January and that New Year Resolution Jazz

We somehow appear to be over halfway through January. How’s your month going so far? Did you make New Year resolutions? And if you did, how far have you stuck with them?

Last week I came across a quote that said “January is the Monday of the year”. The analogy is fitting, I suppose, for that (often reluctant) return to work after an extended break – starting the engine from cold; pulling out the choke; jump starting the battery. Excuse the motoring metaphors; I’ve currently got my next car on the brain (the Suzuki Jimny, in Kinetic Yellow, but I digress).

You may have read the research that tells us why January, despite its standard 31 days, always feels like the longest month of the year. Yes, science has spoken. That, plus January’s often the longest month between paydays. So not only are you cold and grumpy, but now, to add insult to injury, you also don’t have any money.

RozChast©Roz Chast, The New Yorker

It’s interesting, therefore, that for that final January flourish, lots of us then place ourselves under pressure by setting resolutions that are unsustainable, not fully thought through, insufficiently specific, or have the wrong focus. You’re going to lose ten pounds, save more money, eat less sugar, stop drinking, and argue less with your partner. You’ll start with the best of intentions, and burn brightly for two weeks before life catches up. Indeed, some research conducted by Strava discovered that in 2018, 12 January was the day that most New Year resolutions ended up slinking guiltily into the shadows.

Where did my motivation go?

So what happened? According to Dr Raj Persaud in his book The Motivated Mind, the science of self-motivation helps us understand that there are only three reasons why people don’t achieve what they want: resource depletion, inadequate tracking, and goal conflict.

‘Resource depletion’ occurs when your resources are insufficient for the task. That might be in practical terms (for instance a genuine lack of time, or not enough funds), but more often than not it’s physical or emotional (lack of energy, low mood).

‘Inadequate tracking’ refers to when you fail to adequately monitor progress towards attaining your goal. Because steps towards goal achievement are often gradual and incremental, measuring your progress provides valuable feedback on how effectively you’re working and how close you are to your target. If you don’t know where you are, it’s difficult to see how to get to where you want to be.

Finally: ‘goal conflict’. This occurs when a goal that you set is incompatible with one or more other things that you set out to do. Maybe the last time you resolved to participate in Dry January, you lasted 10 days because you wanted to kick back and relax the weekend after returning to work. Often the conflict is between longer-term goals and shorter-term desires – psychological experiments have repeatedly shown that we have a predilection for valuable outcomes sooner rather than later.

Our inbuilt preference for earlier gratification means that we’re battling our biology every time we try to focus on that distant reward. And the thing about willpower is that generally it is quite an unreliable beast, so thinking that you’ll be strong enough to stick to your goals this time is, unfortunately, not a particularly effective strategy.

What to do?

Firstly, don’t abandon the desire for self-improvement; having New Year resolutions isn’t in itself a problem. The problem that lots of us have, even before we come to the question of motivation, is that we don’t set the right goals. Sometimes, in fact, we might not even really be ready for change.

Are you stuck in chronic contemplation?

TTM(The Transtheoretical Model of Change, Prochaska and DiClemente)

Studies of change have found that people move through a series of stages when intentionally modifying their behaviour. Change, in other words, is something that unfolds over time. I think the most pertinent stage to talk about here is that of Contemplation, where people intend to change, but aren’t quite ready – they know what the advantages of change will be, but they’re also highly aware of the drawbacks. This can produce significant ambivalence and procrastination, which often means that people stay stuck.

No surprise then that most resolutions, apparently, are repeated five years in a row!

If you’re stuck in chronic contemplation or are otherwise getting in your own way, you need to tackle this first. This is where psychological coaching can be really valuable, helping you to understand and modify unhelpful beliefs, tackle underlying cognitive rules and assumptions, and learn to develop greater self-belief and self-acceptance. For now, though, I’m going to assume that you’re ready for action.

