi, M. (1997). Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 29(3): 390-5. Abstract.
Vaillant, G. (2009). I stand by my words: Happiness equals love, full stop. Positive Psychology News.