I’ve watched the news with interest over the New Year period as I’m sure many of you have. I have enjoyed the comedy inherent in the public announcements by various politicians of their personal New Year’s Resolutions. I call it comedy because their New Year’s Resolutions amount to nothing more than doing the job that they have been voted in to do. I don’t think the politicians involved intended their announcements to be humorous at all. In fact, I think that they expected the general population to be supportive and impressed with their commitment.
I’m not sure that I am prepared to laud a politician who makes it their New Year’s Resolution to manage the budget effectively. As if they feel that this is above and beyond their professional responsibility. My response to these politicians would be more along the lines of:

“That’s your job, mate. Just get on and do it.”

I don’t get commendations for doing what I’m paid to do, and neither should they. After this little bit of New Year slapstick comedy from Australian politicians (who, I may add, seldom disappoint if you need a good laugh), I have been thinking about the concept of New Year’s Resolutions and decided to write a short article.

Most New Year’s Resolutions involve making a commitment to some kind of positive change in your life such as losing weight, becoming more physically active, getting a job, changing jobs, spending more time with the family, eating healthy, taking more personal time etc. These are positive commitments to change and to be encouraged.
It may surprise you then to know that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. The reason I don’t is that if there is some positive change that I would like to make in my life, I won’t wait until the end of the year to make it. I’ll do it right now. We don’t have unlimited time here in this world and I don’t want to come to the end of my life with any regrets. So if I decide that I want to do something positive, today’s the day.
Traditional Chinese Martial Arts is a great tool for personal change and I have used it as such countless times in my own life. The training requires acute internal awareness and is fuelled by the philosophy that all enduring change starts internally and then flows out to become external change.

What we know about New Year’s Resolutions is that very few are actually achieved. Some sources state a less than 10% success rate. In fact, this is similar to the percentage of people who successfully quit smoking. Why is the success rate so low? I think there are a few factors that affect it.

  1. Fear. Change is really hard and really scary. Even positive change. Often people start to try to change their life around and are daunted and defeated by the difficulties involved. They slip back into familiar patterns because it’s easier that way.
  2. The friendly noose around your neck. Your friends and family may not want you to change because if you are successful at changing your life for the better, they feel confronted and challenged by it.
  3. Laziness and lack of motivation. I personally believe that most of the apparent laziness and lack of motivation can be traced to a lack of faith that change is possible.


For most people, change is scary. Even positive change. What I have found is that the majority of people do not make any decisive positive changes in their lives. They do not take control of the things that have been put within their reach. They tend to drift along making no changes of their own and only encounter change from external factors.

And as we all know, this kind of change is often not positive.

Unless you’re a lottery winner.

And maybe not even then. We’ve all heard the horror stories of how lottery winners end up worse-off after winning the lottery than they were before. Robert Pagliarini, a contributor to Forbes and an expert on managing sudden wealth has the following to say in his article on “Why lottery winners crash after a big win” (Pagliarini, 2013):

Immediately before or right after a sudden wealth event such as winning the lottery, many clients experience an almost out-of-body feeling. I refer to this as the honeymoon stage of sudden wealth. They are exuberant. It’s an exciting time and they feel like they are on top of the world. Anything and everything is possible. They celebrate with family and friends. They may buy new cars and larger houses, jet skis and motorcycles. It’s Christmas morning every day, but the thing that makes Christmas so special is that it comes just once a year. The honeymoon phase is an artificial reality that is not sustainable. Their emotions are high, and they are enjoying the charge of the novelty of their new life. But this “high” cannot last forever – most often as little as a few days to over six months — and then reality hits them.”

“Did Willie Seeley experience the honeymoon stage? I think he did and I think it lasted about a month. Seeley and 15 of his co-workers recently won last month’s $450 million Powerball jackpot and he was all smiles as he celebrated his win by holding a large check over his head at a press conference in August. At the time, he gushed that he was “happy, happy, happy.” After the win, he and his wife quit their jobs, bought new cars, fixed their house, and helped Willie’s father and children — a frenzy of activity in a short period of time.”

