Most people want to have an even better life, especially in the new year. What’s the most significant barrier to making it happen?
“For the majority of us,” says Dr. Thia Crawford with MPowerCo.com, “we impose barriers that keep us from dialing up our well-being – whether it is financial, career, relationship or emotional well-being. People know they are stuck in behavior patterns that don’t work very well and need help knowing how to take positive action. People are way too slow to make changes that have a high probability of making their lives better.”
Dr. Thia’s experiences as an Extension Professor and a recent article by Attorney H. Dennis Beaver helped to generate a list of why it is so difficult to make positive change. These keep us from making positive changes. As you move into the new year and through 2022, visit this list frequently to inspect for self-limiting perspectives and to challenge yourself to implement strategies for living a happier life.
What Keeps You Stuck?
1. Waiting until you are “ready.” A mentor of mine, Wayne McReynolds, said it best. “If you wait until you’re ready, nothing happens.” Don’t be too patient.
2. Waiting for the perfect opportunity and the perfect time. Consider Abraham Lincoln’s approach instead. “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.”
3. Convincing yourself you don’t have time to ________________ [you fill in the blank – exercise, look for a new job, listen and talk to your partner, give the children attention, plan a vacation, talk to your parents, call siblings, organize the garage, prepare for a promotion at work or make a job change) in the new year. After accounting for sleep and work, there are still several hours left each day and more on the weekend. What if you redirected just one hour a day toward one of your big goals for 2022 that you haven’t been able to make progress on? One hour a day, seven hours a week, 30ish hours a month. Take it one small step at a time.
4. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. We stay in ruts because we know what it is like, and it feels comfortable. Dennis Beaver challenges us, “Be brave! There is no growth or challenge in your comfort zone. Use your fear as fuel, not as an excuse.”
5. You don’t realize it is risky not to change, “What is the worst that can happen if I don’t make a change? Sometimes the risks of staying in your comfort zone are more significant than the risks of making changes. People can die much sooner than they have to by continuing with poor lifestyle choices. Continuing to spend hours passively looking at a screen (computer, cell phone or video, for example) risks your closest relationships. Thinking you can do the same job in the same way at work threatens your future there. Being open to change is being available to thrive.
6. When I finally get what I want, then I will be happy. We tell ourselves things like: I will be happy when I eventually earn a certain income, when I can buy a larger home, have a meaningful relationship, or move into a supervisor role at work. Until then, I will focus on success at the expense of being happy. Hey! That’s backwards. Happiness leads to success. Using backward thinking that success leads to happiness and focusing on the pursuit of happiness means you will likely be chasing it forever. Once you achieve what you thought would make you happy, it is human nature to raise the bar and chase happiness for a lifetime. Be happy first.
7. Believing you can reach your goals alone. Share your goals for the new year with people important to you, and ask about their goals as well. Relationships are, in large part, about helping one another to reach their goals and to work together on mutual goals. Relationships are supportive, loneliness is toxic.
8. Buying into the phrase, “I don’t have a choice.” Perhaps this is one of the most self-defeating perspectives of all. It makes you powerless. Instead, start by realizing you do have choices and you are powerful. You can choose what you eat today. You can choose how passive or active you are. You can choose whether you have a smile or a scowl on your face for starters. You always have choices. Claim them.
9. You think, “I am too old to make changes.” Think of the changes you’ve experienced in your life already. To stop learning and changing is to stagnate. Inspiration and innovation can come at any age. As you age, you can make better choices because of life lessons and experiences.
10. Ruminate on mistakes you’ve made in the past. Look, we’ve all made poor decisions. Life happens, and experience can be a hard, mean teacher. Your history cannot be different. Just because you’ve made some bad decisions in the past (and who hasn’t?) is not evidence that your future will be filled with bad choices. You can make better decisions by learning from the past and then moving on. Don’t stay stuck. Move on in the new year.
Live your life in the present, with an eye on building an even more positive future. The science of positive psychology emphasizes that a negative thought and a positive thought cannot occupy the same mental space. How do you replace the list of negative perspectives? Crowd them out and replace them.
Empower Yourself with Fresh Approaches in the New Year:
1. Start with small steps and build momentum.
2. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Don’t expect perfection.
3. You have plenty of time to do what is most important. Push aside distractions.
4. Be brave! Become curious and get quality information about changes you are considering.
5. Embrace positive changes – they bring opportunities and dial-up your well-being and the well-being of those that matter most to you.
6. Learn to be happy now.
7. Ask others to help you reach your goals and be willing to do what you can to help them reach their goals, too.
8. Celebrate that you always have choices.
9. Be a life-long learner and change agent.
10. Face the future and quit looking back at your past.
Remember, most people are way too slow to make changes that have a high probability of making their lives better.”
If you are ready to learn more about positive change, happiness and well-being, MPower Co can support you in your journey with research-based and evidence-based knowledge, skills and motivation. Dr. Thia, the author of this article, has also written a course on living a happier life, not just in the new year but each day. The course is called Happiness Habitudes and is completely online and available to you. Learn more on the course page.
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