With the approach of a new year we all face an opportunity to ask the question: “If I could change anything in my life that would significantly increase my happiness and satisfaction, what would it be?” This spirit of reflection — the desire to grow and change that settles over us at the crossroads of time — often stirs us to make lofty new resolutions for a new life.
If we’re honest, let’s also talk about how long those resolutions will last. A few hours, a couple days, maybe two weeks if we’re really determined. Why is it that such deep resolve and good intentions so often give way within days or even hours to old habits and discouragement? Is our ability to truly change limited to those times in our lives when outside forces and circumstances of life compel us to change?
In “Living the 7 Habits” by Stephen Covey, one man relates this experience: “I had been working very hard on my career. By the time I was 45 years old, I was quite successful. I was also about 60 pounds overweight, a compulsive eater during times of stress and one who didn’t have time to exercise regularly because of work. On his fifth birthday, my son Logan gave me a book on healthy living. Inside, his mother had helped him write the following words: ‘Daddy, for my birthday this year, I want you to be healthy. I want you to be around for a while.’ That plea from my son changed my perspective on my lifestyle completely.”
This experience was the beginning of a new, healthy lifestyle for this man. But this was not the first time he had decided to change. He had tried several diet and exercise routines before, always starting with enthusiasm until stress returned him to his former lifestyle.
What was different this time was the shift in perspective. His son’s words struck a chord deep within, and he saw life from his family’s perspective. He relates, “To have losing weight as my motivation was simply not enough. But my children are significant enough. I care about them enough to make healthy decisions.”
Seeing our life from a different perspective is the force behind change. Covey asks people to make four assumptions.
- First, physically, imagine you’ve had a heart attack; now eat accordingly.
- Second, mentally, the half-life of your professional or occupational relevance, knowledge and competence is two-and-a-half years; now prepare accordingly.
- Third, socially, or emotionally, work from the assumption that everything you say about others is overheard by them; now speak accordingly.
- And fourth, spiritually, imagine a one-on-one accountability visit with your creator every quarter; now live accordingly.
Like the boy’s comment to his father, these assumptions can catch our attention and shift our paradigms. They can become the stimulus that causes us to evaluate what is important.