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If you’re someone who takes their personal development seriously, and you are looking to improve yourself, then at this time of year you’ll be bombarded with articles screaming “New Year New You”. From weight-loss to business-building; from mindfulness to travel-planning; from a new wardrobe to a new partner. There are a thousand ways you can change to become the New You.

But stop a minute – do you really want to be a New You? The Old You has been pretty successful so far. Well, you’re still here, aren’t you?

Making a change to a New You is full of pitfalls. Here are 5 of them, and how to avoid them…

1. What is the New You?

Do you even know? And if you do know, then are you sure that you can achieve the New You? We all know that resolutions that begin at New Year are the least likely to be successful (1) – it seems that the extra pressure we put on ourselves doesn’t have staying power. We also tend to make resolutions that are unrealistic or unattainable.

What can you do ?

Choose just one area of change to focus on, and make sure that your goal is realistic.

2. The Old You has plenty of good stuff already.

New Year New You plans sometimes seem like throwing the baby out with the bath water. If you’re so busy focusing on your changes, you might be overlooking all that is good about the Old You.

My client Wendy, a Sales Director, was full of goals to change and to overcome what she saw as her weaknesses. I asked her to list her strengths and she found that a lot harder. Then I gave her an exercise to do in which she asked her colleagues what they valued about her.

She was astonished by the responses that she got. Her colleagues were able to identify dozens of valuable attributes, and yet Wendy hadn’t recognised them in herself.

Or, if she recognised the strengths that they identified, she had dismissed them as unimportant, because they came easily to her. For example, one colleague really valued how efficient Wendy was at remembering all her client’s names and information about them such as their birthdays and family members, where they went on holiday or whether they had pets.

Wendy took that skill for granted because it came naturally to her, and so she didn’t recognise that it was something rare and valuable until she had it pointed out to her that no-one else in the team had the same skill.
It’s a lot easier to capitalise on your strengths than to change your weaknesses. Instead of trying to become someone she wasn’t, Wendy began to focus on what she already did well, by doing it even better.

What can you do ?

Take an inventory of all your qualities and strengths, particularly those that you are blind to or take for granted. Be bold and ask your friends and colleagues for their feedback, like Wendy did. Find ways to capitalise on your strengths.

If you’d like to receive the details of the exact email that I use, and that Wendy used, to find out how your friends or colleagues perceive your strengths, then pop your details into the box below and you’ll get it straight away.

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3. The Old You has learned from every mistake that you ever made

A New You is just setting out, trying things for the first time, and taking on new things. There’s scope for mistakes while you find your way. The Old You has already made loads of mistakes as you tried things out. In every mistake there is something to learn – in NLP we have a maxim that says “there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback and learning”.

What can you do?

Take the time to appreciate all that the Old You has learned from experience, and find ways to put that experience to good use.

4. Avoid the “boom or bust” cycle

If you make a big effort to reform each New Year, it is likely that you will get trapped in a boom or bust cycle. Spikes of effort are interspersed with longer periods of inertia, particularly if you feel that your resolution to change “failed” in some way.

People who stop drinking for Dry January are often found to drink more as soon as they fall off the wagon. People who break their diet once, often give up completely and feel that they might as well binge. People who make a big bold claim about getting fit, find it harder to start again if they miss a few sessions, or if they don’t see quick results.

What can you do?

Have your larger goal in mind, but day to day, focus on smaller stepping stones for measuring your achievement. That way, if you miss a day, or things don’t go to plan, you only need a much small adjustment to get back on track.

5. Make peace with yourself.

The New Year New You mindset often carries with it that implication that there is something wrong or undesirable about the Old You. The Old You has served you well to get to where you are today.

Perhaps it’s time to make peace with yourself, and to accept yourself exactly how you are right now. That’s not to say that your growth or development is over. Far from it. You are a work in progress, and you will be for the whole of your life.

Every day is an opportunity to tune that work in progress. To make a small change, or to do more of what works for you.

What can you do?

Tell yourself “I am at peace with myself. I am a work in progress.”

What else can you do?

Why not give yourself the gift of three days on retreat, focused on your own personal development?

Then welcome to our retreat in Fuerteventura – Heal Your Past and Illuminate Your Future: Your path to peace, love and purpose, where you will explore all these themes.

About Madeleine Allen: The author is a specialist in Leadership, Communication and Personal Development for business professionals. An NLP Trainer and Master Practitioner she conducts in-house corporate training (learn more at www.allentraining.co.uk) and public courses in NLP (learn more at www.brightlightnlp.com)

Sources: (1) 2002 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology

Graphics: Pixabay and Freepik