Fine tune your resolutions

“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.”

Earl Nightingale,

This time of the year is great time to reflect on the past and to look forward for the coming year – to understand the decisions you’ve made in the past have brought you to where you are now and to determine what kind of improvements you want to make in your life for the future. This means making resolutions to change those habits or circumstances that you’ve been unhappy with or to complete the unfulfilled resolutions that you set for this year or in the past or to set some new goals for the coming days.

Do you need to make some resolutions in the first place?

Many of us don’t believe in setting new year resolutions and want to work on our long-term goals throughout the year. In spite of that, there is no harm in setting some resolutions that will not only improve your potential in achieving your long-term goals, but also help you improve your overall productivity. Sometimes we think there is no use in making new year resolutions as we often fail to stick with them. But rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, setting small and achievable milestones can always be helpful and beneficial in achieving your bigger goals.

It is always important to set some goals and make some resolutions that are most meaningful to you, something you really want to change, and something you’re willing to work for and are passionate about. Here are some reasons why you should always set some for yourself.

• Resolutions strengthen your willpower.

• They help you to coordinate your efforts and increase your optimism. For example, when you start a diet, you adopt new rules for eating healthy. By following set rules, you become more positive about your abilities.

• They improve your resolve to overcome your temptations and help you in achieving your goals.

• They strengthen your belief in yourself as you attain certain of your resolutions.

Why do your resolutions fail ?

Most often, we make resolutions relating to certain aspects of our lives we want to improve upon like for instance, to change unhealthy lifestyle, or quitting a bad habit, or to find happiness, or to improve career prospects and so on so forth. Even though we all desire to make changes, many of us fail to keep with those resolutions for long-term. We all start off with lot of enthusiasm, but as the momentum dies down, We fail to stop the resistance from sabotaging our resolve to change.

There are many reasons as to why you fail to keep those resolutions, it may may be due to setting some unrealistic ones or may be they might have failed because, you didn’t really want to make them happen. Sometimes you come up against circumstances that make it especially tempting to break the resolutions. You start making exceptions or giving into your temptations and you end up breaking your resolutions. Resolutions fail when we start to allow too many exceptions.

The majority of us make resolutions related to something we think we should do, but unless we are willing to stick to them and willing to put the time and effort into making them happen – it won’t happen. It will be almost impossible to make your resolutions a reality if you don’t fine tune them or have a clear plan in place to achieve them.

What if you fine tuned your resolutions?

Sometimes you might set new resolutions and follow them and eventually achieve your goals and sometimes your resolutions may not get you all the way to your end goals. When resolutions don’t materialise, it adds to the sense of ‘can’t’ and lowers your self esteem. You might begin to think that you are stuck with old undesirable habits no matter how hard you try. To improve your self esteem and to make your resolutions achievable, you need to fine tune and redefine them.

Your desire to start fresh or step over the old habits and into the new ones requires your commitment to make a positive change. However if you set unrealistic ones or if you want to achieve too much too soon, they will be difficult to achieve. So comes the need for reframing or fine tuning your resolutions. Before you do this, evaluate your resolutions based on following and make your resolutions as specific as possible.

• Are you being your best self in striving for these goals?

• Is the goal you set for yourself is realistic ?

• Will this increase your level of stress?

• Are you working on what’s important or are you distracted?

• Is it too much too soon?

• Is your resolution achievable?

  • Do you have enough resources like time and money necessary to achieve your resolution?

Evaluating your resolutions helps you determine whether you are moving towards your goals. When you develop awareness of how your goals are making you feel, you can begin a new approach, by redefining and fine tuning them. Instead of being negative or getting discouraged or overwhelmed by them, take time to evaluate in an honest way and plan on action in incorporating them in your daily schedule. Here are some strategies to fine tune your resolutions.

Focus one at a time

Setting too many resolutions can lead to exhaustion in trying to keep up with them and you tend to lose focus. To do ‘all the things’, you will find yourself doing none of it. It is better to focus on few good habits, instead of trying to start many and never getting the hang of when the end of the year comes around. List all the possible goals and choose one or more that mean the most to you. Focus on one and add new ones only after achieving the first.

Prioritise

You will never have time for your resolutions if you wait until you are free. Make time for them. What you do have, however are activities that you need to complete by the end of the year, or within the chosen time frame. In order to manage those activities and ensure that they get completed within the desired time frame, you need to prioritise. Focus on those that are needed and say ‘no’ to things that are not in line with your bigger life goals.

Keep your resolutions realistic

Make your resolutions sustainable and achievable by making small changes rather than unsustainable drastic changes. Make subtle changes which increase your chances of success. Fine tune your goals to be clear and measurable. Create SMART goals -specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Treat yourself with enough compassion by not putting too much pressure on yourself or stressing yourself up to achieve them.

Develop patience

Overcoming your temptations and resistance during incorporating certain changes into your schedule takes time and needs your patience. Your resolution to change a bad habit or setting a new habit takes time. Just because it takes time, you need not fall of the wagon and give up on yourself or your resolutions year after year. Have enough patience to give yourself time to get better at the changes you wanted to make.

Be consistent

Consistency is important when it comes to keeping up with your resolutions. When you do something every day, and consistently, it becomes a part of your routine. Consistent actions will propel you towards your goal. Even choosing a small task will motivate you to do more. Prevent too many exceptions and allowing yourself to come up with excuses. Keep up with your resolutions everyday until they become a habit.

Reevaluate your progress

If your goals are the same as they have always been, something clearly isn’t working. You may need to make changes or adjustments to fulfil certain goals you have set for yourself. Look for any underlying issues that could be the reason. Adjust your processes and reevaluate your actions. You can achieve much more by finding the efficient way to reach your goal.

Make yourself accountable

Realise that at the end of the day, you are the only one dealing with the consequences of your actions. Keep yourself accountable. If your resolutions don’t reflect your beliefs or values, then you’ll have difficulty in achieving them. Self-discipline and ask yourself why it’s important to you. While making resolutions, consider not to make too many exceptions and hold yourself accountable.

