Turning Resolutions into Reality

New Year's resolutions began more than 4,000 years ago in Babylonia: people marked the holiday by seeking a clean slate and returning any borrowed equipment. Later the Romans, to honor Janus-the god of doorways and beginnings-(from whom we get the month January), reviewed their deeds and vowed to improve the next year. We all begin with good intentions, but somehow these vows often seem to be overridden by some uncontrollable force.

So how do we turn those resolutions into reality? Beyond that, how do we turn our dreams into reality? Because of 9/11, almost everyone I talk to is reevaluating their life: who they are; what they're doing. Everyone, it seems, is born with a dream or a mission, but often the winds and tides of life push them off course.

How do you know when you're following your dream? You feel passionate and energized by what you're doing. Even when you work hard and feel exhausted, you feel good because in your heart you know you're doing the right thing.
How do you know when you're off course? You're constantly tired or a little bit angry at your work, your boss, or someone. Work drains you; it doesn't replenish you. Your relationships drain you; they don't replenish you.

Drain or the Dream? It's up to you.

Life Maps
One of the things I've found that stops people from getting motivated is that they don't have a rich, desirable future to get motivated about. Most people just settle for projecting their past into their future, because they don't know how to design their destiny.

We all carry internal maps of what we want in terms of love, family, jobs, things (like houses, cars, clothes). We all carry an internal map of our physiology (height, weight, etc.). How can you tell what's in your map for these things? Take a look around; what you've got is what's in your map. Who are you attracting, personally and professionally? What void do they fill? What kind of job do you have? How much does it pay? What kind of people do you work with? Does your job feed you soul or just your stomach? Where do you live? What kind of car do you drive? What kind of activities do you engage in? If you don't like what you've got, you might consider upgrading your map.

From working with hundreds of people, I've found that the most common flaws are:

  1. The map isn't rich enough in terms of the kind of relationships you want, places you want to experience, activities, knowledge and things that you want. Most people settle for far less than what they want, because it seems easier to downgrade their dream than to hold their dream firmly and make the internal and external changes necessary to achieve it.

    TIP: Make your dream as rich in sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and feelings as you can possibly imagine. 
  2. The map is filled with what you don't want, what you want to avoid, the consequences of doing something. Single people tell me they "don't want" someone who's an alcoholic, abusive, whatever, but the only way your mind can make sense of these images in your map is to attract more of them. The mind tends to ignore the "don't" and focus on the "want." Take these negatives and turn them into positives: "I want someone who drinks responsibly and is loving, caring, and available." Business people say: "I don't want to work with certain kinds of people or clients." Fine! What do you want? "I want to work with right-minded people and adoring clients."
  3. The map never changes. People tell me about how they experience the same darned thing over and over again, but they don't use this information to change their map. Constantly tune up your dreams. Tune up your maps. If you find something you missed, add it to your map. If you discover something you don't like, add in what you want. You'll start to repel things that don't match your map and attract the people, places, and events that fulfill your map.

Most people stand in the present trying to imagine their desired future; successful people step out into their future and experience it fully, then they take what they've learned back into the present. I've found that successful people know how to reorient or "shift" their dream. And it's not hard, if you know how. Successful people start from the dream of what they want and work their way backward to where they are.

It's your map. No one ever tells you that you can choose to change it, to upgrade your criteria-what you want- and your life will shift. Your map is like your internal autopilot: change your destination and you will automatically shift your behavior to accomplish it. I think of it as almost effortless achievement. How do you know if you've changed your map? Your life will change.

Back to the Future
The mind is an amazing thing. As I discuss in Motivate Everyone, you can step out into your future and experience various possibilities, try on different choices, and do it before you have to commit to any course of action. Your goal is to develop a rich, desirable future that you will be motivated to achieve, or that as a manager, your staff will be motivated to achieve.

To do this you can leverage what psychologists call psycho-geography. Here's how:

  1. Get into an open area. 
  2. Make where you're standing the present moment in time.
  3. Look out into your future (usually in front or to your right). See yourself in the future having achieved whatever you want.
  4. Walk out along a line into your future until you fully and completely feel that you've accomplished whatever your dream might be. For singles it might be marriage; for a worker it might be a certain job or level of pay; it might be a home, car, or thing; for an author it might be a published book; and so on.
  5. Take time to explore this future. What do you see, hear, feel, smell or taste? Who are you with? What are you doing? What have you learned? Where do you live? What are the consequences of achieving this dream? How can you adjust your dream to reduce or eliminate the consequences?
  6. Once you have a richer "map" of this future, decide if you want it. If it's still not quite right, how can you tune it up to make it even more desirable, more motivating? It's your map…make it better!
  7. When you're ready, take a step back toward the present. Notice what you did to get from here to your dream. Take another step back. This is what project managers call "backward planning."
  8. Revisit this future as often as you want. The more you visit, the more vivid you make it, the sooner it arrives.

This is the essence of the planning techniques Peter Schwartz describes in the Art of the Long View. This is also how everyone I've studied creates outstanding results in their lives.

So if you want to lose weight, step into the future, look into the mirror and see the new slimmer you, feel what it feels like to be slimmer, feel what your new clothes feel like, hear the complements people give you. Chunk it down into 10 pound increments, instead of 50 or 100 which may seem impossible.

If you want to make more money, imagine what it will be like to provide so much value that you are rewarded with more income; feel it; experience what you can now afford that you couldn't before.

If you want a better relationship with your spouse, see, hear, feel, smell, taste it. When you change your internal map, your behavior will change, and your spouse will change in response to the new you.

If you want your staff to be motivated, create a vivid dream for them to pursue. Have them help you create it. Have your team step out into their collective future and experience what it feels like to have accomplished so much in just one year.

Get the idea? New Year's resolutions rarely work because they are just an auditory commitment to a vague future. But when you create a rich, detailed, sensory specific map of what that shift will look, sound, feel, smell, taste like, your autopilot will shift toward it. And the more you reinforce the dream by revisiting it, the quicker your life will shift to the life you've always dreamed.

What's your dream?

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