Monday, January 01, 2007

Small changes

Happy New Year! I spent a quiet evening home with my son, randomly talking and watching the ball fall in New York and the First Night gathering in Boston. Then he kept me up until 1:30, telling me about his life. I'm tired now, but happy.

Today's the day we all kick off our new round of best intentions for 2007. Dear Abby has some good ideas to sample, I always like her take on things.

It's good to have best intentions, but studies show people abandon most of them somewhere in the new year's first quarter. Why is that? Maybe it's because the changes people are seeking are sometimes too sweeping or all-encompassing.

So what I'd like to propose is that we make the changes we want to see in small steps. Take the big goal and break it down into small segments, and do it in small time frames.

In my management days, I always liked the SMART goals concept. In a nutshell, goals are supposed to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Tangible

So, rather than saying, "I want to lose weight," you say, "My goal is to lose one pound this week by performing a half hour of aerobics every day without increasing what I eat." At the end of the week, you see how you did, and you set a new goal.

A nutritionist friend of mine has a similar philosophy. When she works with a client, she doesn't dump all the changes needed on them all at once. She may say instead something like, "For every soft drink you have, try having an equal amount of water." She's clevershe doesn't tell them to stop drinking soft drinks. But in effect she halves the amount they drink with this new practice, because they're not as thirsty. Then, once that habit is formed, they take stock and decide on the next small thing to change.

Okay, there is a spiritual connection here. I know how discouraging it can be to strive to get everything right spiritually all at once. When we think we're already supposed to be walking on water and raising the dead, it can be way too easy to focus on what we're doing wrong rather than what we're doing right.

Maybe you have a goal to be less angry. If you just vow never to be angry again ever, you may be setting yourself up for failure. One misstep and you might feel like it's hopeless. But what if you instead framed the goal as, "This week, every time another driver on the road does something stupid, I'm going to remind myself that he or she is a child of God. In the car, I'm going to be patient and kind, and not angry." At the end of the week, you take stock, and maybe add another location where it's too easy to get angry to your list. Eventually, you eject anger right out of your life, one place at a time.

What if you want to be more happy by the end of 2007? It might be about taking "happiness breaks." Set a goal: "Each day this week, I'm going to take a one minute break every morning at 9:30 and every afternoon at 2pm to remember what went well in the last few hours. I'm going to acknowledge my happiness with those successes." Can you imagine how you'd feel after a few weeks of that?

Perhaps you want to feel a deeper connection to Spirit on a daily basis. What about setting this goal: "Every day this month, I'm going to take three minutes each morning to think about nothing but the Divine." Later, you could make it five minutes, or ten, or thirty. You could eventually weave this mindset into your activities, welcoming the presence of the Divine into your day, all day long.

What you might have noticed about the three spiritual goal-setting examples is they're mental goals. These are things you do in thought. Consequently, there's no barrier to doing themit's as easy as changing your mind.

Another point is they're about adding something to your life, not subtracting. So many of our goals are about stopping something bad, when what we may need to do is add something good. Like my nutritionist friend with her addition of water, when we add the good idea to our thinking, this just naturally takes up the space and pushes out the bad.

My goal for everyone, myself included, is that we be kind to ourselves. That we are as patient with our own faults as we are with others', and that we embrace with joy the spiritual progress that 2007 can bring us.

Soon my daughter will appear after her night on the town, and we'll all snuggle up to watch the Rose Bowl Parade. Have a terrific day!

p.s. If you want any help crafting a SMART goal for yourself, shoot me an email and we'll work on it together!

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 1/01/2007 09:16:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

I tried to post a reply once before, but it vanished into cyberspace. Trying again ...

I didn't get too carried away with the New Year's resolutions this year. I only made one: "Take no thought."

I riffed on it a little bit here.


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