But it appears the honeymoon stage is over. Just this week, Willie said “The drama is nonstop,” and his wife remarked that the money is “a curse.””

After years of working with clients in the aftermath of a windfall, their reaction is not surprising. Think of a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other – from joy, excitement, and happiness to emptiness, resentment, and sometimes even despair. But just like the high, this post-honeymoon stage can be temporary. It’s a critical junction where the Seeleys and other sudden wealth recipients can either let the money control their lives, or they can begin to control their own lives and use the money as a tool rather than be used by the money.”

It’s a delicate process, but one that has dramatic repercussions for their lives and the lives of their children and family. The solution is to not let the win define who they are or to change what they enjoyed about their lives pre-Powerball win. It involves exploring what they want their new lives to look like and creating a strategy that uses the money to help them achieve this. The honeymoon stage can leave a big void. It’s important to fill that hole with activities and purpose.”

Do you notice the language that Robert Pagliarini uses to describe how to manage the sudden overwhelming windfall of a lottery win? “Sudden wealth recipients can either let the money control their lives, or they can begin to control their own lives and use the money as a tool rather than be used by the money.”

Sounds like advice on taking control of your life, doesn’t it? It seems amazing to us that something as positive as buckets of money may end up controlling your life and impoverishing you personally but if you are a person who has never taken control of your own life, why would a truck-load of money make any difference to your level of personal control?

I mentioned before that the lack of motivation that you may feel may be traced to a lack of faith that change is possible. Most people believe that they cannot change themselves or anything else for that matter. This is of course fundamentally untrue. (I may mention here that the converse is also not true. It is as much of a fantasy to believe that you are completely in control of everything). The truth is that anyone can change just about anything about themselves and a good deal of what they see around them.

A feeling of dis-empowerment is nothing more than that. A feeling. It isn’t a prevailing condition of reality, it’s just a feeling. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Change in your life is not only possible. It is inevitable. With time, we grow older. If we eat a lot of food and don’t exercise, we  grow fatter. If we don’t attempt to do the things that we want to do, we  grow more despondent and regretful. These are all changes that are inevitable.

Life IS change. If you are not changing, you are not alive. Forget the glossy magazines and the TV lies. Constantly trying to convince you that life is about having a huge bank account, sitting in an exotic location sipping a colourful cocktail without a care in the world. That is NOT life, this is stasis. That is an illusion created by the consumer industry to try to get you to spend more money on their goods and services so that the movers and shakers who supply these goods and services can pursue the same illusion as you are pursuing with the money that you supply them with. The drug dealers are addicted to the very drug that they have pedalled to you.

And when you think about it, the drug, the illusion is not even a very convincing one. Imagine that you have it all. And then try to think past the cocktail. What would you do if you had all that? Think of the lottery winners who get it all and then find out that they have nothing after all and their lives are still a big mess. Bigger even because the huge financial resources they now have access to, coupled with a lack of control, allow them to make a monumental stuff-up of their lives.

If you sincerely want to change for the better. If you want to take control of your life, my advice to you is threefold:

  1. Fully realise that your life will continue to change regardless of whether you are actively involved in this process or not because this is the nature of life. Get involved and start to plot a course for yourself towards a destination that you wish to reach.
  2. We can’t always change our friends and family, but if these are the people who are holding you back from positive change in your life, a decision has to be made. Even if this is a simple internal decision like “I will not allow this person to poison me with their own mediocrity and negativity.”
  3. Believe that positive change is possible for you to achieve. Without that belief, that faith, nothing will make any permanent positive change for you. No pep-talk. No gifted life-coach. Nothing. Because in order for you to change yourself, you have to first believe that it is possible.

Make it your New Year’s Resolution to never make another New Year’s Resolution again. Change your life now, rather than later. Don’t wait and stall until you lose sight of your dreams. Regret makes a poor close friend. Rather take the cards that you have been dealt in life and play the best game you can. Have fun and believe.

Written by: Lester Walters, head of CMAHC Australia

References

Pagliarini, R. (2013, September 27). Why lottery winners crash after A big win. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertp…