Why New Year's Resolutions Why Don't Work
To make major changes, you must "re-wire your brain." Making positive affirmations can help, and many self-help programs promise great gains. But they don't re-wire brains. (See articles in Psychology Today online and other resources to learn more about scientific fact.)
How to Make Personal Change Effectively
A real possibility for change is to take small steps. Here's a great resource: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. By Robert Maurer, Ph.D. (2014) Also available as audio book.
This is the Japanese method for getting better. For example, martial arts like karate or aikido require years of training to achieve higher ranking belts. With ZEN meditation practice it's even more grueling Few achieve the status of Roshi (master), and that achievement requires decades of practice.
Practical examples are in high quality automobiles like Toyota and computing hardware and software. Old models of 1960s Datsuns became modern Nissans - one small step at a time.
Personal example of Kaizen: Practical tips for shedding weight:
1. Take small steps, perhaps 1-2 pounds per week for 5 weeks.
2. Have an accountability buddy, someone close you report to regularly.
3. Focus on the present: What's one thing you can do today toward your goal? Example: Eliminate a high calorie drink like soda, beer, or wine. For example, a glass of red wine contains 300 calories, 2100 per week, 8,500 per month. I quit red wine and easily shed 30 pounds in a few months.
Expand your horizons.
1. Get out of the social and geographic bubbles you live in to engage with other people. If you live in a big city suburb, visit some small towns. If you don't travel abroad, begin to do so, perhaps to a country that speaks your first language. Or learn the basics of a second language Then Talk to "others" and learn about them. When traveling, be a traveler and spend time with locals. Above all, don't be a tourist collecting postcards and taking selfies.
Talk to people of other colors, backgrounds, educations, and life experiences You'll learn a lot and and talking to such people will help get out of any social bubble you may be in..
Improve your Conversation Skills and Interpersonal Relations:
Overall, increase your social intelligence
. Learn from Daniel Goleman's book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
Here are some small conversation skills tips I have found to work well and you can easily apply:
1. Use the other person's name during your talk. Such as "I agree with you Betty, and I support your proposal." Our names are precious to us, and nearly everyone has a feel-good experience when addressed by name.
2. Instead of asking general questions like "How's it going?: ask specific questions like "How does your son like Dental School?"
3. Relax. Drop your shoulders and breathe. Lighten up with a smile.
4. Respect people's time so you don't hold them hostage. Ask if they have time to extend the conversation.
5. Share some valuable information, perhaps a tip like "I found a great car mechanic who does good work at a reasonable cost."
6. Give your full attention a rare thing in our multi-tasking worlds or work and home. When you listen, don't wander.
7. End the conversation gracefully, not abruptly. When appropriate, let others know that you enjoyed talking with them.
I have been honored to know as friends Andrew Weil, M.D., Anthropologist Gregory Bateson, Zen Master Robert Aitken-Roshi, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, expert on death and dying, and Dr. Mitsuo Aoki, Chair of the Department of Religion at the University of Hawaii.
"I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow, and I have borrowed a lot." -Woodrow Wilson, 28th US president, Nobel laureate (28 Dec 1856-1924)
Read to stretch your mind
Life-long learning is key for change. Here is a useful book:
Reference: You've GOT to Read This Book: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book that Changed Their Life by Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks. Harper Collins, 2006
An example of a book that changed the life of Dave Barry, humor columnist and author of many books: He read Inside Benchley, columns by Robert Benchley, iconic humorist in the first half of the 20th Century.
Follow the examples of great people like Abraham Lincoln. With only two years of a country school, he read the law, The Bible, and the classics of Western Literature. I myself read a lot of all genres from Sophocles to Shaw and Shakespeare and Cervantes and also Eastern literature. Benjamin Franklin started the first public library in Philadelphia and Andrew Carnegie funded hundreds of public libraries across the United States, including my refuge, the little Carnegie Library as a young student in Superior, Wisconsin.
Until next time,