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My New Year’s Resolution for 2008

Meditation mat

Photo by Mami

Having looked at Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and offered some Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution, it’s time for me to walk the talk and commit to my own resolution for 2008.

For me, last year was about starting lots of new projects and I made three resolutions. This year will be about paring things down and focusing on the essentials, so I’ve just made one. Here it is:

I will sit still for five minutes every day.

This one definitely fits Steve Roesler’s description ‘knowing what to do, but then not doing it’. Whenever I’ve practised daily meditation, it’ always made a big positive difference to my life – but after a while I get too ‘busy’ or complacent to keep it up, start skipping sessions, then a few weeks later realise I’ve forgotten all about it. So now I’m committing to doing it every day for a year.

Meditation is a bit like creativity – if you’re doing it in order to get something else, you’re not really doing it. Having said that, I do notice the following changes – call them side-effects – when I’m meditating every day:

I’m calmer
I’m more present in the moment
I find it easier to concentrate
I make better decisions
I tend to experience more creative flow
I take problems less seriously

(If you’re curious about meditation and haven’t tried it, here’s a good introduction to the basics.)

So how will I keep my resolution?

By following the 6 Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution that I used to keep last year’s resolutions.

1. Find something you want to do

OK I’ve done that. Meditation isn’t always easy or enjoyable, but it’s definitely rewarding. [Read more...]

6 Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution

Aikido

Photo by Solange Gaymard

My last post looked at 3 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail. Now I’ll look at how you can keep yours. I’ll start by reviewing my progress on the three New Year’s Resolutions I posted on this blog last year.

1. Make my blogging more like my coaching

I had noticed that my blog was proving increasingly useful as a coaching tool, and wanted to develop my blogging style so that it was closer to my style of coaching. Part of this involved blogging more of the stories, ideas and examples I share with clients in sessions, and part of it involved developing the conversational aspect of the blog and making more use of questions.

I definitely think I’ve succeeded in the first respect, in posts such as 7 Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure, What Amadeus Shows Us About Creativity, my mini-series on Giving Feedback on Creative Work, and especially in my e-book about Time Management for Creative People. The fact that the e-book has been downloaded 25,000 times in a month tells me that I’m providing something valuable for my audience.

I also think I’ve made progress in developing the blog as a conversation and using questions to stimulate readers’ creativity – although I think I can do a lot more in this respect. I’ve certainly had some great conversations on this blog and elsewhere, and I’ve started to make more use of questions in posts such as What’s the Difference Between Incubation and Procrastination? and Should Artists Give the Audience What They Want?. So I’ve made a good start but think I can take this further – look out for more question-based posts this year! [Read more...]

3 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

The Temptation of St Anthony

Photo: The Temptation of St Anthony by RyanDianna

This time last year I posted my new year’s resolutions on this blog. I also promised to write about ‘Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail’. I’m pleased to say I kept all my resolutions – my next post will tell you how I did it, and how you can keep yours. I’m afraid I didn’t get round to the post about why resolutions fail – so here it is.

The following three pitfalls have been highlighted for me over and over again while coaching clients to keep their resolutions – and I can assure you I’ve made the same mistakes myself many times.

1. You focus on what you ‘should’ do, not on what you want

This is an easy trap to fall into. After all, there are plenty of things we probably ‘should’ do that don’t seem a lot of fun, especially at this time of year. For example:

‘I should really lose some weight’
‘I need to get fit this year’
‘I ought to give up smoking’
‘I have to do my tax return’

Have a read of that list again – how does it make you feel? Personally it gives me a feeling of mild disgust and aversion. The words ‘losing’, ‘giving up’, ‘weight’, ‘bad habits’, and ‘tax returns’ conjure up a succession of mental images that make me feel slightly depressed if I focus on them.

This is the problem with the ‘should’ mindset. Logically, those are all sensible things to do – but instead of motivating you to get going, they have the opposite effect. This is partly because they are all ‘problem focused’ statements. It’s a classic case of ‘don’t think of a pink elephant’ – your brain can’t process these statements without making you think about what you don’t want. And nobody likes thinking about what they don’t want – our natural tendency is to put it to the back of our mind and forget all about it.

Another problem with these statements is the use of the words ‘should’, ‘need’, ‘ought’, and ‘have to’. This kind of language dissociates you from your real reasons for wanting to do these things. It’s as if there were some kind of objective standard that you really ‘should’ measure up to, or – even worse – as if someone else were telling you what to do. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand being told what to do – if someone offers me well-meaning advice my knee-jerk reaction is to want to do the opposite. [Read more...]

First One Under My Belt

I’m pleased to say Mrs Wishful Thinking and I both passed our aikido red belt grading last night.

I was impressed by the grading test – it was quite formal, we had to line up and perform the techniques in front of the rest of the class, black belts in front of us, brown belts watching from behind. And there’s something very satisfying about having passed the first test – like the first step on a long journey. Breaking things down into specific, measurable steps is good practice in setting goals, and aikido has evidently got this down to a fine art.

This is one of the things we had to do – we weren’t as fast or agressive as this though.

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New Year’s Resolution No.3 – Make a Habit of Aikido Practice

Here’s my third and final New Year’s Resolution, following on from No.1 – Make My Blogging More Like My Coaching and No.2 – Write More Poetry. As promised, I’ll follow up my own resolutions with a post about Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail – and what to do about it.

[youtube]doGVPQRoYvQ[/youtube]

All this digital stuff is great fun, but you can have too much of a good thing. The more time I spend on blogging and related activities, the more I need to balance it out with some physical activity to keep me grounded in the real world. This became particularly clear to me last summer, when my MA research project took over my life and my visits to the gym petered out. So when autumn came round, I took the opportunity to start learning aikido – a martial art I had been curious about for ages.

I was fortunate enough to discover Meridian Aikido, a club within walking distance of my home (eliminating one excuse for missing classes) whose members have been very friendly and helpful. One of the things that attracted me to aikido was its un-macho emphasis on ethical self-defence – using an attacker’s own force and momentum to catch them off-balance and immobilise them without harming them. The spirit of aikido seems very evident in the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere at the Meridian dojo, and I’ve been very impressed with the members’ eagerness to help us learn the ropes. There’s something quite humbling about having a black-belt practitioner patiently spend 15 minutes showing me how to throw him properly, getting up again and again to show me where I’m going wrong.

I’ve been told that it typically takes longer to learn aikido than other martial arts. Having spent a term trying to get to grips with the basics, it certainly seems fiendishly complicated and difficult. But I’ve also had glimpses of something profoundly enjoyable, even exhilarating. A few times when ‘throwing’ someone has felt more like stepping out of the way and letting them fall by themselves. Or feeling the same effortless momentum being thrown off the end of a jo staff.

So my third New Year’s Resolution is to make a habit of aikido practice. Preferably every day. I obviously can’t practise on the mat every day, but I should at least be able to manage some of the warm-up and co-ordination exercises. Fortunately Mrs Wishful Thinking is also learning, so I’ll have a partner for practice. (Unfortunately this means she can now inflict severe pain on me with minimal effort…)

The philosophy of aikido is that it’s not just a fighting discipline but should be integrated into your whole life. My coaching work often involves untangling disagreements and resolving conflict, so I’m really interested to see what I can learn from aikido principles in this area. And because I believe creativity is a full-body sport, I’m hoping aikido will help to keep me in creative flow.

I’m posting this today partly as a way of focusing my attention for my first grading test tonight – for the rank of 6th Kyu (red belt). Wish me luck!

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