Goal set, game on

Here’s where it all starts to happen. How do you set satisfying and achievable goals? When I work with my coaching clients on this, we go through a process that includes goal clarification, prioritisation, and design. The kinds of questions we might explore at each stage look somewhat like this:

Clarification: What’s the overarching goal? Why do I want this? How does it align with my needs and values? Is this goal short-term in nature or does it require motivation to be sustained over a longer period?

Prioritisation: How high a priority am I placing on this goal? Where does it sit in my overall goal hierarchy? How does it align with my other goals? How can I address any goal conflict?

Design: Am I setting dead person’s goals? How can my overarching goal be broken down into achievable steps?

During the process, we also pause to reflect on a few important things.

First things first: What the heck are dead person’s goals?

Well, simply put, they’re goals a dead person can achieve better than you.

Language is really important when it comes to goal-setting. Goals like “I want to stop drinking”, “I want to eat less sugar” or “I want to argue less with my partner” are all about doing less of something or stopping something (let’s face it, the dead person’s got that in the bag, and he’s way ahead of you).

Instead, think about how you can turn that around to aim for positive action. What you focus on you tend to create, so focus on the things you want, not the things you want to get rid of. Ask yourself: So if I stop this, or do less of this – how are things going to change? What will I start doing, or do more of? How will I behave differently?

Vagueness is not a goal-setting virtue

Remember inadequate tracking? It’s hard to know how close you are to your destination if you don’t know where you are – but even before that, it might have been Seneca who said “if a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favourable”.

So be clear about what you want your end result to be. Be specific about what, how, and by when, and make sure too that what you’re aiming at is realistic and achievable within the parameters you’ve set yourself. And then don’t forget to check in with yourself on a regular basis to assess your progress and recalibrate if you’ve gone off-track. 

Daily commitment to action and consistency are key

Let’s assume you’ve set a great goal. You have a vision of what you want your end point to be. Now what? How do you get from here to there?

Here’s where we come to talk about a systems mindset. To read more about this, I highly recommend you pick up Scott Adams’ book How to Lose At Everything And Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. In Adams’ words: “For our purposes, let’s say a goalis a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”

Having a systems mindset means that, rather than being end-state and future-oriented, you become process and present-oriented. You can see the longer-term vision, but what you’re doing today is the thing that matters most. If your goal’s to run a marathon in September, and you start training now, you’re not going to see any difference tomorrow. But follow that training plan week in, week out, and come the marathon, you’ll be ready. You may not be able to tick that overarching goal off your list until September, but if you commit to consistent daily action, you’ll be winning each and every day.

So start breaking down that overarching goal into small, achievable daily ways of being that you can sustain over the longer term. Think micro-resolutions – commitment to a limited, specific and measurable change in behaviour or attitude that produces a tangible and immediate benefit. It taps into that predilection for immediate gratification and the positive feedback keeps us encouraged. And you know what else? One of the best cures for lack of motivation is taking action. Just do it.

And that’s it – I do like it when a plan comes together. One final parting thought before I go. You can do all this at any time. You don’t need to wait for a new year, a new month or even a new week to start working towards the change you want to see. So if you abandoned your 2019 New Year resolutions last week, here’s your next chance. It starts now. You’ve got this.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Show them you’re worth it

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Just a few days left of 2017; time to do a final bit of soul-searching!

What were your adult relationships like this year? Were they a healthy meeting of minds; a set of equal partnerships? Or did you fear what others were saying about you? Did you feel judged? Were you a doormat?

If you want people to treat you differently, first you have to show them how you should be treated. Start by looking inward. Healthy relationships start with you being whole and valuing your worth. You need to realise your value and start to treat yourself differently before you can show the world you’re worth it.

I’ve been there. It’s hard. But I’m here to show you that it is absolutely possible. Come follow me and let’s be awesome together in 2018!

With love, Natalie x

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

10 choices of successful people

10 choices of successful people
Here’s the first of what will be a mini-blog series of bite-sized things to ponder.