Finally, be clear about what your resolutions are, why you are making them, and what the result will be when you are successful. This way, you can create an action plan, stay motivated and achieve your goals and fine tune them.

Conclusion

Take a moment to reflect upon what kind of resolutions you want to make for the coming year. Apply the above strategies to evaluate your resolutions and fine tune them to make them realistic and achievable. Once you make your resolutions, commit to whatever you have planned, do them and be consistent in your efforts. Don’t force it if its really not working out in the long run. Give yourself an option to exit if its not working out or if it is no longer in line with your vision, but otherwise hold yourself to your resolutions and achieve your goals.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.“

Abraham Lincoln,

Overcome your impatience

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”– Saadi

We are always taught different life lessons while growing up starting from how to tie our shoelaces to how to be a nice person. We all turn out to be pretty decent human beings. But when it comes to certain virtues like patience, we all seem to be lacking and struggle with. We always grow impatient in situations that we cannot control. Waiting always gets us worked up. Impatience always sets in when waiting in long lines, being put on hold, or interacting with disagreeable people. We also grow impatient on our road to change from bad habits or behaviour or recovering from illness or addictions.

So, What causes impatience?

Impatience is lack of patience,eager desire for relief or change; restlessness and intolerance of anything that thwarts, delays, or hinders. Technology and an increased access to information also has contributed to our impatience. In a world where we can access any information and order what we want within few seconds, patience can be hard to come by. We are so saturated and conditioned to having everything we need right at our fingertips with immediacy that we are no longer used to waiting. Pressure is always on us to attain certain goals, and with that comes the need to get things done in short amount of time. This instantaneous, the rapid, the quick, the get-it-done-right now kind of mindset makes us impatient.

Impatience can also be rooted back to certain underlying beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world around. Impatience can be caused by,

• Subconscious belief that you are not good enough or other self-limiting beliefs about yourself.

• Your inherent unhappiness with yourself and belief that you had to get to somewhere before you could be happy.

• Certain fixation with future on reaching a certain end goal or to achieve bigger visions, and accomplish more goals.

• Feelings of anger and frustration when things do not go as plan or your way.

• A great sense of urgency to get things over with and to move on to the next thing or task.

• Lack of present moment awareness and dwelling on future.

• Thoughts like “why is this slow?” or “what’s next.” would lead you to being impatient.

• When things get delayed or moving at slower pace than you want or the mindset of wanting everything right now.

Your expectations for immediate attention can negatively impact your productivity, patience and well-being. Studies reveal that higher levels of impatience cause major health conditions over time. Sometimes the urge to achieve your goals manifests into impatience causing annoyance at things standing in your way and gives rise to tension and fear-based emotions. Even though the negative effects of impatience cannot be observed immediately, but they slowly compound over time. It is only when you learn to be more patient that you can know the difference.

What is patience?

Patience is the capability to accept or tolerate delay or difficulties without getting angry or upset. It is a state of endurance under difficult circumstances.

Being patient gives you a feeling of equanimity, a calmness of mind that makes it easier to go through life’s ups and downs.

Why develop patience?

Sometimes the challenges make us vulnerable, possibly afraid, and we have knee-jerk responses to protect ourselves. These responses make an already stressful and unpleasant situation worse. You should learn to make a conscious effort to respond to such situations differently. Patience is the process of turning inwards towards your inner strength. It is strength to stay still with the vulnerable feelings and the restlessness rather than giving into the emotional urge to do something in reaction to what has triggered you.

It is important to develop patience as it increases feelings of happiness as well as reduces stress and anxiety. It also improves productivity because it creates a better and clear state of mind. Here is why you should develop patience.

Persistence

With patience you can be persistent and stay on your goals for the long run. You don’t have to cut corners or do things in hurry, instead you can patiently work things out, do what needs to be done, and make things happen. You can commit to stay with what is right to achieve your goals.

Self-control

To change yourself from bad habits, anger, and frustration, it takes time and if you have the patience, you can wait for yourself to get there. You build self-control to put up with situations that involve difficulties. It develops the capacity to tolerate annoyance, or pain, or irritation.

Clarity

Sometimes you are met with certain obstacles. Such times, you don’t see things clearly because of impatience as it causes the feelings of self-doubt and decreases your confidence. Instead by being patient, you can gain clear vision of why something happened when it did.

Better decision-making.

Impatience makes you end up making poor decisions in order to get you to your desired goal quickly which can affect your health and your happiness. Whereas by not being stressed and anxious about something, you gain time to get clarity and can come to the best possible solution.

Acceptance

Being patient helps you to connect and engage with your feelings or emotions. Your acceptance of how you feel about a given situation and what you can realistically do about it grows. Your acceptance of self help you overcome negative emotions and behaviour.

How to practice patience?

To practice patience, external approaches like enforcing affirmations and regulation of breathing can be helpful. But to create a permanent change, you need to address the root cause by reflecting on your beliefs, thoughts and behaviour.

Here are some strategies to overcome impatience and to practice patience.

Identify impatient thought patterns

Notice when you are feeling rushed and stressed. This may be due to your unreasonable expectations or beliefs of needing everything now. Start by observing your patterns of impatience arising in your thoughts. Identify the triggers for such patterns like being put on hold, facing a long wait, figuring out a solution for a problem. By recognising the impatient mental patterns, you will be better able to accept them and can make a conscious effort to overcome such patterns by responding to them in a different way.

Keep your expectations realistic

Our expectations are often not realistic. For instance, while attempting to learn a new skill, we get impatient by thinking that we should be able to master new skill quickly. Keeping your expectations realistic and knowing them can help you build patience to achieve your desired goals. Understand that not everyone and everything runs on your schedule and other people and situations need not conform to your expectations. Be patient with situations that are not in your control.

Maintain a proper perspective

Practice the habit of maintaining a positive perspective, instead of dwelling on things that are making you impatient. shift your perspective to positive thoughts, affirmations and outcomes. The ability to reframe a situation by looking at it from a different and positive point of view makes any situation more tolerable and it provides you with the needed patience.

