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As we roll through the vicissitudes of life, there are moments when we need a new start. We need to put aside the past, take the lessons learned, and look toward our future.

Major life events – things like the death of a loved one, getting married or divorced, having or losing a child, etc. – often provide the impetus for major change. These life changing moments don’t happen often, but when they do, it is important to take advantage of them.

The surgery I had in September, along with the rehab process, provided valuable time for reflection since I was restricted to a less active schedule until recently. During the last few months, I have thought a great deal about specific changes that I want to make in my life.

In the absence of life-changing events, one of the opportunities that many people take advantage of is the end of one year and the beginning of another. The optimism of a new year dawning and the desire to make the new year better than the last is the driving force behind the custom of making New Year’s resolutions.

Tragically, research has shown that only about eight percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept. On the surface, then, this suggests that making New Year’s resolutions is a waste of time. I believe this is true unless you are really committed to making changes, or, as the title above suggests, a new start.

There are several things that you can do to improve your odds for success in achieving you goals for 2018, or your New Year’s resolutions, if you prefer that term.

The first thing that you can do is to be less ambitious in the number of changes that you want to make. I stifle a chuckle when I hear success gurus talk about implementing ten or some other unachievable number of goals or resolutions.

In the same manner, I remember in my corporate days the silliness of setting ten to fifteen objectives for the new year with each of member of my team as well as for myself. The fact is that most of us are hard-pressed to keep our focus on any more than two or three goals.

Unfortunately, positive change is very difficult. It is incremental. It requires that you change habits that have been your enemy for a long time. It calls for consistent effort at persistence.

New starts are hard. They require commitment and focus. They mean that you must do what is uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. It means that you must be willing to aggressively abandon the old ways of thinking and acting and embrace the new. It means that you make a conscious effort to take actions which reinforce the changes that you want to implement.

Here are some suggestions that I have found useful in making sure that new starts have the maximum chance for success.

  • Create a specific vision of what your life will look like after your new start or if you succeed in your New Year’s resolutions. How will your life be better? Can you quantify the impact of the changes you want to make on your life? How will it affect your relationships? What will be the impact on your job or your profession?
  • Limit your goals or resolutions to no more than three. The reality is that the human being is generally unable to make more than two or three changes at one time. In fact, it is better to focus on making one change successfully before moving onto the next one.
  • Develop a plan. What are the specific things that you need to do each day to implement the changes that you desire. On a micro basis, one effective technique I have used through the years is to make sure that I do at least one thing each day that is related to the change I want to make. Making a total commitment to getting one specific thing done each day that relates to your goal maximizes the chance that you will stay on track.
  • Change takes time. Commit to staying the course for at least a few months. If you get discouraged, look in the mirror and resolve to start again. No worthwhile change is easy. In fact, the more impactful the change you are trying to make, the harder it generally will be to accomplish.
  • One of the most effective techniques to reinforce subconsciously the change you are pursuing is to create environmental reminders. If you are changing something at work, rearrange your office. If you are trying to lose weight or limit your fat intake, don’t buy food that makes you gain weight or that is high in fat. If you are working on a relationship, commit to a regular time to get together with that person – making sure it is on your calendar on a repeating basis.
  • Measure your progress. Depending on the change, sit down weekly or monthly and check your progress. What are the barriers to change that you did not anticipate? If you have lost focus, what steps can you take to get back on track?
  • Reward your success. Periodically, as you meet milestones along the way, celebrate your progress. Change can be drudgery. Taking the time to enjoy minor achievements along the way can help you stay focused on the ultimate goal.

As we enter 2018, consider identifying at least one – but no more than three – changes that you want to make in the new year. You have the opportunity to make 2018 memorable. Don’t waste it. Invest time and effort now to enhance the chance for extraordinary success this year.
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