Winter months can provide valuable time to reflect on the direction our life is heading. The long holiday period often provides a natural break in which to assess what's already been achieved and allow time to start planning for the coming New Year.
Often January can start full of good intentions but it's not uncommon to soon fall back into old habits, especially if some of our plans hit obstacles. Then we can end up berating ourselves, feeling a failure and becoming disappointed at our lack of progress.
Let's consider why this may happen and then explore ways to help maintain our resolve.
- Check if your goals don't particularly motivate you. It may be that you've adopted someone else's agenda; they want you to stop smoking, join a gym, learn a particular skill or be a successful business person, but if that doesn't excite you you're not going to sustain your enthusiasm beyond the first hurdle. You have to really want something in order to persevere though the difficult times. A positive focus helps keep you constantly motivated and on track.
- Timing is important. There may be things happening in your life that demand your time and energy, leaving you with few reserves for new opportunities, no matter how inspirational they may be. Financial worries, children, ailing relatives, a demanding boss may all feature in your life, leaving you too drained to commit to something new. You may need to stay focussed on those urgent demands in order to support your immediate health and wellbeing.
- Find something that has meaning for you, that allows you to feel that you have something of value in your life. If it's not feasible at present to immerse yourself in a project or career change, might you be able to organise your time and commitments a little differently to accommodate something less demanding, but that holds real interest for you?
- Is there a way you could discuss your dreams and aspirations and tell others what you'd love to be doing? Others may be genuinely unaware of how you feel or not fully appreciate the many demands that are made of you. You may be perceived as someone who thrives on being busy, who undertakes everything with apparent ease. Share your stresses and let others in.
- Ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness to let others be supportive. Or consider hiring help so that you can use your time more efficiently. Some skills like accountancy, technical expertise, PA support can often be outsourced on an ad hoc basis, so reducing your stress levels whilst freeing up your time. On a domestic level it may be useful to hire cleaning, ironing or garden support so that time at home is not spent undertaking chores.
- Lists can be a good way to regain focus. Twenty minutes at weekend assessing the week ahead, or prioritising the coming day can be a great way to recommit to your good intentions. Decide what needs to be done each day in order to move towards your goals. Making a phone call, arranging a meeting, completing a form may be tiny steps, but each step can move you in your desired direction. Be sure to give yourself credit for each action you take.
- Failure's okay. Trying something that doesn't work is fine. You've learned something new, experimented and possibly made new contacts. Failure doesn't need to signify the end; it's merely a setback or detour along the way, and sometimes those detours bring unexpected opportunities and insights.
- Don't wait for everything to be perfect before you have a go. Often simply getting started provides sufficient impetus for things to spontaneously start coming together.
- Use winter months as time to de-clutter and clear out the old. When we keep adding unthinkingly to our 'stuff', we can become mentally and physically overwhelmed and unable to recognise what's important. Take time to discard the old in order to appreciate the new.
- Being 'resilient' is often thought of as being tough, strong and keeping going no matter what. In fact resilience demands that we stop occasionally, evaluate what's happening and then adapt and grow in the light of new challenges and goals. The companies I work with and the workshops I run, place a high value on training staff to be resilient by taking stock of the present and learning to adapt to an ever-changing and unpredictable future.
Just as the trees use winter to shed their leaves and rest awhile, so we too can benefit from a period of reflection and time-out. Use this natural break to consider your options and formulate a viable action plan. Then your good intentions can really start to take shape.