It’s the beginning of January and we have lists of things we want to change, begin, accomplish. We have files of lists. We have drawers of files. We have cabinets of drawers. We have houses filled with cabinets.
We’ve tried, we’ve failed, we’ve tried again, we’ve failed. Whatever it is -- new career challenges, less relationship drama, less dandruff -- we’ve tried. We’ve made big resolutions, promises, pronouncements, and we’ve failed.
Plain and simple, we’re losers.
And yet . . . we’re not alone. Hardly. A mere 10% of New Year’s resolutions make it past February. The rest get thrown out like yesterday’s creamed spinach -- by you, by me, by everyone.
Ready to be a winner?
Get out that positivity hat and let’s give it another go. I’ll be the good elf and remind you of tried-and-true advice to defeat your crummy behavior at least until March.
Hint: It’s all how you approach it.
No, I’m not an expert myself. Though I do have my share of bad habits and for a long time, so I’m sort of a lifelong collector of loser lists.
And I read things, because otherwise, I’d know even less. So pooling true knowledge with bungling experience, I’d like to share how to succeed, hopefully through April.
First of all, experts agree change is slow, and you‘ve got to take things one step at a time. Think incremental change, specific little tweaks you can bite into cautiously much as you would a turnip cupcake.
For example, instead of writing, “I will become a Masai warrior by May,” better to start walking barefoot and plan a trip to Kenya in the not too distant future.
You get the idea. Add a bit of this and a bit of that. Be specific, like another half-hour of aerobics a week, another half-hour of practicing the piano, and you’ll have something you can actually do. Unless the piano is at the New York Philharmonic.
The other big piece of advice might be more important: Change your negative self-talk. Some of it has been programmed by family and friends since childhood. People who yelled 2 and 2 does not make 5 (so rigid) or that your voice sounds like a panic attack. Fact is, if your inbox is filled with loser, even small changes won’t make it past June.
So before July, strike phrases like, “I’ve always been ugly,” or “I’m such a moron.” When you say them day in day out, the computer that’s your brain believes them, and as life goes on you become a better hideous clod.
This warning against negative self-talk is not coming from me, another idiot (I mean smart cookie!). It’s coming from Shad Helmstetter, who wrote the classic self-help book, “What to Say When You Talk to Your Self.” Thinking about another resolution list, I grab it off the shelves, figuring if it’s stood the test of time, maybe I can too.
Here’s a gem: “Think what you could do, beginning tomorrow, if the shackles of bad habits, old conditioning, and self-doubt were suddenly gone.”
Or this, “If you tell yourself that you cannot, what can the only outcome be?”
Or this, “Repetition is a convincing argument.” Meaning, think winner not loser, loser, loser.
I’m not going to tell you my resolutions and you shouldn’t tell me yours, so we can’t call each other out if we fail by August, such a lazy month anyway.
Then we’ll have September, October and November to begin again -- but fall is such a beautiful season! -- before we get ready for new resolutions that may look a lot like the old.
Helmstetter, who wrote his classic back in 1986, says we can stop the cycle. After you’ve listed your bite-sized chunks of change -- think manageable not Masai – it’s time to talk nice not dirty to yourself, you good-looking winner you! Helmstetter, the original self-talk guru, has clear ideas on the nuts and bolts of how to do this.
I’m going to give it a go. Hopefully, way before next December rolls around.
December 30, 2018