Practice slowing down

Because of impatience, you might resort to making poor decisions even though the odds are against your long-term success of achieving your goals. Slowing down can help you in making better decisions that are more likely to give you better results. Practice being mindful in your activities like walking slow, eating mindfully, incorporating a day of rest in your schedule as this can allow you to reflect and you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

Cultivate compassion

Being compassionate helps you to see the circumstance for what it really is, and not how it appears to be or feels. Think of how you can be more compassionate in an impatient situation, or how you can transform the frustration into something useful for someone. This lets you see small things you otherwise would have taken for granted. This way you can focus onto something much more productive or useful for everybody.

Finally, Be mindful. Make conscious choice to pay attention to that which is going on in your field of awareness. Being mindful allows you to respond, not in anger, but instead with patience and it also helps in accepting things as they are. Being aware of your thoughts in the moment, you can remind yourself to be patient.

Conclusion

Patience is an important virtue to cultivate. You can build healthy mind, body, and healthy relationships. You experience less stress by learning to be patient with yourself. Remember that anything worth your while takes time and effort. So, don’t be discouraged or anxious if your progress is slow, remember that change is supposed to take time. Try to build the above mentioned strategies in your daily activities to grow more patient with yourself and with those around you.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

How to get your thoughts working for you

The decisions and choices we make determine the direction we take in our lives, and we do so by our thoughts. Thoughts if aligned with our goals and with what we want to achieve can take us forward—and, obviously, this is the direction most of us want to take. But many times, we go in the opposite direction because of various negative factors. We must be able to Identify and get these thoughts working for us,

Instead of they moving us away from our goals and shifting our direction. With conscious effort, we can correct their alignment by making them more harmonious with our desires and get these thoughts work for us and not against.

Your thoughts have huge influence on the choices you make.

We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggers the next, without we being consciously aware of the process. We launch our desires in the form of a thought and they are an important part of our inner wisdom. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. We shape our lives by the choices made around these beliefs and build our identity without even realising it. Every choice you’ve made – the big or small ones – have lead you to this moment in your life. We contribute towards the creation of every condition in our lives with our internal thought process influencing us. But when we get involved in negative emotions and feelings, we begin to compare, criticise, form opinions, and we fall out of tune, and tend to make wrong choices thereby making them work against to what we want to achieve.

Your thoughts have consequences

Everything that has or had not happened in your life is because of the choices you have made so far and your thoughts play a major role. Our mind has a tendency to dwell on the past or stress about the future and can often cause us more confusion and stress leading to negative and stressful thoughts. When your mind is untrained, it can lead you to a negative path based on past memories and perceptions. More negative thoughts, more are the chances of making bad choices and this can further sabotage your efforts of creating the life you would dream of. It is simple fact that positive thoughts lead to better choices and thus to a positive life. Negativity leads to limited and wrong choices,

You are the creator of your thoughts

You are the only person who is in charge of your thoughts. You get to have whatever you choose to think. So rather than trying to stop thinking, it is important to train yourself to a habit of thinking the sort of thoughts you want which help you make better choices. By changing your thoughts you can change your reality. According to science, our brain is highly flexible and have the ability to reset its circuit through what we choose to focus our thoughts on. You have the power to use your thoughts to rewire your brain to positive pathways.

Why is it important to get your thoughts working for you

We say we want to be happy, but we make choices that bring us the opposite. It’s your choices that create your experiences.

“ your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish.”

If you believe that you can change a thought, then your choice of this thought will make it true for you.

Your thoughts are shaped by your memories, your goals, your desires, your beliefs that makes you who you are. But your thoughts can’t always be trusted as some of them might be created by your negativity of emotions and feelings. For instance, you might want things to be, rather than accepting whatever might happen when you put forth your best effort. You get frustrated because you are attached to how you want them to be, rather than accepting them as they are. You might choose to procrastinate, as you are attached to things being easy and comfortable rather than accepting that to do something, you have to push into discomfort and so on.

Acquiring a positive mental attitude can:

Free you from your negative self

By making positive choices you precisely free yourself from all the negativity inhabiting your mind. Negative thoughts and choices prevent you from making a step forward because they make you feel incapable of doing something. You surrender to them each time and never consider going against them. This makes you take poor and limited choices. With positive thinking, you can liberate yourself from negativity rooted inside you.

Open up different possibilities

Negativity compels you to behave in a specified manner and you tend to restrict yourself from taking action as you are frightened of certain outcome. Hence, you cannot go beyond that outcome and cannot increase your possibilities. Your mind gets conditioned to see the bleak side of thing. By making your thoughts positive, you can see different possibilities and resolve a situation in the best possible manner.

Help in self-empowerment

Positive thinking empowers you by identifying your unique skill set and talents which otherwise you would have never explored due to your negative thoughts and choices. Positive thinking boosts your confidence to find out what you are good at and helps you make good choices. You can refine your raw talents and make them help you to achieve your goals.

How to get your thoughts working for you

“ you are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” – Zig Ziglar

A positive thought process can help you focus on the positive and productive by shutting out the negative and unrewarding. Choose your thoughts to take yourself from where you are to where you want to be. Acknowledge and transform your negative thoughts and get them aligned with your goals and not against.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to reinforce your positive thoughts and choices.

Stop blaming

Stop blaming your past, or people for how your life is. Nobody has a perfect life and many have lived through bad phases. You cannot change your past, however you can choose to change how you feel about it and how you allow it to affect you. Don’t choose to hang on to your old story as your excuse for how awful your life is right now. You don’t have to blame yourself for negative experiences. Let go of all guilt, blame and do not hate yourself for having negative thoughts. Learn from these experiences and use them to build you up to take you towards your goals.

