By Cherie Lowe
I love a blank page in a journal or a new document. Limitless possibilities stretch out in front of me. I could draw a picture or write a poem or take a more practical path, such as composing a to-do list. Potential bubbles up and my heart beats a little more quickly.
The blank slate and prospects of what might be invigorate my soul and a world of promise peeks around the corner.
Just like a blank page, a new year or a new month or a new week or even a new day provides opportunities galore. You can create a work of art, craft a goal or solve a problem. You can begin again or write the next chapter or close a door.
The pull toward resolutions course through our veins during the first days and weeks of January. We need change.
Where to begin?
The boundless options can lead to choice paralysis. We long to accomplish long standing objectives and originate new ideas. Caught up in our own fervor, we slip into old patterns, ditching our inner promises and allowing the blank page to remain untouched.
Write it down already
It turns out you might need an actual blank page to succeed this year, not a smartphone or a spreadsheet or mere wishful thinking. While research indicates only 8 percent of people actually keep their resolutions, writing down your goals increases your probability of success to nearly 42 percent.
So don’t leave that page blank. Use your trusty pen to specifically write down what you’d like to do in 2017.
Skip the generalizations
Pay off debt … get healthier … switch careers — each are noble aims. But general goals won’t help you architect true change. You need to be as specific as possible when it comes to your plans for this year. Drill down your intent into bite-sized steps and incremental micro goals. You’ll only get from where you are to where you want to go with a roadmap.
Celebrate the milestones
While we were paying off $127,000 in debt, we frequently paused to celebrate the small strides of achievement we made. Marking the “in between” motivated us toward much larger aspiration. When we paid off our car, we took a weekend trip to Chicago.After kicking $16,500 in credit card debt in the teeth, we packed up the family car and headed to an indoor waterpark. My husband wisely quips “What’s celebrated is repeated,” on a frequent basis. A small incentive can help focus your efforts effectively and propel you to completing your goals.
Phone a friend
Human beings were wired for community. We need each other to survive and if we are going to make great change, we need one another, too. Seek out a friend, coworker or family member who has similar designs for the new year.You’ll be able to encourage one another when the going gets rough and maybe even spend time together in the trenches, getting through the less pleasant parts of your journey.
Listen to people who have had success
Equally as important as someone standing shoulder to shoulder with you is finding voices of others who have set the same goal, accomplished it and lived to tell the story.One of the oddest things about dreaming big or chasing a new purpose is how many people pop up wanting to offer you advice. Strangely enough, few of them have realized that dream themselves. All sorts of opinions and strategies flow from their lips or even discouraging words instructing you to quit before you even begin.
Harder to find are those individuals who have been where you’re at and fought their way out. Those folks tend to be a bit more humble and less likely to consider themselves experts. Whether you have an actual conversation with a mentor or find books to guide your way, turn to those quieter voices with the story to back it up.
You don’t need resolutions. You don’t even need Jan. 1. You can choose to fill in the blank page on a Tuesday at 10:30 or in the middle of the night. Quit waiting for the perfect moment. Spoiler alert: It never arrives. Begin the difficult work of change marking now.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.