People are creatures of habit. And habits are a good thing--we form them in order to do certain things without really thinking (like brushing our teeth) so our brainpower can be freed up for other, more important things (like choosing what kind of work to do). Our habits become our "Personal Blueprint."
Your Personal Blueprint is a diagram of the habitual "you." Again, a good thing--as long as you like your blueprint. If you don't like your blueprint -- if you look at the habitual "you" and aren't happy with what you see -- then it's time to make a change! And while you can choose to change at any time, there's something about the beginning of a new year that sparks extra inspiration and can help drum up the motivation you need to make it happen. The sense of newness on the calendar can translate into a readiness (and capacity) for newness in your life.
Now, this business of changing your blueprint is serious stuff. As Charles C. Noble notes, "First we make our habits, then our habits make us." Your habits have the power to make you or break you. And not only do they have a lot of power over you, they can also be tricky to change. We all know the cliches about New Year's resolutions -- how they tend to last for, say, about 10 minutes -- and then we break them! So read on, and we'll look at four steps to positive change in 2010: 1) Know the five areas of your Personal Blueprint, 2) Identify which areas need a change by taking the Personal Blueprint Satisfaction Test, 3) Choose the changes you want for 2010 4) Make the new Personal Blueprint stick!
Step One: Know The Five Areas of Your Personal Blueprint:
• Mental Outlook -- It all starts with what goes on in our mind. Being able to operate at optimum capacity relies on the foundation of a strong, healthy outlook on life.
• Wellness -- Our bodies function in direct correlation to how we care for them. What we put in them, how (and how much) we move them, and the extent to which we rest them are critical.
• Self-Management -- Are we managing plans, schedules, and our environment (our belongings and our office, home etc.) so that we are able to accomplish things? Examples include our levels of organization and timeliness.
• Career -- Success at work depends on strong habits of professionalism and a proactive approach to developing ourselves.
• Community -- How we operate in the world of people is critical to our success, as well as the success of our family, our organization, our community, and our society. Do our actions communicate our awareness of others around us and affirm that we know we are a member of a larger community, or that our sole focus is on self?
These five areas, when woven together, determine the fabric of your Personal Blueprint. They speak to how well you operate as a person--in your "self" life as well as in your life with other people. When your habits in these five areas are on target, you have a strong foundation and are freed up to focus on the really important things in your life (rather than spending time looking for your keys, you can spend time working on your goals). They have everything to do with your effectiveness, success, and, ultimately, happiness.
Step Two: Take the Personal Blueprint Satisfaction Test!
Consider the five areas of your personal blueprint and circle the number that corresponds to your satisfaction level for each (1 = Low, 5 = High)
• Mental Outlook 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
• Wellness 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
• Self-Management 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
• Career 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
• Community 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Step Three: Choose Changes to Your Personal Blueprint in 2010!
For any area you rated four or below, choose one action to take to improve your habits. Feel free to choose actions from the list below, or if the actions here don't resonate with you, create your own! If you do create your own actions, be sure to make them small--something you can accomplish without super-human effort. This will help you be successful and encourage you to make even more good choices.
• Mental Outlook
-- Write down three things you're thankful for before you turn out the light (training your mind to focus on what worked well that day, rather than on what didn't work well, making it more likely that in the future you'll create more of what works)
-- Write down three things you're looking forward to tomorrow before you turn out the light (creating positive momentum for the next day)
-- Read a piece of inspirational literature at least 5 minutes a day
-- Do at least 1 short activity each week that refreshes your mind, whether a bike ride, a stop at the park or the museum, or just 30 minutes in a favorite book
-- The moment you're hit with negativity or discouragement, change what you're doing- a change in physicality (get up and walk around the block, water the plants, get a cup of tea) can shift the direction of your thoughts
-- Take the stairs (or walk on the escalator, don't stand!) or park at the end of the parking lot two days a week at minimum
-- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get more rest, or...
-- Get up 15 minutes earlier so the morning is relaxed and not a mad rush
-- Eat one more piece of fruit a day (if you're eating none, eat one!)
-- Drink water regularly (64 oz. per day)
-- Wash each dish as it's used
-- Open mail over your shredder, files, and recycling bin, being sure to handle each piece only once before filing or tossing
-- Plan to arrive five minutes early
-- "Everything has a home"- if you have items in your home or office that have no place, get rid of them. And important items like car keys and passports have a home that never changes
-- Batch tasks in blocks of time during the day: make all phone calls in one block, dedicate another block to emails, etc.
-- Don't go home on Friday until you've mapped out next week's projects and schedule
-- Always be looking for ways to support your manager. One of your most important roles is to help your manager be successful
-- Reach out to one person on your contact/networking list per week
-- Seek out a mentor and meet with him or her on a monthly basis
-- Do one activity each month to develop yourself professionally (take a course, read a book or article, attend an association meeting)
-- Leave every situation/place better than you found it (just because others have littered before you doesn't mean you should add to it)
-- Say "please" and "thank you." Sound basic? Pay attention- you hear these very little at the grocery store and the post office. Entitlement is rampant
-- Resist the need to be understood. First, seek to understand
-- The left lane is the passing lane- whether you're driving on the freeway or standing on an escalator (stand on the right!)- this is a fundamental rule of the road that's constantly violated, causing frustration and a basic breakdown in community
-- Do one good turn for someone each week, expecting nothing in return
Step Four: Make the Changes Stick!
Be strategic about your 2010 Personal Blueprint! Remember the clichés about New Year's resolutions? Avoid them with a few simple principles:
1. Build incrementally by starting one new action at a time. Take one action the first week, wait at least one week until you add the second action (it's up to you when to add the second action. Don't pressure yourself. The best time to add the second is when the first one feels natural, which for most of us is anywhere from one to four weeks), then a third action, etc. This way, you avoid overwhelm and create true change.
2. Be clear about why it's so important to you to develop that new Personal Blueprint (why do you really want to go from a two to a five in the area of Wellness)? Answer that question for yourself, and you'll find the motivation you need to take the action you want.
3. Consider narrowing down your actions to simply the top three, or even the top one. Better to make true and lasting change in one area than temporary change in several.
4. Create a system to see you through. The best "system" is a person. Ask a friend who understands what you're doing to hold you accountable on a regular basis. If no one fits the bill, create a progress journal and make note of your "action activity" at the end of each day (you'll wind up looking forward to this moment and feeling extremely satisfied at the end of the day when you get to log your progress!). Either way, you are more likely to follow through if you need to report to someone, whether a friend or to yourself.
You've considered your Personal Blueprint, you've chosen actions to improve it in 2010, and you have ideas for making it stick. As you move into the new year and gear up to take action, focus less on where you are now, and more on that next action you're going to take and that rating of five you're going to achieve. Keep your eye on the goal!