Challenge your negative thoughts

Identify your negative thoughts and challenge as to how realistic your current concerns are and their logic. Test the illogical thoughts. Analyse how likely each of those thing is to actually happen and how you would deal with the problem if it were to occur. You need to keep reinforcing positive thoughts. This will open up your possibilities. “When the negative weeds grow, pluck them out as quickly as you can.”

At the same time do not punish yourself for making negative choices, you’ll find it difficult to let them go and move on to more positive choices.

Avoid being delusional

Your life is a result of the choices you make. If you don’t like your life, it is time to start making better choices.”

If you don’t like the choices that have gotten you up to this point, face the truth and identify what isn’t working in your life. Take a step back and figure out why. Do not delude yourself that things are going to get better to make you happy. Don’t fall victim to fake hope syndrome by setting unrealistic expectations and making frequent attempts to change them.

Practice positive mental diet

When you feed your mind with positive affirmations, information, conversations, books and thoughts, you develop a more positive attitude and can make positive choices. ‘Good-in, Good-out.’ When you make a clear decision to eliminate negativity, you can choose to make positive choices that make you more capable and competent. A positive mind keepe the thoughts in sync with your goals, plans and dreams.

Stop complaining

If you want something different from what you have right now, then you have to do something different from what you’re doing. If you want others to treat you differently, start yourself treating differently. Stop complaining and start taking responsibility for the way things are in your life. If you want different outcomes, make different choices. Desires and goals can produce anxiety, stress, and competitiveness and you need to recognise those that do. you can choose to rearrange your thoughts to make the situation better instead of wasting time in complaining.

Practice positive self-talk

Just because you say you want something different or better, your inner being is not going to go along with you. What you believe about yourself and your worthiness or ability to have what you want is important. It is important to build self-worth and value in yourself because when you feel not good enough, you choose ways to keep yourself miserable, choose to procrastinate, and might opt for unhealthy food choicesnand habits. Positive self-talk is programming yourself to change. Using positive affirmations and positive statements to control your inner dialoguelets you make better choices.

Practice mindfulness

In mindfulness, you will essentially be looking at your own thoughts and can assess them. Be persistent in giving yourself few quite moments each day to reflect on your process of change. Become aware of negative thoughts and nurture the willingness to let go of them.

Nourish and affirm your intentions to keep you on track and enable you to meet your goals.

Finally, take full responsibility for where you are currently in life. If you’re not happy with what you have today and make a choice right now to make a change in your life by changing the way you think in order to make your thoughts work for you. Recognise the power of the freedom of will which allows you to change anything that you do not agree with.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” —Stephen Covey

Stay consistent with change

We all have certain personal behaviours we wish we could change. Whether this change can be related to healthy eating choices, lifestyle choices, decisions related to work or relationship choices. Some of us set goals to achieve our dreams or improve our behaviour and wellness. And in order to achieve these goals, certain negative habitual patterns need to be replaced by positive ones that actually stick. But despite our intentions, more often we fail to be consistent in our efforts. When we are starting out in a new goal, we are full of energy and enthusiasm. We eagerly make changes in the first few weeks. But as the days pass on, the newness wears off and we fall off the wagon back into old behavioural and habitual patterns. Many lack potential to be consistent with the change.

Why is it difficult to change and be consistent with change once we decide upon it!

The main reason being our own perception of change. We begin to form these perceptions from a young age. Because of this, thinking of change makes us feel uneasy and we start resisting changes we wish we could have made. Because of the perceived risk or fear attached to it, we end up procrastinating, stressing ourselves up or ending up dropping the changes and resorting to old behavioural or negative habitual patterns.

We always have a choice when it comes to choosing between self-managed lifestyle and our present orientation. Most of our positive habits develop out of necessity, without specific intention. This can make us inconsistent in following our resolutions inspite of putting in the time and effort. We are often unaware and unprepared for change because of our habitual nature of our behaviour, which drives much of our daily activities as often as usual. Change in our habitual behaviour cannot happen in linear fashion or in a single moment but only occurs gradually.

Factors that obstruct change

When we want to implement a change, we temporarily face resistance by becoming angry and withdrawn. Thinking “it’s all hopeless and impossible to make changes, so, why try?” or “just stay the way you are” is what usually keeps you from it. when we have some habitual and behavioural patterns buried deeply within us, often our reaction is to think the approach is silly, or it doesn’t make sense, or unacceptable. We don’t want to do it. Because of this it becomes difficult to switch between habitual behaviour and deliberate decision. The effective method is to reduce the habitual control over behaviour and modify the factors that control the behaviour.

Here are some factors which impede your ability to be consistent with the change.

• Even when you know your old habits are inefficient, you remain convinced that they are necessary for success.

• Your environment is unsupportive of the habits you are trying to cultivate or the changes you’re trying to make.

• Undervaluing the achievement and overvaluing the importance of the interruption.

• Misplaced belief in a less effective habit leads you astray and a positive belief in bad habits turn a habit into a permanent behaviour.

• Lack of motivation and lack of conscious intention towards change.

• Incorrect perception of the advantages of change and deeply ingrained contrary perspectives interfere with your ability to keep up with the change.

• Having an inflated self control belief or overestimating the ability to control can increase chances of exposing yourself to impulsiveness.

• Not having proper commitment to plan, act and make substantial adjustments to keep up with the intended change.

To shift from habit to goal-directed action, you have to make an effort to do small things that will add up to you moving in that direction of change. The mind is a pattern making system. You should be capable of breaking out of inherited collective mind-patterns and cast off your limitations in order to adopt to your new behaviour to be in consistent with it.

Here are certain ways to progress in the direction of change and to be consistent.

Identify consistent cues

Our behaviours are triggered by physical and mental cues. When you put your plans into action, you have to make substantial adjustments to your routine, environment, your relationship and to yourself in order to further the change you desire. For instance, if you are looking to decrease procrastination, you should follow a realistic and purposeful daily schedule. By engaging in habits consistently, you can maintain a stable routine. Identify those things that happen with relative consistency from your daily routine and use them as anchors for your new behaviour or habits.

