"Do you know where your New Year Resolution is?"
That is an often asked question in the days and months that follow the new year. Statistics show that the majority of resolution-makers eventually abandon their pursuits. During the past five years, as I have studied and practiced what works and what doesn't work, I have encountered scores of passionate people who do persist day-after-day. I coined the word 'Resolutionista' for these folks and the 'resolve' they patiently display: Resolutionistas make resolutions, keep resolutions and enjoy the journey! Borrowing on my years as a working journalist, I am running an inspirational series of interviews with ordinary folks who do extraordinary things. They breathe life into their dreams, resolutions and daily goals, one small step at a time, one day at a time over the long haul. Though they may statistically be in the minority of resolution-makers (the ones who succeed), I want to highlight 'what works', and give them credit for their accomplishments!
I was introduced to Robert Maurer, Ph.D., a Santa Monica Clinical Psychologist and Organizational Consultant, when I discovered his wonderful book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way (pubished in 2004 by Workman Pubishing) during my daily research. When I picked up One Small Step earlier this year, I found that I couldn't put it down because it put a name - "kaizen" - on my approach to achieving New Year Resolutions, dreams and goals via small daily steps and tasks: 'One resolution, one day at a time for one year' (i.e. Daily Resolves). I contacted him soon after to request an interview because I believe his book can be a valuable resource for anyone who is working to fulfill dreams, keep New Year Resolutions, or achieve daily goals.
Dr. Maurer's book is very user-friendly - easy to read, and full of common sense tips for achieving goals that are backed up by science and research. The inside flap summarizes the approach: "Unleash the potent force of kaizen, the Japanese technique of achieving great and lasting success through small, steady steps. Whether the goal is as specific as getting more sleep or as broad as meeting the love of your life, kaizen works because it melts away resistance - in particular, the "fight-or flight" brain chemistry behind people's underlying fear of change."
The book's eight chapters are"devoted to the personal application of kaizen and encompass six different strategies" . . . which include:
- asking small questions to dispel fear and inspire creativity
- thinking small thoughts to develop new skills and habits - without moving a muscle
- taking small actions that guarantee success
- solving small problems, even when you're faced with an overwhelming crisis
- bestowing small rewards to yourself or others to produce the best results
- recognizing the small but crucial moments that everyone else ignores
The 'philosophy' according to the book, is that "Great change is make through small steps . . . The goal: change your life without fear and without failure." If you are thinking about pursuing a dream, changing your life, or creating a new habit, 'One Small Step . . .' is well worth a read. [UPDATE: Read Bob's 2009 Year End Essay.]
1. Kim Simpson: Do you make New Year Resolutions, or use another method of consistently achieving your dreams and fulfilling your passions, day-to-day?
Dr. Robert Maurer: I do not make new years resolutions. Since life is a learning process, I set goals and work on them daily all year long. When I do set a goal, I look for very small steps to implement each day.
2. Kim Simpson: What is your primary passion? Is it a lifelong passion, or a more recent interest? What is the focus of your current goal(s)?
Dr. Robert Maurer: My primary passion is service. I am most alive when contributing to others. I look for small ways to do this daily from smiling at strangers, being courteous and thankful to people in stores and restaurants, as well as volunteering my time to non-profits. My goals are frequently self-focused such as taking care of my health and keeping small agreements. The better I take care of myself, the more I have to give to others.
3. Kim Simpson: What key techniques, or strategies, do you attribute to your success in making your dreams, resolutions and daily goals a reality?
Dr. Robert Maurer: Three key techniques: (1) I ask myself two-four times a week, "What do you want most in life?" The asking of the question keeps my brain focused on life's goals. (2) Many of my goals are challenging. If they were easy I probably would have already done them! I commit to very small steps. This eliminates fear and resistance. (3) I practice compassion and curiosity when I forget or slip on my path. Judgment and criticism are obstacles to change.
4. Kim Simpson: What are your primary obstacles and how do you overcome them?
Dr. Robert Maurer: Primary obstacles are workload and travel schedules. By keeping the steps for change very small, I eliminate the excuse of "not enough time". I am using the physical demands on travel as a challenge - looking for ways to take care of myself such as drinking more water and meditating as a means of helping myself through jet lag.
5. Kim Simpson: How do you stay motivated, enthusiastic and on track with your plans?
Dr. Robert Maurer: The old cliché about the journey vs. the destination helps. I know the most important objective is to take pleasure in this moment rather than waiting for the achievement of the goal to bring me pleasure. I like the word "enthusiasm" . . . it means the "spirit within". Achieving the goals is less important than being playful and curious while I am pursuing them.
6. Kim Simpson: How do you keep yourself accountable?
Dr. Robert Maurer: I track my progress in a journal each day. The small steps make being accountable much easier.
7. Kim Simpson: Do you think resolution-setters would achieve more success if they focused on their passions - things that they enjoy - rather than a list of bad habits?
Dr. Robert Maurer: I think both are important. It is also vital to become fascinated rather than frustrated by "bad habits". I try to view each bad habit as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block. The poor habit is a teacher and my task is to discover the lesson and start to learn it.
8. Kim Simpson: Does pursuing a passion (dream/resolution) bring a sense of joy, accomplishment and reward? 8. Kim Simpson: Does pursuing a passion (dream/resolution) bring a sense of joy, accomplishment and reward?
Dr. Robert Maurer: The pursuing is the place where passion needs to live. If I am not passionate about the pursuit, I use the AA motto, "fake it till you make it" and rehearse how I want to be feeling about the journey.
9. Kim Simpson: What is your most significant achievement, and/or most memorable outcome of the journey so far?
Dr. Robert Maurer: Overcoming stuttering and becoming a public speaker was one of my favorite uses of kaizen, as well as losing forty pounds and keeping it off!
10. Kim Simpson: Any advice for someone who is thinking about pursuing a dream?
Dr. Robert Maurer: Define yourself, your worth, your identity in terms of the dream rather than the result. The bigger the dream, the smaller the steps you may need and more you will want to take pride in the beauty and the value of the dream.
Remember: I Resolve To . . . Achieve My New Year Resolutions, One Resolution, One Day At A Time For One Year. It's your choice. Do it today. Turn your resolution into reality in five simple, common sense steps: Dare To Dream, Decide, Define, Develop A Plan, and Do It Daily. Make your resolution a permanent Lifetime Resolution, something that's with you for good! Above all, Be A Resolutionista, someone who makes resolutions, keeps resolutions, and enjoys the journey! Let's Go For It!
Need More Inspiration? Wear Your Resolution By Visiting The I Resolve To . . . Shop At CafePress: I Resolve To . . . Resolutionista Gear And By Joining The Official I Resolve To . . . Group At Gather.Com.
Kim M. Simpson - September 10, 2009
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