As we approach the end of January I wonder how many of us have kept those New Year resolutions that we were so passionate about. For many years I have repeatedly disappointed myself for not maintaining the positivity that I mustered at New Year and have largely failed to achieve my high aims and goals set as the New Year bells chimed. So, inspired by the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey, this year I resolved not to set myself resolutions to achieve but to establish for myself a set of principles that I will live this year guided by and perhaps if they work well enough, permanently. So far they are working better than resolutions!
Principle 1: Get started!
When I really think about it, many of my previous resolutions have not been achieved because I was not proactive enough. If I am honest I am a procrastinator. I will have the tidiest house going when there is a big piece of work to do, or I will find the most obscure task to do in order to put off the big task that is hanging over me until the very last minute at which point I will panic! The most successful of my students tend to be those that are proactive especially with tasks such as coursework. They get started as soon as it is set, giving them plenty of time to rework the piece until it is perfect. Time and time again though I have students who I know are writing their essays in the minutes before the lesson that it is due and whilst these may be perfectly adequate pieces of work, it does make me wonder what they could do if they gave themselves enough time to research and plan the task properly. The same goes for me….I wonder what I am truly capable of?
Principle 2: “20 seconds of insane courage”
I’ll admit that I borrowed this one from a film…. “We Bought a Zoo”, which is based on the true story of Benjamin Mee and the Dartmoor Zoo. In the film the protagonist played by Matt Damon explains to his son that all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage to make a decision that could change your life. In other words to take the chances that normally you would overthink and put off, but by mustering 20 seconds of courage you can achieve things that you wouldn’t think possible. I love this! Sometimes opportunities are presented to us and we put ourselves off by overthinking and allowing our fears to overtake us. By applying this philosophy I hope that I will take more opportunities that are presented to me….obviously not the life threatening ones but those that I would normally immediately respond to with negative self-talk….I can’t do that, what would people think etc.etc.
This is a philosophy that if practised early enough will allow young people to believe in themselves and to go out there and grab life. I wish I had had this philosophy in my life when I was younger so that I could have taken more of the fantastic opportunities that I was presented with. By encouraging young people to believe that they can then we encourage them to understand that they write the script, that they are in control of their decisions and of their lives and that with enough bravery they can achieve things they never thought possible.
Principle 3: Nurturing positive relationships
This one I think it is possibly central to everything. By relationships I mean all relationships e.g. with family, friends, colleagues, associates etc. The maintenance and nurturing of good relationships will enable me to achieve my other principles. In order to spend quality, uninterrupted, time with friends and family I will have to organise my time and prioritise better so that I can get my work done. By nurturing professional relationships more opportunities will become available that if I worked in isolation would not. By nurturing my professional relationships with colleagues I will learn more about their values and their views and this will allow me to lead far more effectively.
As humans we are social beings and we need to interact with other people. Technology and the use of social media has created a means by which we can stay in contact all the time but is it really contact? Certainly for my friends and family across the globe it has enabled me to be in more contact than before but for those close by I need to ensure that I do not mistake Facebook and text messages for the contact that is really beneficial, face to face.
I often see groups of students sitting next to each other in a social situation but they are not interacting through speech, they are commenting on a group chat or on a Facebook post or a Tweet. This surely is not healthy? Have we lost the art of conversation? By encouraging students to talk and to discuss we are enabling them to develop their ideas and their understanding of the world around them.
There is a flip side to this of course and that is there are some relationships that have a negative impact on us. This principle is about nurturing positive relationships and that might mean at times that I have to work hard to overcome barriers between myself and others. However it also means that I will not nurture negative relationships, ones that are harmful to my self esteem and my personal progress. It is inevitable that I will have to endure relationships that are more negative but I will not allow them to overtake the positive. Having the strength to walk away from those people can only serve to make myself stronger and in turn to be a happier person.
Principle 4: Be adaptable but realistic
This is the one thing that I fail at every year with resolutions. I begin the year with great plans of adopting a new diet and exercise regime to the point where I begin to resent it and therefore in rebellion against myself I sabotage my efforts and fail. Every year I regret it and every New Year I try again. Whilst this may demonstrate a resilience or rather a stubbornness to keep trying I have neglected one thing and that is that if I don’t change the way I approach my goal I am likely to see the same results.
Therefore this New Year I set “rebelutions”. These were a series of promises and unrealistic goals I was not going to try to achieve this year e.g. I was not going to cut all unrefined sugar out of my diet, I was not going to run a marathon or even a 10k etc. That freed me up to be more realistic and honest with myself and to identify the small changes that I could make that would make a huge difference. So by the end of this year I won’t be the fittest I have ever been but I will be fitter than I am now, and I won’t have the healthiest diet possible but I will be eating healthier than I am right now. This has actually empowered me to make those changes and I hope that with them being more realistic I will see success.
This approach can be applied to everything. Small ,steady realistic goals are far more likely to be successful than all-encompassing goals that feel insurmountable.