The What If Experience

Explore a new "What If..." question about life each week with some thoughts, some answers and some action steps. Share my journey of personal growth and living in possibility.
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Dec 10, 2017

There are two big topics in the media in December. The holiday season and the New Year. Let's start the new year talk a little early. I usually see a handful of approaches to the new year.

The Cynical Approach

The nothing ever changes approach. This person might want something different for their life but believes that nothing ever changes, so they've resigned themselves to a repeat of this year, every year. They won't even bother considering a change. They also might be perfectly happy where they are or too afraid of failure to bother. This group ignores and often scoffs at those thinking about making changes at year end. These are the backseat drivers and the sideline coaches of the world.

The Complainer Approach

These people would really like something to change in their lives, but they aren't willing to actually do anything more than talk about it. Or, about what's not working for them at the moment. Because talking is easier than doing.

The Crowd Approach

This person will join the crowd in talking about change and making some resolutions, or whatever the popular process is in any given year. Lately, it's been choosing a word of the year. These are bandwagon fans, because, when attention turns elsewhere or things become difficult in a few weeks, they'll turn their attention to whatever the crowd is talking about at the moment. In a month, that may be the Super Bowl or the amount of snow on the ground, but it probably won't be the resolution, goal or word they chose that first week of the year. I have nothing against words of the year, by the way. You can check out how my word ambushed me last year in episode 14 and 15. But, realize that choosing a word in January only makes a difference in your life if it's followed by sustained action.

The Change-maker Approach

This is the high achiever. The person serious about making real change happen. They may be naturally an achiever, or they may have just decided to get serious about one particular portion of their life and that "Let's get serious" decision moved them from the crowd to change-maker.

Where do you fall into those categories? Are you interested in change? Are you willing to work to make 2018 better in some way? There are plenty of products available to help you move from the crowd to the change-maker category. Most of them are designed to give us tools and guidance in pursuit of success. If this is you...if you're interested in becoming a change-maker in pursuit of success, I'd recommend checking out either Darren Hardy's or Michael Hyatt's products. No affiliate interest here, I've just used some of each of their methods and they're solid and able to give you good guidance.

But. What if you're not really overly concerned about pursuing success? At least the way the world defines it? What if you want to make some personal, internal changes? What if you'd like to lose 20 pounds, but, there are underlying changes that need to be made first? What if you don’t need more goals, you need real change? What if you're looking for more meaning, not more success? What if you want your changes to last longer than the January white sales? If that's you, then join me for a new kind of process this year.

I'm a natural goal planner and a high achiever. The success systems make sense to me and I've used some version or a homemade mish-mash of them for years. There is nothing wrong with them. If you work the plan, they work. You can accomplish your goals. But, in the last few years, I've changed my approach and you may find it of value if the success-oriented plans aren't appealing to you. Meaning and fulfillment are more important to me than success. I’m more interested in a process than performance. I want a mind and life shift more than I want achievement. I want a lifestyle oriented towards transformation.

Is that easy? no. Is it neat and well packaged? No. Is it one-size-fits-all? No. It's work, it's often messy and uncomfortable. It's not a package of easy answers that work for everyone. And you won't always know where you'll find yourself in the end. But, it’s a process that has led me into a life journey of discovery and meaning.

If that’s appealing to you, let's walk through it together and I'll let you come alongside me throughout this year. We'll work through some personal exercises over the next few weeks, then hit how to create lasting change in the month of January. Throughout the year, we'll follow up and check in on the process.

Five Commandments

Ready? Let's get started with the first exercise. I want you to develop five commandments to guide your life. Just five. There's no magic about the number five, it just forces you to have a small, memorable list. Most of you can conveniently count them on one hand. It also forces you to be general rather than specific because we're looking for big picture guiding principles here.

I'm going to walk you through my five and my reasoning for each one. You may decide you want to adopt my five. Great. You're ahead of the game. But, I only want you to do that if you can absolutely get behind these five. These are my values. Yours might be completely different. Your list does not have to look like mine. But, it should look like five things that if you follow these commandments, you will feel like your life will feel well spent.

My Five

Love God. This is first on my list because it's the central purpose of my life and everything else springs from it. If you do not have a faith as a driving purpose, your list will look very different from mine and that's fine.

Prioritize people. From my perspective, people are what really matter in life. I believe that we are eternal beings, so long after my home, my art, my writing, my earnings....long after these things are gone, people remain. What I can do to serve people will last. Plus, because of my faith perspective, my biblical mandate is to Love God and love people. So, those things are central to my list.

Spend intentionally. Because my resources are limited, I want them to be used in a way that makes the most of them. This means that I'm going to plan, budget and invest both my time, energy, and money intentionally. I'm going to put them into things that matter.

Choose health. In order to do the three things I've mentioned already, I need to make decisions that promote good health. I don't make these decisions to look better to someone else, I make them so that I can better do the things that matter to me. Choosing health for me trickles down to sleep, eating and exercise habits. It's meditation. It's maintaining healthy relationships.

But, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. I'm mentioning specifics here because these are often things people think of when they look at making changes at the beginning of the year. And I'm a big proponent of good health. But, I want you to think about what you're really after. Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to exercise? Why do you want to eat better? Why do you want to feel better? Why does it matter? Keep asking yourself why until you get to a root cause. If that root cause is important enough for your life to be well lived, include it. For me, I want to choose health in order to make the other things possible. When I'm not healthy, my ability to love God and love people diminishes.

Practice gratitude. Frankly, I'm not sure this should be my fifth item. But, I'm including it for a few reasons. I'm telling you I'm unsure because this list isn't carved in stone. It's not the ten biblical commandments carved on tablets in Moses' hands. It's five guiding commandments that you can use in decision making. And, it may take some time for you to get the list just right. So, start somewhere. As "choose health" was the physical basis empowering my other life choices, this is the emotional, mental and spiritual fuel for making them possible.

These five things speak into my life purpose, my foundation, and stewardship of my resources. They can help guide my decisions. They're like building codes, keeping my activity in line with my values and priorities.

Your Five

Now it's your turn! Start writing down things that you might include on your list. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What's most important in my life?
  • If I was to have a fulfilling life, what would it include?
  • What would make those things possible?

If you find that you have related items on your list, try to group them under a larger category the way I did with "choose health" or the way my family, friends, colleagues and even strangers fall into my “Prioritize people” command.

Take your list and try to turn them into short imperative statements. Commands. Ones that will be easy to remember and will move you into action.

Set aside your list for a few hours or a few days. After some time has passed, look at it again. Does it resonate? Does it need changes?

Keep working at it until you're reasonably satisfied. "Reasonably" satisfied means that it's usable. It may not be perfect, but it's usable and you can continue refining as you go along. Remember, this is a process, not a performance.

Take your five commands and put them somewhere you'll see them. A computer or phone lock screen. A bathroom mirror. A journal cover. Wherever you'll be reminded of them until they become so familiar that they come to mind easily.

So, what are your five commandments? I'd love to see them! Maybe you'll think of something I've missed! Snap a photo and share them on social media with the hashtag #my5commandments. I'll start. Check for mine on Instagram @michelle.berkey


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