There’s a whole industry out there trying to convince you that the new year is the year of a new you. As they try to shove yearly planners down your throat and sign you up for a whole year of gym membership at a 50 % discount, it’s very easy to be carried by the wave. If you really think about it, they should verify the famous slogan to, “New Year New You with a More Famished Wallet.” Despite all that hype, only 8 % of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions – statistics which make one wonder why the 92 % even bother.
Making NY resolutions tends to be more of a procrastination strategy than a personal development one. The idea that you’re supposed to wait for a certain time or date to begin something makes it easy to procrastinate on important life decisions. Decisions you know would make you slightly uncomfortable.
“I want to eat healthy, but maybe next year I’ll add it to my New Year’s Resolution list.”
“I want to read more, but maybe next year…”
So the obvious solution to that is to implement a good idea the day you hear it, regardless of whether it’s New Year’s Day or Mid-April or the end of November.
A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself. The main reason promises find themselves broken like new toys in the hands of a toddler, is because the mindset breaking it is different from the mindset making it.
On January 1, it’s very easy to be pumped up and excited about our resolutions because many people are talking about it. You write your resolutions about losing weight, eating healthy, spending less on a large sheet of paper. Come Day 30 and that paper acts as a coaster for your ice cream tub. So an alternative to making this promise to yourself and then disappointing yourself continuously is to take stock of your life right now, and work on fixing it one small habit at a time. It’s known that drastic changes are hard to make because of our habits. We can say that we want to lose weight but as long as the cue-routine-reward cycle exists in our brain (as explained in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit), it’s going to be tough.
So this is an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions:
- Know thyself. Identify your habit cycles and start breaking them down. The Power of Habit is a highly recommended read for this particular step.
- Think in terms of forming habits instead of making individual goals. For instance, let’s say we want to lose 5 lbs this year; that’s a goal. We’ll always be in a state of disappointment until we reach that goal – that’s if we reach it. And as millennials we’re not so into long-term gratification. We want results like…yesterday! So instead of setting a goal that way, we can focus on making it a habit to take a thirty minute walk everyday or hit the gym three times a week. Taking that first step will help provide us with instant gratification, build our success spiral and all in all, make us feel good.
- Link habits together to build integrated systems. This needs some thinking and tinkering but basically the secret is to link new habits with long-established habits. So if you’re used to taking a nap in the afternoon, and you want to start doing sit-ups for instance, link the afternoon nap with the sit-up to maintain consistency. The moment you pile habits together and build a system, it becomes this behemoth giant that’s hard to slow down once started.
- Work from your personal values. I’ve written about this previously. A lot of times we just want to incorporate things into our lives because other people think it’s a good idea. But if it’s not a good idea for us on some deep personal level, then we’d lose traction faster than tires on black ice.
- Reduce the inertia. We’re not big fans of change so the hardest part of starting anything is overcoming that initial inertia. Sometimes one needs to think of ways to reduce the inertia, for instance in the gym case, some people keep their gym clothes ready the night before so they can launch into their workout routine as soon as they wake up.
- Experiment. Everybody’s system is going to be different and there’s no way of knowing what works for you until you experiment. Some people get stuck in the idea collection stage without executing anything but until we try we never know what’d work. The secret is to work on your own personal project and have fun doing so.
- Last but not least, just start! Today. Not tomorrow. Not January 1. Not May 25. Just start today.
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In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha writes how when he was blogging, he kept on setting more and more ambitious goals and hitting it. He finally realized, “No matter how many external goals I achieved, I just kept setting more. I started realizing that external goals didn’t help me become a better person. Only internal goals did.”
How many times do we find ourselves in the same situation? We reach a goal and suddenly, we’re not satisfied with what we have, and we end up wanting more. That’s practically the definition of ambition, and it’s a good trait…except when it’s not. Like when a person back stabs a friend to get ahead or when that hunger causes them to sell their family…
You were willing to sell your family for pizza?
I actually read something close to that once, and found it funny…
The Let-It-Go approach
I’ve seen people suffer because they hung their hopes on one job, one person, one thing…and when they don’t get it, or when they get it and end up losing it, they spend far too much time whining over it. So the let-it-go approach is simple, especially when it’s something or someone (I guess I’ve seen more scenarios where that thing was a person) that’s making you unhealthily obsessive…just let it go. Cut all connections with them. No FB friendships, no twitter following, no blog following….just let them go. And I would like to tell you that with time they might come around, but chances are, they won’t but you’ll be happier without them in your life anyway.