Be persistent in your efforts

From the moment you decide to make a change until you get the demonstration, there is a transitional period. You tend to go back and forth between what was and what you would like to be or to have. Don’t beat yourself up for the step backward and view it as a relapse into past habits. Trust that you will have plenty of days in the future to get back on track. At the same time remember to praise yourself for each small step forward that you make. Reflect back on advantages of the commitment you have made to be persistent in your efforts.

Develop insight awareness

Most of the times, you may not find yourself commit to making a change because of feeling a overwhelming sense of uncertainty. By analysing the advantages and disadvantages of continuing with the proposed behaviour and thinking through all possible avenues towards change, can help you in setting measurable goals and not to give up on them easily. It is essential to look at how your old habitual behaviour may conflict with your personal goals. This can be helpful to correct your perception of the advantage of change and can motivate you to progress in the direction of change.

Rely on intrinsic motivation

Sometimes, intrinsic motivation enhances your efforts of staying consistent with change by directly reinforcing the changed habits or behaviour. If you are intrinsically motivated, you continue with the changed habit or behaviour because you find it inherently satisfying. On the other hand, if your change is influenced by pressure from others, your willingness to be with the change will be short lived. By knowing why that desired change is important to you, you can reinforce your willingness to keep up and you can get through brief periods of temptation and can provide yourself with positive reinforcement of your changed behaviour or habit.

Practice self-reflection

Once your desired habit or behaviour is established, chances of returning to old habits or behaviour may always be present. It is important to avoid those things that might trigger your old behaviours or habits to reappear. Avoid overthinking or feeling guilty if you find yourself fluctuating back and forth. Reflecting upon these triggers can help you avoid them the next time around. Acknowledge your responsibility in having created that condition and plan on what you would do differently in the future to avoid these triggers.

Finally,

Develop mental agility to deal with change more effectively. Work on your own change. Do not identify with unhappy, fearful and limited self. Cast off your limitations. Break out of inherited collective mind-patterns and habits to achieve whatever you intend.

In conclusion

The majority of people fail at building life-changing habits because they start strong but give up early. You can’t focus on achieving something overnight. It takes time until you are strong in the new and have gone through complete change. Until then, you must be vigilant in your endeavours to change. Even the tiniest of efforts, when done consistently that brings you good results over time.

Notice if any of your long-standing behaviours are causing anxiety, guilt, fear, or depression, identify as to what factors are controlling your behaviour and work on changing them one by one and stay consistent in your efforts.

Disconnect from distractions

The ability to produce quality work and the ability to quickly master hard things is an important requisite in today’s work environments. The process of using rapidly changing technologies requires that you hone the ability to learn increasingly complex set of relevant skills. To be able to transform these skills into valuable results, your attention needs to be focused without any distractions. But in today’s technologically advanced world, producing quality work at an optimal rate has become a difficult task as we embrace distractions at various levels and this decreases our ability to do high quality and meaningful work. The main culprit being the culture of connectivity where one is expected to respond quickly to a mail or to a message. Checking mail and social networking sites, surfing the web, and visual mediums have become major obstacles in cultivating a deep work habit.

Here are certain behaviours that distract you from quality work.

Multitasking

Trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously, your attention remains divided. There will be a residue of your attention that remains when you switch from one task to another. Those who experience attention residue after switching tasks are more prone to distractions.

Constant need for connectivity

Workplaces with trends like active presence on social media might create more opportunities to collaborate but they do so at the cost of many distractions. We increasingly becoming the victims of online distractions. They fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate. They tend to pull your attention thereby weaken your willpower to focus on important things.

Unstructured thinking

Without any built-in goals, rules and challenges you cannot produce work of real value. When you lack planning and cannot figure out what you should be working on and for how long results in shallow work and short-term gains.

Busyness

By sending and answering mails at all hours, scheduling and attending meetings constantly, instant messaging within seconds when someone poses a query —all these behaviours make you seem busy but do not always result in high value work.

Lack of priority

Our dependence on connectivity results in paying attention to irrelevant things. When you lose focus on really important things, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong instead of what’s right giving into frustration,stress and triviality. These shallow concerns take up most of your time thereby keeping you away from doing quality work.

Many of us assume that we can transform our working life from distracted to focused overnight and that we can switch between a state of distraction and one of concentration as needed, but once you are wired for distraction, you begin to crave it and it becomes difficult to bring your focus back with one time decision to think or work deeper. Your brain becomes accustomed to on-demand distraction and is hard to change the habit even when you want to concentrate. You will struggle to achieve higher levels of concentration unless you disconnect yourself from these distractions.

You have to make your deep work a priority to meet your personal and professional goals. By integrating the habit of doing high quality and meaningful work into your schedule and supporting it with routines and rituals, you will be able to achieve your concentration ability.

The following strategies can help you maximise your personal ability to produce quality work. By adapting to some personal work habits, you can take more effective action towards your goal of achieving real results.

Schedule your work

Scheduling eliminates shallow obligations by having a highly valued professional or personal goal. By dedicating some clearly defined stretches of time to vital tasks, you can leave the time for not so important ones. By developing routines, by making sure little bit gets done on a regular basis, you can fit deep work habit whenever you can into your schedule. To make most of your time, build rituals of the same level of strictness.

Focus on your ‘priorities’

Your work should be aimed at small number of important goals. Simplifying and focusing on priorities will improve your intensity to get valuable results. Identify a small number of outcomes to pursue with your quality work hours. Spending more time doing quality work may not generate lot of enthusiasm. Instead have a specific goal that would return tangible benefits.

Work on the ‘lead measures’

Lag measures describe the thing you are trying to improve and lead measures are the hours spent working on your important goals. Lag measures cannot immediately generate a noticeable change in your ability to reach your goal. You cannot change your behaviour as the performance that driven them is already in the past. Lead measures on the other hand, turn your attention to improving the behaviours you directly control in the near future and will have a positive impact on your long-term goals.