Today’s prompt is:

None of these things requires talent. Want success? Go get it. You’ve already got it inside you.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Get ready to live your dreams

The recipe:

1) Meet new people.
2) Get out of your comfort zone.
3) Dream bigger.
4) Progress, not perfection.
5) Take control of your fear.
6) NOW is the time.

What are you waiting for? Start here; start now. Get in touch for a chat about how Quiet Space can help you soar.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

You are enough

Light box with "you are enough" message
On Friday I met two coaching clients and a key theme in both sessions was their perceptions of other people’s opinions and judgments.

Confidence and good self-esteem can be such a hard-won thing – particularly for women. We see in other people the things we don’t believe we measure up to, and our insecurities make us believe that they are judging us on what we see to be our inadequacies. Sometimes we put on masks to be the people that we think we ought to be.

We can unlearn all these unhelpful thought patterns, and learn to give ourselves the freedom not only to be who we really are, but to realise that we are all that we need to be.

You are enough – and not only that, you are loved, and you are amazing. Never forget that.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Paving the way for dreams

Last week I was on the night shift at Radcliffe House, University of Warwick, as part of a work shadowing arrangement. Radcliffe’s recently undergone a big refurb and I love the new decor. Recognise any of these delegate archetypes?

Warwick Conferences has been kind enough to let me come on board for a while so that I can find out what goes on behind the scenes at their award-winning training and conference centres. I’ve only been with them for two shifts so far but have already learnt loads from their fantastic staff about ensuring a fabulous customer experience.

I’ve been consciously setting out to embrace new learning experiences for some time now and getting insight into the hospitality industry is all about preparation for my longer-term dream for Quiet Space – a transformative retreat in the Warwickshire countryside, for when life gets a bit too much and you need some help with regaining headspace, peace and balance.

The vision? The Quiet Space would offer coaching as a core part of its transformative experience, alongside yoga and meditation, guided walks and runs, great food, and spaces designed to soothe the soul and mind, with music, a beautiful library, and a creative studio. Things are, of course, going to evolve over the next few years as I continue to learn and grow. I wonder what it will look like when I get there?

What are your long-term goals, and how are you laying the foundations now for realising those future dreams?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

What will your legacy be?

York Minster chandelier
Tonight’s photo is a throwback to York Minster in 2000. I was at University and at the weekend we’d decided to visit the cathedral. I remember the day clearly, standing there in the middle of so much history, craftsmanship, faith and dedication.

Today, it’s making me think about the kind of legacy we leave. Often this brings to mind some sort of physical legacy, but much more importantly than that it’s about who we are and how we continue to touch people’s lives after we’re gone.

Some questions for you:
1) What matters to you and what kind of legacy do you want to create?

2) What do you want to be remembered for?

3) What are you doing, each and every day, to build that legacy?

4) What might you need to help you build your legacy? And how could you get it?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Define your own success

Define success on your terms
I confess to having fallen prey to some Instagram envy yesterday. I was having a bit of a nose around the way other people live and came across the account of someone I know from a previous life (and who therefore isn’t some virtual person on the other side of the world). She has a gorgeous Instagram feed – everything is incredibly stylish, impeccably curated and impossibly glamorous. How does she do that?

And then I got to thinking. I remembered that it’s me who chooses what I spend my time on. It’s easy to get your head turned by the beautiful and unfamiliar, but it doesn’t mean that it’s something that you should aspire to.

So I asked myself a few questions. What do I value? What are my goals? Do I really want what she has? Someone else’s gilded life doesn’t mean that mine pales in comparison, because success is measured in lots of different ways and by relative means.

Comparisons are often a recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Rather than envying what it looks like someone else has or feeling inadequate, take a look within. What’s at the root of your emotions? What is it that you actually want?

Other people’s successes don’t define your success. You define your success. Achievement is individual. You don’t need to compete with anyone else to win.

Do you agree? Leave a comment, like this post and follow Quiet Space. Message to get in touch – come work with me to identify and achieve your real goals!

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd