That sense of a fresh start when we feel we can become a new person with a clean slate…hmmm. So as we grind to the end of January surrounded by challenging and upsetting news, everyone is reporting feeling far too stuck in the Groundhog 2020 version of themselves. But here we are…we’ve almost made it to the end of January. I wanted to send you this newsletter at the start of January but it all felt a bit too meh! So now…let’s try again…
Deep Breath… a new year is a time to feel that energy of a reset, a vital feeling of wanting to review and identify our goals for the year to come… yet, we ask why do goals matter in a pandemic when we have so little control? The answers, I feel, are in learning how be more compassionate and encouraging with ourselves – when we focus our attention on learning, wellbeing and being gentle with ourselves, we can feel that palpable shift in our outlook. Then we have more to offer others too.
If you’re after a good resource in this area. Check out the wonderful work of Kristin Neff in Self-Compassion.
Tiny Habits – Tiny Goals
It is all about the TINY HABITS, which brings me to mention a book of the same name that has really helped me – Tiny Habits, The Small Changes that Change Everything by Stanford University psychologist BJ Fogg.
This book is a New York Times bestseller and Fogg is generally acknowledged to be a world expert on ‘habit formation’. Over 20 years, he has produced research to show that if we want to change our behaviour patterns, we should focus on what is easy to do – what we want to change – and design our behaviour and environment to support this change. It isn’t about willpower, but about recognising the small steps (tiny habits) that will make a big difference, giving you happiness, fulfilment and ultimately helping you make lasting and positive changes to your life. James Clear was a student of Fogg’s and has built on the Fogg behaviour model in his book Atomic Habits and continued research reinforces this approach of how to design improved behaviour change – in small steps.
Baby Steps – Big Dreams. Lofty Vision – Unlofty Goals
So let’s encourage each other by setting ourselves small goals, knowing that as they build, they will make a big difference. Goals that are aligned with our values and move us towards something bigger – our hopes, our dreams, our visions. In Positive Coaching… it’s all about the big goals and the baby steps. I like to think of this as the LOFTY vision (out of reach, maybe 10 years hence) and the UNLOFTY goals.
I like the BJ Fogg approach: Set the bar low, keep the bar low, smash your targets and don’t forget to celebrate – as its the feeling good that keeps us repeating the behaviour …until it becomes a proper habit:
- You want to do some yoga and stretching each day? Grab three minutes as soon as you step out of bed. Don’t wait until you have a spare hour.
- You want to give more to charity? Enjoy a giver’s high with a one-off donation to your favourite cause.
- You want to lose weight? Don’t set yourself a huge weight loss target – set it at ½ lb a week and celebrate your achievements.
- Want to start taking more exercise? Aim to walk seven minutes a day, not 30, and enjoy the feeling of smashing your target if you reach ten minutes.
- Want to declutter – start with a shelf or one drawer – don’t take on the whole house.
Celebrate your success and build the positive emotion that is going to help you reinforce these new habits, rather than the feeling of failure and self-sabotage that will steer you off the path.
I’m stepping into 2021 with some learning and wellbeing goals that I have set myself. And some guiding words for the year – mine are the 3 Gs: Gratitude, Gentleness and Generosity. These help me stay compassionate and open with myself, others, and the circumstances in the world. More about these in further newsletters. Would you like to join me in this approach? Tell a friend, partner or me your guiding words and your tiny habit plans and then celebrate each time you achieve one, no matter how small.
You See a Kettle? I See an Exercise Plan
I started Lockdown 1 with a desire to try this Tiny Habits methodology and so I practised “Habit Stacking”; Linking a new activity to an existing one that is already habituated in your life.
So mine was to do one squat each time I popped the kettle on (and yes, I am allowed to do more than one and very occasionally I do!). Being at home means more cups of tea, right? More cups of tea means more squats. So I now find myself in Lockdown 3 and I have probably done thousands of them without even noticing. It seems such a small change to make to my daily routine, but even the smallest change, done consistently, can make a big difference over time and I feel spurred on by my success!
That is just one example of the kind of easily achievable goal I have set myself. Yours may be completely different, from any area of your life:
- One email a day to reach out to a new network you are trying to build
- One sentence a day for the new book or article you want to write
- Five minutes of listening to a podcast a day to inspire you
- A walk around the block instead of waiting for that spare 30 minute that never quite arrives
Between now and my next newsletter, one of my goals is to implement some of the insights from The Practice by Seth Godin.
I journal daily but I’m trying to write more structured business “stuff” – and in essence, The Practice advocates showing up each day and unhooking yourself from outcome. It’s the learning, the journey and the showing up that count.
Perhaps there is an unlofty goal you can share with me for early 2021?
Why don’t you aim to send it to me at email@example.com before the day is out?
Having taken the first tiny step, we can celebrate together and finally get the 2021 ball rolling.