The end of January looms nearer and across the nation, New Year’s Resolutions (or goals or plans or whatever you like to call them) are dropping like flies. How are yours going? Are you still in the race, or did you trip coming out of the starting gate and never quite find your feet again?
I shared my New Year’s Plan at the beginning of the month: to cultivate the habit of rising early to write by getting up 15 minutes earlier each week. By this week, I’m supposed to be getting up at 6:15. This is a very achievable goal, especially since ideally, I’d be getting up at 6:00 am already. And yet…it’s not happening.
What do you do when your ambitious plans for change don’t seem to be working? Experts claim that fewer than half of‘people who make New Year Resolutions stick with them longer than six months, and it’s oh-so-easy for one stumble to lead to another and another, until you’re ready to call it quits.
I’m reading a great book on this subject: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. It discusses the concept of “bright spots,” places where success exists despite the obstacles.
For example, they tell the story of Jerry Sternin of Save the Children, who was charged with fighting malnutrition in Vietnam in 1990 . Sternin didn’t have the resources to tackle the underlying problems—issues such as poverty, poor sanitation, and a lack of clean water. Instead, he looked for children who were thriving despite these obstacles—the “bright spots”—and asked what was different. The result? He managed to create a significant change in childhood nutrition in a short period of time on a minuscule budget.
The idea of bright spots is applicable to any situation in which the desire to change meets resistance. In my case, I started asking what life looks like when I do get up early.
A pattern emerged. I’m more likely to succeed when:
- I give myself winding-down time the night before, reading or practicing yoga
- I put my alarm across the room
- I don’t hit the snooze button
- I put out clothes the night before, so I don’t disturb my husband
- I have a clear plan for what I’m going to work on once I hit my writing desk
I love the idea of looking for bright spots, because it’s positive (looking for areas of success) rather than negative (looking for how I screwed up). I love that it helps me to identify concrete actions that will move me forward, because it transforms an immense, nebulous problem into something I can tackle.
Most of all, I love that it forces me to identify the ways in which I do succeed. Sure, I’ve stumbled on the path to achieving my goals—but I’ve also had moments of success. If I’ve done it before, what’s to stop me from doing it again?
Good luck on your goals—both new and revisited.