Forget self-help in 2020
2020 really is going to be your best year ever! We often start a new year with intentions or resolutions but these are largely a waste of time. That’s because these are very short-term solutions as far as our brains are concerned. We love them because we love a quick fix.
Most self-help books and articles advocate a mix of tools and affirmations that have worked for the writer and often promote “transformational change”. It can be easy to get lost in a sea of advice, suggestions, routines and “hacks” which can be quite challenging to follow through for any length of time. The only route and the fastest route to creating your best year is through developing your self-awareness by strengthening 7 specific skills that you already have. If you can build more self-awareness into your muscle memory you’ll experience quick wins (which our brain will quickly translate into quick fixes) and real long-term change and results.
Think of a professional footballer – they will have spent millions of hours manipulating the ball with different parts of their foot so that when they are in a high stake situation – i.e. a match they are able to look up, be present with whatever is going on and make that winning kick. That’s muscle memory. And so it is with behaviour and skills only far more interesting and fun!
So what are the 7 skills you need and how can you use them to create your best year ever?
- Adaptability – this skill will help you respond with grace and ease to change and setbacks. Rather than avoiding them you can learn to embrace them and experience growth and unexpected advantages as a result. The best way to build adaptability is through widening your comfort zone. That means looking each day for a way to get yourself into “stretch” – that’s where you experience ‘slight’ anxiety but where the biggest growth is. Say “yes” to new challenges and things you might by default say ‘no’ to. Try new things every day – whether that’s a new food, a new recipe or a new invitation – go from small to big and your comfort zone grows.
- Critical thinking – your brain is amazing and can do so much more for us than we allow it to but we constantly drain it of energy. We are bombarded with a constant stream of information. Start this new year by creating space in your day for reflection, contemplation, for thinking. Go for daily walks without your phone to not only do yourself good but also give your brain a chance to flourish. Routinise your day, especially the first part of it by deciding in advance what you will wear, eat for breakfast and plan your schedule the night before. This frees up your brain to do what it’s destined to do – be creative, resourceful and innovative!
- Empathy – the most incredible gift you can give to others is the gift of your attention. This gift will immediately supercharge your personal and professional relationships. You cannot give this gift if you do not know how to be present. Start simple mindfulness exercises through slowing down your breath and being completely still for just 5 minutes a day. You can do this on your commute or whilst you are drinking a cup of tea. As long as you are not scrolling mindlessly at the same time! Being mindful every day for small pockets of time develops your ability to be present and truly listen the very next time you have a conversation.
4. Integrity – If you know your values and what is important to you, decisions are the easiest thing in the world to make. The New Year is a great time to think about what you value most and to what extent that is reflected in your everyday living and action and then build small, consistent ways to ensure that it is.
5. Being proactive – Whatever you are facing in 2019 or whatever you might be worried about stop right now and make a list of everything about that situation that is within your control and everything about it that is not. When we are stressed we will tend to place our energy into things we have no control over. But the minute you put that energy into what you do have control over – i.e. your thoughts and behaviours you feel better immediately plus you usually influence the situation for the better!
6. Optimism – Optimism really is something you can bring into your everyday. Do this by creating positive experiences – these can be very small things – from enjoying a cup of tea with a friend to making time for looking after yourself more. And remember to be grateful – quickest route to happiness that exists!
7. Resilience – we need to be much more resilient so we are not constantly battered from whatever life throws at us. Build grit by sticking with something – we tend to give up very easily after even just one “rejection” yet perseverance has a super strong link to being resilient.
So get these skills into your muscle memory by small easy steps and I know that 2020 will be your best year ever!