Keep a scoreboard

By recording and tracking the hours spent doing quality work or your lead measure, creates a sense of competence and drives you to focus on these measures even when there are distractions. Keeping track of quality work hours with simple tally of tick marks maximises your motivation. Your scoreboard can help you understand what leads to bad days of work and most important, to figure out how to ensure a good score for the days ahead. This way, you can disconnect with your distractions to keep a compelling scoreboard and can create a pattern of accountability.

Set deadlines

Set expected time of completion for your important tasks on your priority list. You can motivate yourself by setting a countdown and can work with greater intensity and with no distractions. You can plan on taking occasional break from focus to give into distractions. By providing interval training for the attention centres of brain, you can minimise the number of times you give into distractions.

Apply the ‘law of vital few’

Many different activities can contribute to you achieving your goals. According to the law of vital few, only twenty percent of theses activities provide the bulk of the benefit. By listing some of your distinct and beneficial activities for each of your life goals, the top two or three such activities only make most of the difference in whether or not you succeed. Try to list only those which are specific to your goal.

Structure your ‘leisure time’

Don’t use networking tools for entertainment when it comes relaxation as they weaken your mind’s general ability to resist distraction thereby making it difficult for you to concentrate later when you really want to. Structure your leisure time by filling your free time with something of more quality than instead of allowing your mind to be lost in unstructured web surfing and other distractions. If you give your mind a quality alternative, you’ll end the day more fulfilled and can begin the next day more relaxed.

Finally,

strengthen your distraction-resistant muscle by practicing productive meditation. You can do this when you are occupied physically but not mentally by focusing on a single well-defined professional or personal problem or a hard task. When faced with hard tasks, your mind will attempt to avoid them by looping over and over again on what you already know. By structuring your thinking, you will be able to redirect your attention to the next step and will be able to set a specific target for your attention. This way, you can strengthen your distraction-resistance and sharpen your concentration.

Conclusion

Distraction remains a destroyer of deep and meaningful work. Try and optimise your efforts and keep them structured by following above mentioned strategies.

Take back the control of your time and attention from the many distractions that attempt to steal them by making your deep goal a mental priority.

Participate in the process of listening

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know, but if you listen, you may learn something new.”

– Dalai Lama

Conversations are fundamental aspects of our everyday lives and work environments. Most of us engage in different conversations with friends, co-workers and family members. But most of the time we fail to give them our complete attention and thereby fail to listen to what other person is saying. Just hearing the other person and being fully present in the moment are not the same. Hearing is a physical, natural and passive process as compared to listening which is mental, active, and learned process.

People are often selective listeners. They focus on few key words and ignore most of the other communication. They get distracted by external factors like noises or random sounds, and internal factors like self-talk or thoughts or emotions. By passively absorbing, you cannot remember the context of what someone is sharing. The more vocal you are at meetings, at public functions or even social gatherings, the greater your perceived value as a keen-minded person and same holds true with listening. In expressing yourself verbally, you perforce have to take an “either or” position. In our zeal to be seen as being either “pro” or “anti” something, we often lose the sight of the larger picture. This larger picture can be seen only by engaging yourself in active listening.

Active listening is important to collaborate, to increase productivity and to fuel your creative thinking. It focuses on understanding the speaker beyond his/ her words and takes into account the feelings, emotions and beliefs underlying the speech. Active listening creates a safe, comfortable atmosphere to discuss and exchange thoughts and ideas.

What is Active listening?

It is a way of being attentive, fully present in the moment, concentrating, engaging in the conversation and absorbing what the other person is saying to you. The emphasis is on listening and involves being attentive and respectful to the speaker. This allows understanding, and builds rapport and trust with the person in conversation. It paves way for learning by expanding the conversation and provides a wider perspective of looking at things rather than in a limited context.

Most of the times we don’t actively listen to the information and ideas being shared by others as we are too eager to share our personal ideas. By actively engaging in listening to what is being shared helps you to know and acknowledge work-related or personal issues of other people.

When you fail at listening you are sending out an armada of negative messages. You are saying:

• I don’t care about you.

• I don’t understand you.

• You are wrong.

• You are wasting time.

Active listening is an important skill that needs to be developed and can be honed into a habit with practice. Here are certain ways to develop the habit.

Respond, Don’t react.

Do not give instinctive responses without proper understanding. Listen to the content of the speech by focusing on the specific words that are being used. Understand the context. Share feedback by responding to what is being shared.

Wait, Don’t interrupt.

Do not break the speaker’s flow no matter how important and relevant your input is. Wait until you are sure the person has completed what he or she had to say and then offer your inputs. Exercise patience, short periods of pause should be expected.

Encourage, Don’t ask close-ended questions.

Encourage the speaker with open-ended questions that begin with why, who, what, where, and how. Open-ended questions enable more descriptive answers and show that you are taking keen interest. Ask questions to understand things better and not in a bid to demonstrate your intelligence or superiority.

Focus, Don’t distract.

Distracting thoughts can pose a serious barrier to active listening. Become aware of your self-talk. Thoughts like ‘I think this person is just wasting my time’ can distract your active listening. Convert such self-talk into positive statements such as “There’s always something to learn from others.” Focusing on what is being said makes you a better listener.

Provide affirmations, Don’t be defensive.

Include words such as ‘sure’ or “that’s interesting.” Don’t let your emotions get in the way. Adopt a pragmatic approach as a listener. Instead of offering a counter argument, try to understand the other speakers’s point of view and try to see things from their perspective. Paraphrasing can eliminate misunderstandings and increases empathy and rapport. Paraphrased statements begin with “Are you saying that…” or “ What I understand is…”

How does Active listening help?

Learning how to be an active listener is very beneficial. In a professional context, active listening can help shape you into a better leader and co-worker. In a personal context, when you give your attention to people expressing thoughts and sharing their experiences, your ability to understand improves your perceived value.

Here are few ways in which being an active listener can help you overcome obstacles.

Provides optimal solutions.

