Be SMART about your intentions
Words & Images: Nathan Hamer
This Article came to life through a 'Christmas Catch up' with Simon, Bekah, 'Nanna Sue', and Florie (aged 2). All of us; even Florie in her own non-conversational way, being positive people, it was only natural something positive would come out of it. In this case we got talking about me writing another article. 'Pilock in Poland' was mentioned a few times as I'm living in Poland until July, and at times can be compared to Karl Pilkington (An Idiot Abroad). However, in the end it was decided that I should write one on 'New Year Resolutions' or rather 'New Year Intentions'. So here it is:
The concept of New Year Intentions was through Simon's input, and rightfully so, as resolutions are 'resolute' and imply that they are final; whereas intentions are more flexible and allow more space for adjustment. Flexibility and being free to adjust are key components of setting goals. This is because if your target is rigid and fixed, and if you are not achieving that target, it will only make you feel worse and like you are losing. On the other hand, if you feel free to adjust based on your performance, then there is more chance of you achieving your goal and feeling like you're winning. For example, if I set a goal (a resolution) to stop smoking, every cigarette I have through that process would feel like a loss, and in a couple of weeks I would probably give up. But if I set a goal (an intention) to smoke three less cigarettes a day, then I have more freedom to find a target that suits me best in each step of the process. Such as in the first week, only one cigarette less because I’m finding it too difficult, or after one month increase to five less because I'm beginning to feel comfortable. Which leads onto the next point:
Comfort is the enemy of progress!
To achieve anything in life you need to step outside your comfort zone. This may be difficult at first but once you get past that first hurdle of mental resistance, then you will start to gain momentum and the results will start to show. If you are a more visual person then you can see the diagram on the right hand page.
I'll do my best to explain this. Firstly, we have your 'comfort zone'. Now this might be you, retreated in your covers, binge watching a series on Netflix, stuffing yourself with left-over chocolate from selection boxes; although that is a little on the extreme end! Your comfort zone is exactly how it sounds - the place you feel most comfortable. Now please don't get it confused, we all need our comfort zone and it is there for a reason. After a long week we all need a few hours to switch off, and just like physical growth, you need rest for effective mental growth. However, the danger comes when you spend too much time in that place and start to stagnate.
Next there is your 'fear zone' this is that voice in your head, in Buddhism it is referred to as your 'monkey mind', that tells you "No we don't 'need' to do that what's the point?" or "It's best to do it tomorrow when you haven't got X or Y going on". This is something you need to work past, and the mental resistance I mentioned earlier. It is potentially the most dangerous zone to be in when working towards a goal, as your emotions will take over and you will not only let your own thoughts get in the way of your progress, but other people’s opinions too. As awful as this state is, there is no way around it, and requires you to recognise you are there and just push through.
After you have pushed through though, you are rewarded by being in your learning zone. This is the place where you start to see things more systematically and approach your goal head on. It will materialise by you doing some research into the subject you wish to improve, or if research doesn't apply to your goal, then this could also be you learning more about yourself and how you make the most progress with the least resistance.
Lastly comes your growth zone, here is where you will reap what you have sown and begin to see the improvement in yourself. Which could be you stepping on the scales and seeing yourself 6 pounds lighter, taking a sigh of fulfillment after finishing that book you were given for Christmas, or seeing a clean and empty email inbox.
You will have found purpose and feel confident in your ability to continue improving yourself.
I hope that came across as clear as I intended, but please also remember that this isn't a linear process and will be a journey of ups and downs.
Unfortunately understanding and recognising your current position in your journey is only a small part of achieving a goal, the rest is simply hard work. I know at the start of a new year it also almost like there is something in the air (the winds of change if you want to get poetic about it).
But always remember that with each passing day, hour, and minute there are new possibilities and space to achieve your full potential as a human being. Now I understand that there is a lot of new information to take in there and nothing really to guide you in creating goals, so here are a few things that I found helped me in getting stuff done. The most effective tool I use is setting 'S.M.A.R.T targets': Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Time Based. In a world where everything is becoming 'Smart': Smart TV's, Smart meters, Smart lights, and Smart houses. It is vital to ensure you keep with times and make your targets smart as well. An example of a SMART target would be - I will go to Queen's Park gym three times a week before/after work. This is specific because I've stated a date and location. Measurable because I've stated three times (Like in the first paragraph this is free to adjust).
Attainable because three times isn't out of reach for where I'm at personally. And time based because I've said each week. I love SMART targets because they're extremely subjective and I can suit them to exactly what I need.
As well as setting SMART targets one of the best things to do is form habits and routines. Once you are in a routine it makes it much easier to move through the different 'zones' and takes a lot less resistance. It is said it takes 30 days to break an old habit and 30 days to form a new one, although this is just theory.
Finally, something to never take for granted is the company you keep. It is massively invaluable to spend your time with positive people, as W. Clement Stone said 'you are a product of your environment. I have both seen and experienced that firsthand.