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“A trusted system is the cornerstone of making big changes.”

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Front NineChange Interview: Mike Vardy

I was introduced to Mike Vardy because we both have similar perspectives about change: Make them small. Further, we share the common philosophy that “every day is a new beginning.” His recent book, The Front Nine: How To Start The Year You Want Anytime You Want was released about a week prior to A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life, so you could say we are sharing the same time and space continuum these days! Oh, and don’t let the name of the book fool you, you’ll see this isn’t about golf!

Brett: What caused you to write The Front Nine?
Mike: I think we’re at a point now where we’re all trying to do too much throughout the year, and when it comes to January 1st we tend to put that into overdrive. I wrote The Front Nine to remind people they can start the year they want anytime they want, and by putting together some advice on how to do that through the use of anecdotes and practical strategies, the book can serve as a constant reminder – or at least one that people can return to when they feel the need. I also wanted to make it a fairly light and brisk read, because we all have a lot to do and I want people to get to the “doing” of it.

I’m a proponent of the idea that “every day is a new beginning.” The Front Nine seems to have a similar philosophy in that you emphasize goals should not be pigeonholed into a new year’s resolution time-frame. Can you expand on this?
Absolutely. When it comes to resolutions, many people tend to gravitate towards the time of year where we have the least amount of energy. Think about it: we have just come through six weeks of craziness with the holiday season and then we are programmed by a calendar to foster new and amazing habits and activities that we are supposed to give our all to for the year ahead. So what happens? Sometimes we make it three days. Sometimes we make it three weeks (hence the term Blue Monday for the third Monday in January). But rarely do we stick with it throughout the whole course of the year. And if we do, we certainly aren’t able to give it our best after the allure of the start of the year wears off.

I believe the month of January is a month of reflection and recharging. It is a time where you should look back at the year that was and plan for the year ahead. You shouldn’t cram that all into the small window of time (essentially the last week of December to the first week of January) to make such big decisions with where you want to go and what you want to do with the year to come. The Front Nine doesn’t necessarily tell you that you need to start on February 1st either. In fact, I believe that you can start the year you want anytime you want. It’s just a matter of forgetting about that calendar in front of you and to think about the things that are important to you instead. Hopefully The Front Nine can help people do just that.

You use golf analogies throughout your book, if you don’t play golf, does the book still apply?
Truth be told, I’m not a golfer. I live in a part of Canada that has golf pretty much year-round though (yes, Victoria rarely sees snow). When I sat down to think about the game of golf, I realized there were a lot of practical terms that could relate to anyone in their lives – whether they golf or not. For example, I found out “the front nine” were the first nine holes that a golfer plays on the golf course. If your friend wants to start with hole number one and you didn’t start until hole number four, at the end of the day you both would play the same amount of holes so you could be scored equally (once the handicap is taken into account, of course). So even if you were to start later than your friend, you could still wind up with a better score.

Again, it’s all about the approach – you’re all on an even playing field. I think the message in The Front Nine echoes that, because you really can start the year you want any time you want. Even if your friend starts on January 1st you could really start on April 1st and still come out on top if you approach each hole more effectively, so to speak.

Can you pinpoint a time when you struggled to make changes in your life? How did you overcome the obstacles you faced?
Whenever money comes into the equation, it gets tough. When I was working at a job I didn’t really enjoy any longer, the money and benefits were so good that I stayed – even though I was miserable. The problem was that I was approaching each day in a “day by day” manner as opposed to looking at things over the long haul. Once I started to look at the bigger picture, I realized that there had to be a way to get out of that situation, regardless of how much I was being paid. It took a while to come to that realization because I was bombarded with responsibilities and tasks. When that happens, clarity of thought and mindfulness is almost impossible to have. It is only when I was willing to take a step back and really look at things that I was able to see a path out of that situation. Once I had that, all I needed was the willpower and game plan to make progress down that path.

What piece of advice would you give anyone going through a major change in their life?
Make sure you have a trusted system in place. Whether that’s through journaling your thoughts and keeping them someplace where you can easily get to them, or having a task management system in place that will allow you to better capture your next moves. A trusted system is the cornerstone of making big changes. After all, you may not be able to trust where everything is headed as you make life changes but if you have that anchor of a trusted system, you always have something you can rely on to keep you grounded and on track. Once you have that trusted system in place, you can take on pretty much anything. In fact, putting your trust in that system is a major change in your life on its own.

More about Mike: Mike Vardy is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and “productivityist”. He has served as the Managing Editor at Lifehack, and contributed articles on productivity to Lifehacker, The Next Web, and GTD Times. He is also the author of The Front Nine: How To Start The Year You Want Anytime You Want, published by Diversion Books. You can keep up with him at his blog, Productivityist.com, and learn more about his other work – such as his popular Ready Retreat workshop series – at MikeVardy.com.

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Posted in Change Interviews, Mind-Body