On New Years Eve, I was sitting with one of my best friends when I saw Natasha Bedingfeld come on to sing her song “Unwritten.” She sounded better on the CD and I love the dance re-mix, but no one plays it anymore. But anyway, the words are simple and were so fitting. Check them out. http://www.lyricstop.com/albums/natashabedingfield/unwritten.html
I believe she makes a stronger point than the simple words say. The rest of our life lies before us as blank pages ready for us to write/live. Each word is written by each action we take, or don’t take. Each day starts fresh whether we are ready for it or not. “The rest are still unwritten.”
So rather than stare at the blank page before you; decide now to re-invent yourself, move past the mistakes and disappointments, learn from the bad boy friends/girlfriends. Instead, focus on making good friends you can trust, building strong relationships you can count on, making safer/healthier choices, and living the life that you can look back at with good memories and a sense of pride.
Identify what really matters most
Start a list in a note pad or palm pilot. Sit down for 10-15 minutes and really think about what matter most. It is ok to compare at this point, but write it all down in simple words. (ie. Family, Health, Career, Sex, Fitness, my Church). Write each word or phrase on the top of an index card, use big letters. Scan through them for a few days and add more as you identify them. Pay attention to what you spend much of your time doing; your activities should be connected to one of the cards. These are the things you value most in your life.
Put index cards in order, most important on top. You can number them if you want, but do it in pencil. These change from time to time. That is ok.
Below each big word (value), write a sentence describing your goal/outcome for that topic. (Example: Fitness: I have a strong lean defined healthy body with 10% body fat. Family: I am a good son whom my mother can be proud.) Be as specific as you can be and as colorful as you can, but be realistic and keep it simple. This helps you think about the outcome and how you WANT to be. On the back, write down a few bullet points that area ACTIONS you can take. (Example: Fitness: Weight train 3 days a week with Russell Barefoot. Do cardio 3 days a week with intensity, Stop eating whoppers! Family: Call my Mom. Send Mom flowers randomly. Be with Mom on her birthday.) Shoot for as many creative actions that you can realistically make happen.
Now each morning and before you go to bed, flip through the cards. Look at each big word (value) and ask yourself how much time you spent on that value and if you did anything on the back of the card to take you closer to being like the statement under the value written on the front. Some days you will do something significant for a few values, and some days not so much. But by reviewing them it keeps reminding you of what you identified as important in your life.
Re-evaluate and Repeat
As with everything in life, this is just another process. It can repeat for as long as you live. I currently need to update my cards. I have made some great friends since I moved here to Philly, and have done an OK job maintaining relationships with people back in Ohio. But can do more to build the Philadelphia friendships. The cards simply help prevent you from suddenly saying, “Crap, I have not talked to my Mom in a month! Or “Whoa, when did I get so wide?” You can use a palm pilot, blackberry, journal, or whatever works for you. The point is to put it in writing and review it visually everyday.
Start today, and if you mess it up, try again tomorrow. Messing up doesn’t mean you’re a screw up, it just means you screwed up. You can change that tomorrow. Studies have shown that most people make a resolution 10 times before it sticks (Polivy and Herman, 2002). Most of the time, they don’t have a plan. You do. Give it your best shot, I know you can re-invent yourself; I try to do it everyday. I Hope this helps someone. Happy New Year!
PS. Correction: The friend I was talking to on the couch on New Years Eve, also pointed out to me a few weeks ago that the hot Bruce Wayne I mentioned in my last column, got out of bed and did push-ups in “Batman Begins” NOT “Batman Returns.” Thanks D.
Polivy, Janet and Herman, C. Peter. “If at First You Don’t Succeed.” American Psychologist Sept. 2002: 677-689.