Happy New Year! How’s it going two weeks in?

I’m delighted to report that after opting to join in on ‘Dry January’ with a friend, I’m doing surprisingly well, and have become quite the expert in non-alcoholic drinks!?

As you might recall, I’m no big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, my nudge today is about some ways to have a different conversation with yourself starting off this New Year.

Set intentions based on your ‘why’ not your what or how

So what does that mean? Instead of focusing on the same old resolutions that can crop up year after year – lose weight, get fit, change jobs, get a job, work less, change habits, or ‘should-ing’ yourself into doing things that you feel you ought to, just STOP for a minute and ask yourself “WHY am I wanting to change or do any of those things?” If the answer is immediately forthcoming and, more importantly, makes you feel good at the thought, go for it. But if not, dig a little deeper and spend some time thinking about the bigger picture, and what you’d really like this year to be about. The bigger your ‘why’ for doing anything, the more likely it is you’ll make it happen.

Think bigger perspective

Forget about lack of time or money for a minute (hint, it’s rarely about resources and more about being resourceful…), and think about how you’d really like your life to be this year. What is it about last year that you loved and want to experience more of? What are some of the things you’ve been meaning or wanting to do, but never quite get around to?

In the nudgers’ groups, we stick clear of setting S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals, and focus instead on how we want to feel, what are our important priorities, what really matters to us at the end of the day? As a client put well recently “I intend not to do stress in 2017!”

Thoughts create feelings

Talking about feelings, looking through summer pics for this newsletter immediately brought back great feelings of sunshine, swimming, good times, relaxing and no stress. And I felt this despite the fact I’m sitting on my boat staring out at cold, grey skies. I’ve said it many times before, but worth repeating, you get what you focus on.

The nature of thought

These days, my work is less about tactics and strategies, and more about helping people to gain a new understanding about the very nature of thought. I recently watched a talk by a psychiatrist called Dr Bill Pettit who I’ve mentioned in previous nudges that really resonated with me. He explained that many of the people he sees have suffered from years of depression, often on a merry-go round of medication.

Coming from the perspective that thoughts create feelings, he spends very little time on discussing their issues or problems. Instead, he starts off from the principle that they are innately healthy, that there is nothing to ‘fix’, and focuses more on the nature of thought.

He runs through a simple set of questions about what they tend to think about in any given day, such as how often they worry about things outside of their control, suffer from guilt, over analysis, unresolved grief or hold on to resentments from the past. He then asks them to rate each on a scale of 1-5 (1 meaning they spend minimum time and let such thoughts come and go, up to 5 meaning they thought about them a lot). People who scored high on the scale perhaps not surprisingly experienced lower moods and anxiety. But when they got an understanding of the nature of thought – described as experiencing the feeling of our thinking, rather than our circumstances – and that they were free to not give attention to those thoughts, things quickly started to improve.

Tapping into innate wisdom

This is part of a much bigger conversation, and not about positive thinking or trying to control your thoughts – as you’ll know that’s just about impossible! But I wanted to share this understanding as I’ve found when I start conversations with people from this perspective, people often get a greater sense of clarity and calm. The quieter their state of mind, the more space they have to access that innate wisdom in all of us, which so often occurs when we have less on our mind. People have described innate wisdom as that feeling of just being in the ‘flow’, or when a decision feels completely right, or when helpful ideas pop into your head when you least expect it, and you immediately feel more at ease. And who doesn’t want more of that!

Commit to non-negotiable ‘quiet time’

Setting aside quiet time for you is the best thing you can do, not just for yourself, but your important people around you. People often say to me “but isn’t that selfish”, or tell me that they feel guilty, and I give the same answer every time. If you’re feeling low on energy, irritable and frustrated because of never ending to do lists, or saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’, how enjoyable do you think you are to be around? Not only do you suffer in the end, but it obviously has a negative impact on relationships, work colleagues, children, friends, your wellbeing. So, give up all notions of selfishness or guilt, and decide to commit to non-negotiable ‘quiet time’ for you this year – I guarantee that life gets a lot more enjoyable when you do.

Kickstart your New Year – join a free webinar for a Different Conversation

I know that time is precious and busyness can quickly set in! So, in the spirit of wanting to help as many people as possible to stay on track and follow through, I’m going to be running a free group webinar/call on Tuesday 31 January at 7-8pm UK time. I’ll be sharing more about these ideas, and will answer as many questions I can in the time allotted. If you want to keep your enthusiasm high, and nail the things you most want to this year, then do hit reply and join us.

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