Welcome to our holiday double-month Brainstorm e-bulletin (we go back to monthly next time). I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season and are ready to tackle the new year. The events of the last few years have underlined the fact that more than ever before we need to be positive and creative and to do something different in order to get the results — and the peaceful world — we want. So, let's get started with some fresh tips.
Resolutions that really work
All too often the resolutions we make in January are in tatters by February. How can we do it differently so this time we can stick with them? Here are four characteristics of successful resolutions:
– They are broken down into small chunks. Losing 50 pounds this year is pretty overwhelming; losing one pound a week is much less daunting.
– They consciously displace something else. If you're going to start exercising an hour a day, three times a week, that means giving up something else now taking up those three hours (or more likely five or six hours if you factor in time to change, get to the gym or the park, shower, etc.). If you try to add these hours without giving up something else, you will fail.
– They are specific and measurable. If a goal is vague ("I'll eat more healthily"), it's easy to cheat. When the action is defined ("I'll eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of three doughnuts"), you can easily keep track of your success.
– They are measured. Checking off accomplishments on a calendar or a task list is emotionally satisfying and has been shown to reinforce the behavior being tracked.
Action: If you've made some resolutions (or would like to do so now), write them down and identify what you have to do each week (or, if appropriate, each day). Make up a chart that allows you to track your progress. If they take up extra time, also identify what you will give up doing in order to find that time.
To learn, set an outcome
If you want to master something new, such as a kind of software, a language or any skill, it can be extremely motivational to set an outcome first. In other words, a product or situation that will come about when you have learned the new skill. For example, if you're learning French, book a vacation in France for the summer now; if you want to learn Photoshop, set the goal of creating a montage of family pictures that will be a great present for family members' birthdays throughout the year.
Action: Consider whether there is a new skill you'd like to master this year. Then think of an outcome that excites you, that will be possible only when you've mastered this skill, and make a commitment to it.
Do some mental weight training
At this time of year, lots of people decide to do weight training or other physical fitness exercises, but what about mental weight training? I don't mean puzzles, although those can keep the mind nimble. I mean thought processes that can help you cope with difficult situations throughout the year. Here are three:
– When you're upset about some minor problem (e.g., having to wait in line, or a driver cutting you off), move forward a year in time in your imagination. Will this moment and this problem still be something you'll remember? If not, and if there's nothing you can do to change the situation, take a deep breath and relax. (Level of difficulty: Easy.)
– When something isn't working, rather than doing the same thing over again but trying harder, step back mentally from the process and ask yourself what you could do differently that could affect the outcome. Example: You've reached a customer service all center operator whose understanding of English is minimal. Rather than getting frustrated and arguing or shouting, hang up and place the call again; the odds are you'll get a different representative. (Level of difficulty: Intermediate.)
– When you're having a disagreement, ask yourself: "Would I rather be right, or would I rather keep this relationship strong?" If pressing your point really isn't important, let go. A good way out is saying: "You may be right." (Level of difficulty: Hard!)
Action: Practice by first remembering similar situations and imagine how it would have been if you'd employed these thinking strategies. Then watch for opportunities to employ them.
A secret to get you what you want
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar has a great saying: "You can get everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." I call this a secret because so few people seem to know it! Most of the time we think about what we want from any given transaction; if we start by thinking about what the other person wants, usually we can figure out a way to give it to them and also get our own desired outcome in the process.
A simple example: An acquaintance of mine knows that what he wants at a restaurant is great service, and that what his server wants is a good tip. His solution: Give the tip in advance. He tells me it works 99 percent of the time.
Action: In your next interaction with anyone, take a moment first to consider what they want. If you give it to them, the odds are they'll also give you what you want.
A secret to keep you on course
Another secret — in the sense of being little used, anyway — is a simple question that speaker Tim Cathcart suggests asking yourself: "How would the person I'd like to be do the things I'm about to do?" If you ask yourself this question every time you have to make a decision, you will move inexorably toward the future you want to create for yourself.
Action: Write this question on a card you keep visible in front of you as much as possible. Ask it every time you have to make a decision, and act upon your answer. Notice how it changes your day. (If you don't mind sharing the outcome, let me know via e-mail. I am convinced this is a life-changing question!)
To prosper, find inner strength
Here is a quote from Peter Russell (whose book, "A White Hole in Time," about the major challenges faced by the human race, I highly recommend): "We're facing an unprecedented uncertainty in our lives. Living with uncertainty forces us to let go of attachments to how things should be. Turning inward is what will see us through as individuals. The greater our personal inner stability, the more we can flow with the changes. The greater our personal creativity, the better we can ride through it. Inner strength is what will see us through. If there ever was a time to wake up spiritually, this is it."
By the way, that is a quote from an interview Russell gave in 1999.
Action: No one can tell you how to be more spiritual; for some it comes from meditation, for others via more time in nature, for others via doing work that contributes to the environment or other people. But if you're considering how you'll spend your time this year, it may be worth allocating some time each week to this goal, in whatever form works for you.
The real power of being positive
Sometimes positive thinking sounds like a naive cliché. But science is confirming the power of being positive. A University of California study revealed that when actors were asked to act happy, their immune functions increased; and when they were asked to act sad, their immune functions declined. In other words, your positive demeanor doesn't even have to be genuine.
Action: If you find yourself thinking negatively, especially at the beginning of the day, imagine that you are an actor and have been directed to act happy. You don't have to go overboard, but try it and notice how it changes how you feel, how others respond to you. And, if you do it long-term, note how it affects the number of minor illnesses you have over the course of the year.
Networking is a term that throws terror into the hearts of many of us. (My nightmare is of a group of people all thrusting their business cards at each other in unison giving their 30-second summaries of what they offer.) But what it's really about is establishing connections so that people will want to work with you or ask you to work with them. From the Dale Carnegie Web site, here are six ways to do that:
– Offer to help others. End meetings and calls by asking, "Is there anything I can do to help you?
– Communicate your unique knowledge and expertise to others.
– Share your own personal contacts judiciously.
– Be approachable.
– Write personal thank-you notes to people who help you.
– Follow through on your commitments — always.
Action: Consider which of these six techniques would improve your business or personal relationships the most. Consider doing that one more consistently (it will help if you put a reminder on your desktop).
Wisdom from 2000 years ago
Here is the Roman philosopher Cicero's list of the six mistakes of man. (How much progress have we made in 2000 years? How much can each of us avoid these six mistakes this year?)
– The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others.
– The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
– Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
– Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
– Neglecting the development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying.
– Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.
'Til next time, Jurgen
P.S. — We welcome feedback. Address your e-mails to Brainstorm. You also may want to have a look at the Brainstorm Web site and my book "Do Something Different: Proven Marketing Techniques to Transform Your Business."
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