Workplaces are often fuelled by stress and pressure that requires you to handle multiple situations and people. This can be often demanding and you have to make sure that all the tasks are tackled and addressed. Being an active listener —whether by asking questions or summarising to ensure clear and better understanding — helps you to quickly assess the problems and subsequently helps you arrive with accurate and optimal solutions and can resolve them in a timely manner. Without active listening, you would find gaps in your knowledge and you may not be able to offer a solution.

Provides fresh points of view.

Active listening makes you better focused at the new ideas presented at your work place or in your daily life. Active listening improves your ability to analyse and recognise the difference between facts and opinions. You can uncover the assumptions and be open to new ideas and relate to old ones. You will be better equipped to take useful notes and fresh points of view. This can further bring positive outcomes.

Builds trust and collaboration.

Encouraging your coworkers to freely reach out with their concerns makes you supportive person at work place. Knowing and acknowledging work-related or personal issues that they are dealing with will make you feel valued. Active listening forms the basis for lasting relationships and building trust whether between partners or workplace or parents and children and friends.

Children and adults who have been actively listened to are more emotionally mature, more open to sharing their experiences, less defensive and more cooperative.

Finally, Active listening strengthens interpersonal relationships and breaks down barriers. Always maintain eye contact and avoid distractions by muting cell phones and moving away from other electronic devices when you engage yourself in conversations with others.

Practicing active listening will help you become a better student, more efficient in your job, develop patience and send positive messages.

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”

Zeno of Citium

Change your mindset

Mindsets are an important part of your personality and behaviour. Your ‘personality mindset’ comes into play in situations that involve your personal qualities — how dependable, cooperative, caring or socially skilled you are. People always think, act and fare differently from each other. These differences are mainly due to people’s backgrounds, experiences, training or ways of learning. The view thus adopted for yourself has a profound affect on the way you lead your life. This view becomes your mindset and can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.

The two mindsets

Believing that your qualities are fixed and thinking that you have certain kind of intelligence, certain personality and a moral character makes you a person of fixed mindset. For people with fixed mindset, human qualities are like they are carved in stone and intelligence or personality is something that is fixed or is a deep-seated trait.

Believing that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop and that human qualities are not fixed and you can always make an effort to improve yourself makes you a person of growth mindset. People with growth mindset do not waste time proving how great they are, but instead believe that the basic qualities can be cultivated through learning and they constantly better themselves with continuous effort.

Fixed mindset vs growth mindset

Most of us are trained in fixed mindset from an early age creating a mindset in which our one consuming goal is to look smart and prove ourselves in classrooms, careers, and in our relationships.

People with fixed mindset have a constant urge to prove themselves to others and they feel rejected with minor disappointments and setbacks. Do not confuse yourself fixed mindset with low self esteem. They are just as worthy and optimistic when they aren’t coping with failure. They strongly believe “If at first you don’t succeed, you probably don’t have the ability.” Or “ If Rome wasn’t built in a day, may be it wasn’t meant to be.”

Fixed mindset does not let you believe in putting effort or getting help, and makes you fear the challenges with its focus on permanent traits. People with this mindset tend to misestimate their performance and their ability. This turns them into non-learners and lose interest when things get too challenging. They have higher levels of depression and ruminate over minor problems and setbacks.

On the contrary, growth mindset lets you understand the power of persistence and the importance of taking risks. It lets you recognise the value of challenges and overcoming obstacles. People with growth mindset think they can work much harder and always resolve to do better. They strongly believe in “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

It is interesting to know that those with the growth mindset can identify their own strengths and weaknesses. This leads to the love of challenge, belief in effort, and resilience in the face of setbacks. With their focus on development, they take action to confront their problems and become more determined to take up the challenges.

Mindset shift

By being aware of both mindsets, you can start thinking in new ways. All of us have elements of both — a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. People can also have different mindsets in different areas.

Your personality or intelligence is something you can develop. You can always make an effort to shift your mindset in order to take better action. Mindset is not a fixed quantity and can be changed or increased with practice, training, and above all you can improve your attention, memory, and your judgment. A simple shift in your mindset can transform you into the person you want to be and can accomplish the things you value.A mindset shift lets you-

love what you are doing.

Believing talents can be developed allows you to fulfil your potential. Growth mindset allows people to love what they are doing. Many successful people didn’t even plan to go to the top. They arrived there as a by-product of their enthusiasm and love for what they did. In the fixed mindset, you tend to base everything on outcome. It makes you think if you fail or if you are not the best—it is all been wasted. By changing your mindset, you begin to value and love what you are doing regardless of outcome.

value effort.

Fixed mindset undermines the value of effort. It makes you think effort is for those who don’t have the ability or “Things come easily to people who are true geniuses” or “If you have to work at something, you must not be good at it.” We begin to prefer effortless success and become intolerant of mistakes, criticism or setbacks as we constantly crave for validation by others.

Whereas by changing you perspective to growth mindset, you begin to admire the effort, for no matter what your ability is. You can catch yourself when you are in the throes of the fixed mindset — like instead of getting discouraged when something requires lot of effort, challenge yourself and continue your effort. Know that many successful people did not have natural ability, but developed exceptional skills through their effort.

overcome failures.

Growth mindset doesn’t let failure define you. Failure for growth mindset is something to be faced, dealt with, and learned from. It makes you concerned with improving as you are open to the accurate information about your current abilities. People with fixed mindset instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, they simply try to repair their self-esteem by assigning blame or making excuses. Growth mindset thinkers correct their deficiencies and learn from their mistakes in an effort to better themselves.

Here is how you can change your mindset:

• A fixed mindset can undo your learning habit. When we try to learn something new, may be a sport, dance or a new skill, many times it gets hard and we opt out either because you felt bored or tired. Next time this happens don’t let the fixed mindset take over. Do not assume you are always bad at it. Well, may be you are, but then may be you aren’t. Grow your mind set by putting in the effort in learning.

• It feels nice to surround yourself with people who make you feel faultless. It is always tempting to create a world in which we feel perfect. But you will never be able to grow. Try and seek constructive criticism.

