Each week we will be asking Dr. Covey to comment on common questions.
This week we ask about New Years Resolutions.
Do you feel like you fall into the same trap every year—make a resolution, keep it for awhile, break it, feel guilty, and so on? Or do you feel like it’s easy to just set the same goals every year—those last 20 pounds, more patience with my kids, improve productivity at work—yet never really pushing yourself? End this revolution. This week we ask Dr. Covey about how to reach your new years resolutions.
Q: Dr. Covey, why are New Years Resolutions important?
A: The start of a new year is often accompanied by a renewed energy around self-improvement and goal-setting in the form of resolutions. People often ask me this question and my reply is that I don’t think they ARE that important unless driven by a deep personal sense of mission. People often make resolutions, break them, and allow this to become their habit pattern until the process itself eventually becomes rather meaningless. Until people think really deeply about what is truly most important to them, this rather discouraging pattern is likely to continue.
Most people are “urgency addicted” and spend half their time doing things that are not important, that are urgent—things pressing, proximate, popular, and pleasant, but not really important.
This is why I feel strongly that people should take time to reflect and to think deeply about what is important to them. I suggest that people take time to decided what they really want to accomplish and why. Ask yourself what you mission is. Then make sure that your resolutions fit that mission. Can you see the difference between this process and the “quick fix” of coming up with ten resolutions and doing none of them?
For example, lets look at losing weight. If you are losing weight because you want fit into a certain size or you want others to like you more you are more likely to fail because the driving force of the goal isn’t coming from inside you. Your driving force comes from others. But, if one of your missions is to be a healthy person, you will look at your weight (if needed) as well as the health of your mind, your emotions and your spirit you are more likely to create meaningful goals and reach them. We call this, inside looking out, not outside looking in. Your goals are driven from within you and not influenced by others.
Q: How do I change so that I’m focused on the important things?
A: There are two forces that cause people to think seriously. One is the force of circumstance. They experience some kind of a crisis, emergency or major setback that causes them to really think seriously. The other is the force of conscience. The more people can spend time educating and obeying their conscience, the stronger their conscience becomes until they become driven by it. And if they’ll allow this to happen, it will drive them to ask and better understand the answers to the deeper questions of life. They’ll reflect on what is really important to them and think through the kinds of practices or disciplines that must be exercised in order to accomplish that which is most important.
Q: Can you recommend some things that people might consider when sitting down and setting goals for themselves?
A: There are a couple of things I have found that help people develop enough internal stamina and discipline to make great things happen. They start small—make and keep a promise, or set a small goal and accomplish it. The more they do this, the larger the promises become and the higher the significance of the goals. Little by little their sense of personal honor becomes greater than their moods, and they are more a function of their commitments then they are the different conditions of their life. When that begins to happen, they literally become the creative force of their own life. They move from small things to slightly larger things—have small “wins” and then bigger and bigger “wins”—until they begin to experience a level of exhilaration and excitement that makes them feel like they can accomplish just about anything.
Q: Looking ahead, what words of encouragement would you offer someone who might get stuck in the process?
A: Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by the process itself…it is gradual. Ask yourself the simple question—what is most important to you in life? Making a list of values that you want to live by is, in and of itself, a small “win.” As I mentioned earlier, acknowledging these small victories gives you confidence that you are on the right path and allows you to take a deeper look at what your goals and purposes are. As you move forward, you are encouraged to go, even more specifically, into action planning and setting deadline dates by which you want to accomplish those things.
I would also add this…it is human nature to have moments of doubt and discouragement, but do not give into them. Know that, in spite of weaknesses, you have the potential within you to live a life of greatness.
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