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Creating Your Best Year Ever

January is synonymous with resolutions and getting organized is high on many people's list. Unfortunately, perhaps some of us make a resolution, when what we really want is a revolution.

Twenty years of accumulated excess weight to disappear in twenty weeks or twenty years of accumulated excess possessions, to find a happy home in twenty minutes. Maybe a more realistic approach would be an evolution -- "a process of continuous, natural change from a lower or worse, to a higher or better state," according to Webster.

Human behavior is not like computer software. It cannot be installed. It has to be nurtured. To bring order into our lives, in whatever area we choose, whether it is loosing weight, managing our finances, spending more time with our family, or finding a more fulfilling job, we must nurture our own behavior. One area of my life that is a constant struggle is exercise and healthy eating. As a young child my body caused me lots of problems and I tried hard to ignore it. I subconsciously developed a sense of disdain for my body because it constantly seemed to let me down. I learned to mask some of the pain, at least temporarily, by eating. Several years ago while doing some deep soul searching, I recognized that until I learned to manage my body, I could not find the peace and self-respect I was seeking. So I made a commitment that I would begin to nurture a change in my attitude toward my body by applying organizing skills.

In working with thousands of people over more than 20 years, I've discovered there are five components to successfully changing any habit: (1) Vision, (2) Attitude, (3) Time, (4) Tools, and (5) Maintenance. I decide to practice what I preached and apply that knowledge to my own struggle with exercise. Here's the scenario:

Vision: My vision of a healthy body means wearing a size 12 suit comfortably, not having a backache, exercising regularly without inappropriate discomfort, and eating healthy food most of the time, so I can splurge periodically without feeling guilty.

Attitude: In the past I always focused on my failures, but it isn't difficult to look around and find people who have much more severe physical problems than I do that have healthy bodies. I knew that if I was going to accomplish my vision of a health body, I would have to eliminate all my excuses about my lack of exercise and poor eating habits -- I don't have time, it's difficult when I'm traveling, it's raining outside, it isn't a safe neighborhood to run, there isn't anything healthy in an airport, etc. I began to use Noah St. John's approach of "affirmations." Instead of "affirmations"-- saying, "I have a healthy body." I began asking the question, "Why is my body so healthy?" Since your brain automatically seeks answers, it was immediately easier to keep looking for ways to be healthy! Don't ask me to explain how it works - just try it!

Time: One of the interesting things I discovered in helping people to organize their homes and offices is that frequently it takes less time to be successful than people anticipate. Perhaps that's because we overestimate how long it takes to do the things we don't like and underestimate how much time we spend on the things we do like? I started out by using a system called Fit 10, an isometric exercise that takes 10 minutes a day. I knew that if I didn't have that much time, I wasn't really committed to my vision. A few years later, I decided to work out with a personal trainer. The one I wanted is 30 minutes from my house. I committed to two days a week. At the appointed time, I hopped in the car, popped in a audiotape, and by the end of the first side, I was ready to exercise. On the way home I listened to the end of the second side. Now I could exercise my body and my brain at the same time!

Tools: One of the big advantages of Fit ten is that I can do it in my bedroom before I'm tempted by outside factors to postpone exercise. In addition, it fits in my suitcase, and I can exercise in my hotel room, eliminating the excuses of "I don't like to exercise in public," or "I'm not sure this is a safe neighborhood to take a walk", etc.

Maintenance: Now the hard part -maintaining my resolve. My conclusion is that as long as I keep reviewing the first four factors, my vision now includes participating in a public walking event before I reach 60. I did Fit 10 alone for almost three years, but began to get bored, so adding the encouragement (and new tools!) of a personal trainer, put be back on track!

What evolution are you looking for this year? Whatever it is, be kind to yourself, and make sure that you've covered all the five steps. Need some help? Find someone else who has a New Year's Resolution and do it together!

Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at


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