• If you think something from your past, like being rejected or a test score or a callous action, measured you wrong, focus on that thing and feel all the emotions that go with it. Get into the growth mindset perspective. Understand your role in your growth and know that it doesn’t define your personality or intelligence.

• Next time you feel depressed or low, grow your perspective by thinking about learning, challenging and by confronting obstacles. Think about your effort as a positive and more constructive force.

• When people outdo you, instead of assuming that they were smarter or more talented, consider that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that too if you grow your mindset.

Finally, most of us become the targets of negative stereotyping. Even when the negative label comes along, you can remain incharge by developing your growth mindset.

Fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is the starting point for change, but you need to decide for yourself where you need to put it n your efforts and where they would be most valuable.

Get into your “Productive State”

Most people have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done or to be able to fulfil their commitments. People add to their stress levels by taking on more than they can handle. Various options and opportunities bring with them the pressures of decision making. These pressures make people frustrated about how to improve their situation. By learning productivity you can organise and prioritise better and you can get your time back so you can focus on making progress and helps you improve your situation.

Planning and scheduling your tasks helps you gain more focus. In the process, you can create a positive work atmosphere and lifestyle practices that foster clarity, control, creativity and relaxation.

Better organisational techniques like planning and preparing can enhance your productivity levels. Thinking in more effective ways to handle different work situations can make things happen sooner, better and more successfully.

There is no single technique or tool to perfect organisation and productivity. However, there are certain simple processes that we can all learn to use that will improve our ability to deal more proactively and constructively. These tools can help you focus your energies strategically to create better thinking habits and working environment which otherwise keeps most people from burning out due to stress.

It is possible for you to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively and be fully present in the moment.

Here are some simple practices which can motivate you to become more productive.

Figuring out ‘why’

Why do you want to be more productive? Why are you putting up with a situation in your workplace? Do you want to be better at your job or do you want to get more things done and do more with your time?

Until you have the answer to your ‘why’, there is no possible way to come up with appropriate actions.

By having an answer to your why has following benefits:

• You can define success.

• You can make hard choices and take decisions.

• You can gather possible resources.

• You can be motivated and can have better focus.

Many people forget why they are doing something and what exactly they are trying to achieve – and a simple question like, “ Why am I doing that?” Can get you back on track. Finding the answer to your ‘why’ opens up wider possibilities and expands your thinking.

Figure out your purpose

All of us want to be better at what we are doing. So the main goal should be to find your purpose. To know and to be clear about the purpose can enhance your focus. Because it is easy to get caught up and let your real and primary intentions slip. Your purpose becomes a reference point for your time and energy spent.

Once you have the purpose defined, you can align your resources and can make your decision-making easier. Often the only way to make hard choices is to come back to the purpose of what you are doing. Just taking two minutes and writing your primary reason for doing something makes things clearer and clarifies your focus.

Find your time leaks

Doing things that bring you progress, getting better at your work, investing in compound time to develop your skills, and picking up healthy habits make you productive. Find out where your time is leaking in the process. Think of your top priorities and determine those activities that help you achieve or take you closer to your goals. That is your meaningful work. The rest are meaningless activities that steal your time.

Focus on what matters to optimise your efforts and where to allocate your time more efficiently. Being aware of all the activities that bring you closer to your goal and being aware of the ones that stall your progress help you get your time back.

Create and stick to your to-do list

Organise your daily tasks in order to get things done. Don’t get carried away by writing too long to-do lists. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Overloading your lists is not an effective to-do list format. If you always start with the easiest or most convenient ideas, you will end up pushing the best ones down the list.

Make sure that your to-do list has a purpose and other meaningful activities. Define your tasks related to your goals and order them by importance. If you do not manage to finish them all, move unfinished tasks to your list for the next day. Rinse and repeat. If you carry some tasks on for too many days in a row without working on them, get rid of those tasks completely.

Declutter & Prioritise

Decluttering your routine lets you devote your time to meaningful work. Write down your distractions and find multiple solutions to reduce them. For each distraction, figure out as many solutions until you find the one that works.

Prioritise your tasks according to your goals and choose those that most benefit your purpose.

It will be difficult to cut down your priorities when you have more on your plate to do than you can comfortably handle. Prioritise on the basis of your long term and short term goals, accountabilities, values, areas of focus and current projects. Combine the things you want to do with things you should do.

Get your routine done

It is very easy to start a task you want to do. But what about those tasks you have absolutely no motivation to do? The ones you procrastinate far too long over and never get around to doing? Putting off important tasks can rob your hours of achievement and can become a chronic cycle.

Slacking off and doing unimportant tasks, putting off other tasks makes you habituated to the same process. Then, the loop continues to repeat. You are avoiding the task either because you are not organised or because you are prioritising low value work. To avoid procrastination, identify what you are putting off and do those tasks right away. If getting started is the hardest part, set a designated time slot to do the task.

Stay consistent

The majority of us fail at building life-changing habits because we start strong and give up easily. You need to put effort into accomplishing your goal. Even he tiniest of efforts, when consistently done, brings good results.

Figure out which skill to work upon in order to reach your goal and the task you need to do everyday. Once you have zeroed in on the skill and activity, mark the days you will be working on it and focus on growing your progress on the same. Do not break the chain of progress so that you become consistent with your talent/ skill.

Use your gap time productively

Gap times occur between meaningful activities. Optimise your gap time so you can further develop the skill you need to make you productive. Gap times are small breaks in your schedule or at work, or when you are on long breaks from your work.

Be as strategic about your breaks as you are about your day in general. To use your gap times productively, think about small projects you can accomplish like learning something new, planning your week/day, cleaning up or even working on your other ideas.

Finally, Stay focused.

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control without too much stress. You were probably highly focused on what you were doing and you felt you were making progress.

Next time around if you get far out of that state—and start to feel out of control, stressed out , unfocused and bored—get yourself back into your “productive state.” Hopefully the above methods can inspire you to become more productive and work towards attaining your goals.