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Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Changing Course

by Linda Walker

It's traditional to make New Year's resolutions.  In what's become another tradition, by the time you read this, most people who made resolutions on December 31st have surrendered and returned to their old habits.  It's not that they changed their minds; rather, it's that resolutions aren't the best way to make real, lasting changes in your life.

One big problem with New Year's resolutions is that they all happen at once.  If things went according to the plans you made the night before, on January 1st, you'd wake up to a completely new life.  The same day, you quit smoking, start a diet and you'll be less cranky!  (I'd like to meet the person who can pull that off!)  But that's the way resolutions work.  After all, if you quit smoking in November, it wouldn't be a New Year's resolution.  And if you lost 10 lbs. in June, what would you call it? (Besides a cause to celebrate!)

Of course, it would be great to change your life all at once.  New Year's resolutions are very tempting.  We're conditioned to expect instant gratification, and so, on New Year's Eve, if you're disappointed another year has gone by and you still don't like your job, you feel life is passing you by or you're questioning your life's purpose, it's easy to get caught up in the thrill of a "brand new you" in the New Year.

However, as January passes, keeping your resolutions is harder than in looked on December 31st.  Maritime law makes small vessels yield the right of way to larger ships.  Small boats are easier to manoeuvre than freighters and cruise ships so they must get out of the way.  Even under the best conditions, with anchors down and engines in full reverse, a freighter can need as much as a mile to stop, and turning is almost as difficult, even if there's room.

Changing the course of your life and heading in a new direction is comparable to turning an ocean liner around.  In life, as for an ocean liner, sudden and dramatic changes in direction are messy and often result in damage.  Small gradual changes deliver slow but inexorable results.  As you build momentum, your progress continues, slowly, but almost effortlessly.

If you struggle with New Year's resolutions, instead of deciding you're sick of your life and making all your resolutions at once, consider the "ocean liner" approach to changing course.  Of all the things you want to change about your life, choose one.  Set the rest aside to tackle sometime in the future.  Now, consider the smallest possible step you could take that would start you heading in the right direction.  Make it so easy you'll never be tempted to give up.

If your resolution for this year is to "get in shape," your first step is not to pay a small fortune for an annual membership at a gym.  You only think that doling out that much cash will motivate you to go to the gym!  Instead, make your first step to do one push up.  If you're feeling energetic, do two.  Make it so easy that you can't possibly talk yourself out of doing it.  It would be easier to do one push up than it would be to convince yourself you don't have time!  Do one push up every day, and soon it'll be so easy that you'll forget and do two, or five.  Before long, you'll feel better, more in shape, and even better, you'll feel successful.

With this approach, you actually build the momentum that will make getting in shape an automatic progression and a habit that will last a lifetime.  Why, you may even want to dig into the box where you stored the other resolutions you saved for later.  Who made it a rule you had to wait for New Year's Eve anyway?


Linda Walker is a professional ADHD Coach who helps entrepreneurs, artists, ADHD adults and other creative geniuses live their best life. Learn more powerful strategies to instantly boost your productivity faster than you ever dreamed possible: www.productivitymythsbusted.com.

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