I mean, so many times I’ve seen people trying to force a narrative in their life; two people who come from sparring claiming to fall in love just because they want to stage a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of story even though they’re totally incompatible….and every time people try to force such narratives, things become so complicated that eventually it breaks apart.
So let them go. Write their name on a paper and burn it. Find reasons to hate them if it’s possible. Freeze your heart whenever you hear their name, and scowl. Do whatever it takes for your peace of mind.
So let it go. And don’t follow.
Background image via pixabay.com
So imagine you’re reclined on a favorite couch, reading, when you suddenly come across a sentence so profound you just need to sit up for it. Soon enough – after highlight that sentence of course- you realize you can’t read anymore because the gears in your brain just won’t stop turning. Finally you decide to stop reading and do something about that idea; write it down, talk to someone about it…etc.
Books are powerful weapons. So if you need recommendations on books to read – or give as gifts – so you and your loved ones can enter the new year with new ideas and a whole new mindset, check the list below.
Even though recent research has debunked the idea that logical, methodical, analytical people use their left brains preferentially while the creative types are right-brain dominant, Dan Pink argues that sparking our creativity is essential as we approach the end of the knowledge worker’s era and the beginning of the creative worker’s era. With material abundance, technological advancement and globalization taking over the business world, workers would need to rely on creative thinking skills to really stand out. He goes on to speak in detail about the six senses; Design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.
This book really challenges many assumptions made in our societies. Creative people are usually looked down upon. The starved artist is quite the cliched character, so children from a young age are encouraged to suppress their creative side. A talk that goes in line with the topic is Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk on how schools kill creativity.
Everybody keeps on talking about how you have to follow your passion and then the money would follow. This books consoles those who don’t break free from the corporate cubicle to pursue their passion and argues that passion isn’t everything. Instead the author talks about how one must build his career capital by obtaining skills through hard work in order to achieve mastery, autonomy and mission. Again, whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant; the book will make you think. I’ve written about it in a previous post.
This is a personal favorite. It’s on my TBRA (To-be-read-annually) pile. Susan Cain has given voice to the millions of silent and misunderstood introverts who get energized by staying alone. Every time I read it I discover something new in it.
I personally wish I could distribute this book in our society because introverts get a bad rep as anti-social. Sometimes other people fail to realize that our own company is the best company we seek and it really has nothing to do with them. It’s definitely a topic for conversation during family reunions this holiday.
4. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
This book was a pleasant surprise. At first, I didn’t think that the details of someone else’s personal happiness project could be relevant to my life, but the book was filled with so many good ideas, it rendered my highlights section pretty useless as there are so many highlight, I might as well read the whole book again.
So which books have you read already? And which ones are you planning to read next? Leave your comments in the section below.
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In October 2009, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie got onto a TED stage and spoke about the danger of a single story. She said, “If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images,I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.”
When she said that I found myself asking; if I were to write about my people on the Kenyan coast of Mombasa, what would I write about?
The immediate answer was society; how society shapes an individual; how important families are; what changes individuals need to make so our society would advance to the better.
Today I’m happy to present my collection of short stories (available in Kindle edition). All of them are works of fiction. They’re meant to be entertaining, emotional, and in some cases thought-provoking. They’re also meant to open your eyes to a culture that many people across the world don’t even know exists; Arabs residing on the Kenyan coast (the people I’ve personally coined Kemenies). This is NOT to encourage tribalism, but to highlight the cultural traits that are specific to this particular section of society. I hope you support this work by purchasing your own copy of the book, notifying me if there are any typos and talking to your friends and family about it.
For the Kindle version; click here http://www.amazon.com/Bleeding-Stops-Other-Stories-Kenyan-ebook/dp/B01EFRMOSO?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0 [The price should say 1.99 USD. If you see any other price, please wait for the page to be updated].
For the PDF version;
Let me know if you’re having problems purchasing this. If you live in Kenya and can’t purchase any of the versions online, email me and we’ll figure out an arrangement via M-Pesa.