Not Just Another Auld Lang Syne

Yep, it’s that time of season again when those of us with the best intentions vow to be a better person in the year to come.  Each of us has a list of ideas about how we can change our lives, our happiness, our habits, or our behavior…but do we really know how to make those changes stick?

There are millions of how-to books on this very subject, many of them found in the self-help section of your local bookstore.  We choose this time of season for the very reason that it’s a seemingly perfect opportunity — the changing of the year — to perpetuate our vows.

The phrase “auld lang syne” is attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns and may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”,  “days gone by” or “old times”. Consequently “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.

So it’s a time of year when things in the past are laid to rest with one final acknowledgment, and we’re allowed to move ahead into our own futures.

However, we can make this season a bit different than previous ones, by creating resolutions — or vows — that we can live with and implement more easily.

Basically what we are doing in creating resolutions, is creating short and long term goals that we perceive will better ourselves in some fundamental way.  The issue with traditional resolutions made this time of year is:

We may want to change, but might not be ready to change.  Perhaps that’s why nearly 90% of those resolutions fail within the first two months of the year.

122110calvin_resolutionsFor a good number of my coaching clients, I ask them to take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.  On one side, I ask them to list the attributes, characteristics and habits that are really working for them.  That column is labeled “Keep.”  The second column are attributes, characteristics and habits that they want to change.  That column is titled “Transform.”  The idea behind this is to understand that we cannot simply delete things from our character makeup like we can on a computer.  We must understand why we perceive them to be “bad,” “unhealthy” or “undesirable” things and learn how to transform (not delete) them into something we can live with.  From there, we work together in creating a PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT.  This is a way of removing the negative connotations from the idea of “resolutions,” and convert them into achievable goals, plotting out each small step until we reach the bigger goal, whatever that might be.

When we create resolutions, we have no concrete plan with which to achieve those things we resolve to do.  We have a vague idea that we want to change this or that, and then promptly allow them to fall by the wayside as life intervenes with our intentions.

Here’s an example of a good site that provides examples of mission statements and how to set up your ongoing plan for the year ahead.  

Perhaps you want to manage your time better so you have more of it to give to your family, or a hobby, or a particular passion you might have.  For me, it’s writing.  I set yearly goals each new year that I then follow up with on my birthday in June.  I like to pick a halfway point in the year to check in and really see how my goals are faring. At that time, I make minor adjustments as better information is available, and in that way, I don’t feel locked in to a particular goal.  All goals are fluid, and should be able to shift and change as our life shifts and changes.  Rather than scrapping an entire goal just because of some change in my lifestyle, I would rather see how I can recraft it and continue to move forward with it.

However you choose to approach the new year, perhaps the best thing to remember is to have patience with yourself, set realistic and attainable goals that don’t require the pressure to get them done TODAY, and stay focused on the changes you want to implement, while giving yourself the love and respect you deserve for the things you feel you’re doing right.  And the inability to achieve a particular goal isn’t failure, it’s simply a goal seeking a better foundation.

Happy New Year!

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