“…history has shown us that courage can be contagious…”
~ Michelle Obama
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he
who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela
“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness,
heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of.”
~ Bethany Hamilton
“Fear not, we are of the nature of the lion…” ~ Elizabeth I
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.”
~ Winston Churchill
One of the exciting things about each New Year is that we feel that we have a new opportunity to wipe last year’s slate clean and begin anew. We have another opportunity to accomplish those goals that have thus far eluded us and to right any wrongs of yesteryear. Those feelings are the driving force behind the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. However, research shows that fewer than 10% of those who make such resolutions actually follow through on them. For those of us who want to see change and progress in our lives, let’s make 2017 the year we change those stats.
It Takes Courage to Effect Change
Whether you are among the millions of Americans who wish to lose weight, get more sleep, stop smoking, get in shape, face down the office bully or are consumed with tackling the big political and social issues of the day it’s time to summon the courage to effect those changes!
It takes courage to stick to a plan once you have made it. This is especially true when you wish to carry out a plan in which others are potentially involved. Whether at home, at work or in social situation, it can be enormously challenging to stick to your food plan when others are dining or snacking on items — or quantities of items — forbidden to you; or to change your bedtime routine when your roommate or spouse is not in sync; or to quit smoking while enduring withdrawal symptoms or your friends who are still hooked; or to get in shape while your family and friends binge watch a favorite TV series (although you can work out on an elliptical while binge-watching and have the best of both worlds!).
Another kind of courage is needed when carrying out the plan to deal with the office or campus bully or difficult boss or professor. Standing up for yourself — your principles, integrity and ethics — in the face of strong opposition calls for grit and fortitude. And although I consult, write and speak about business etiquette, it’s important to understand that there are some situations in which unfairness and imbalance cannot be addressed solely with courtesy and accommodation, but by mixing in a hearty helping of firmness and authority.
Taking political action as a citizen for or against matters about which you feel requires courage, especially when you are dealing with such matters on a daily basis. Perhaps some of your family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers feel differently than you on certain issues that are important to you; or you are a member of a group that experiences discrimination and unfairness. In those instances, having the courage of your convictions and being able to articulate your positions will provide the confidence to carry on, and might even gain and maintain the respect of those with whom you disagree. Other ways to take action include contacting your elected officials by phone, email, snail mail and social media to express your opinions; participating in planning meetings and rallies; becoming involved in community organizing; and working for an elected official or running for office yourself. You can effect change simply by getting involved with your community on any level.
Strengthen Your Resolve
As the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox said, “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” This year, get psyched and strengthen your resolve to face your fears and move ahead on what you need to do for body, mind and soul. Don’t let anything get in your way to make progress on your resolutions. You can climb that virtual mountain; and if you find that you can’t, simply move it out of your way. After all, Dr. Seuss believes that even children can move mountains. And so do I.
Tips to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions
The following time-honored tips for fulfilling your New Year’s Resolutions — whether they are formally stated or just perpetually on your mind — bear restating:
- Narrow Your Focus – Rather than resolving to lose 25 lbs., focus on losing 1/2 lb. per week for 6 months. Instead of saying you’re going to get more exercise, be specific and make arrangements to walk or bike with a fellow commuter to the train station instead of driving your car; you’ll not only increase your exercise but you’ll save money on gas and parking! Narrowing your focus to specific and manageable steps will help to get you moving toward achieving your goal(s).
- Make a Plan – Pattern your approach to your New Year’s resolutions in much the same way you would design a business plan. Make your plan broad and flexible enough to be tweaked, but structured and detailed enough to provide a solid and reassuring framework in which to operate.
- Take Small Bites – Similar to taking small bites of food as an aid in proper dining etiquette and healthy digestion, taking small project-bites can help you fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. For example, the “Swiss Cheese” approach to time management can be adopted as a technique in managing the completion of New Year’s resolutions. The term comes from the idea that you can punch holes in a large and complex project at intervals when you are short on time or feel overwhelmed by its magnitude. This approach helps you to accomplish small pieces of tasks that, over time, add up to a whole task accomplished, thus reordering a New Year’s resolution from “overwhelming” to “doable.”
- Enlist Support – It takes courage to enlist the support of family and friends to help you achieve goals at which you might fail. But support from those who are close to you is essential to your success. In our careers we tend to work in teams to tackle projects, and the same principle can help you to tackle your New Year’s resolutions. Jean Nidetch understood this concept and realized that she could lose weight and keep it off if she had a support system; she established weekly meetings of like-minded individuals who helped each other reach their weight goals and those meetings eventually evolved into Weight Watchers.
- Defy the Odds – Adopt a can-do frame of mind. While what many of us might consider obstacles, we need to learn about real obstacles faced by people such as Oakland University Freshman Ali McManus, who has had to overcome monumental medical and physical ordeals while maintaining her resolve and racking up her musical accomplishments. In comparison it should be quite possible to lose that weight, finish that novel, take that trip and / or deal with the boss.
- Assess Progress and Celebrate Milestones – Just as with projects at work or school, assess your progress at intervals to keep yourself on track. Reassess, correct and accelerate, as necessary. And in this respect, you should look backward rather than forward, to see how far you’ve come rather than how far you’ve yet to go. As former Secretary General of the United Nations (1953-61) and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dag Hammarskjöld said, “Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top; then you will see how low it was.”
As we face a New Year that promises more surprises than most, let us do so with courage, resolve, determination and optimism on all levels. After all, there isn’t much we cannot accomplish, change or overcome once we courageously and resolutely focus our hearts and minds.
Until next time,