Here we go again. It’s the time of year when we all make resolutions to improve our lives in some capacity. If we are feeling especially ambitious, we may even resolve to improve the lives of others. We do this over and over again, truly conjuring the definition of insanity as we expect a different result.
I saw a meme yesterday, and no matter that I’ve seen it before, this pretty much sums it up the ridiculous nature of this tradition in ushering in the new year.
I’m opening a gym called “Resolutions.”
It will have exercise equipment for the first two weeks, then it turns into a bar for the rest of the year.
I like to give it at least four weeks, personally. February is typically when the gym starts to get less crowded. Otherwise, this is so accurate.
Why don’t these resolutions work? We really mean it this time. THIS will the year we will finally accomplish the big goal of [fill in the blank]. It’s the same damn goal you had five years ago. Let’s start with being honest with ourselves.
Instead of half-baked resolutions, what you really need to know is how you set goals and crush them.
Make it impossible. As much as I appreciate the SMART acronym (look it up if you don’t know it), I have come to realize that the “realistic and attainable” parts are just another way to keep us playing it safe. Indeed, this is most often used in a business setting. You don’t want to rock the boat there, do you? Employers reward accomplishments within deadlines, so you need to make those attainable, reasonable, and safe.
Do NOT apply this to your personal goals! There are no rules here, and the more you stretch yourself, the better off you will be. Instead of setting yourself the same, sorry excuse for a goal of losing twenty pounds, make it forty this time. Does that seem unattainable? Good! You could use a real challenge.
Instead of striving to complete a couple of 10k races, start training for your first marathon. Does that seem unrealistic, given that 10k is the most you’ve ever done? Perfect! You will push yourself so much harder if you set that goal in the realm of the impossible.
Apply constraint. I just gave you two examples above, and you may have a list of six goals you want to accomplish. But here’s what I need you to do. Pick one. Only one. When you constrain to one big goal, you are applying all of your focus there. You’ve never accomplished it before, so that laser focus is going to be absolutely necessary to your success. You will be far more likely to accomplish one big goal than to spread your attention between six at once.
When you spread you attention (and intention), you are teetering on the realm of multi-tasking and your brain is going to protest big time. The result will be that you’ll accomplish none of those things and we’ll be having this same conversation next December.
As noted, constraining will get you there faster, so it’s far more likely that by mid-year, you’ll be ready to redirect focus to the next goal and simply maintain your first accomplishment. How fantastic would that be?
Go beyond visualization. Yes, I want you to visualize exactly what you will look like when you drop that forty pounds and trade some fat for lean muscle. What are you wearing? What expression is captured by the cameras when you cross the finish line of your first marathon? Visualize all day, every day what you will see in the mirror.
Now, go beyond that and describe what you feel. What are the emotions that you are having once you have accomplished this impossible goal? What are the sensations in your body? Describe them aloud. Write them down on paper. Conjure them up every day.
Who do you see in the crowd? What does the air smell like? What music is playing? Engage all of your senses!
Yes, behave as if you’ve already accomplished the impossible. See it. Feel it. Embody it. Become your future self. This is the fastest way to channel the results you crave.
Take action every single day. Here’s where it gets real! Your big goal is not an “as time allows” kind of activity, my friend. It’s every fucking day. It’s rain or shine. And it’s the smallest and simplest of activities, practiced consistently that are going to get you to that finish line.
Every day. Not just through January and maybe part of February. I’m talking about July and August too.
This is one third of the formula that you need to form a new habit. Consistent action is second to visualization. You can envision your new self all day long but if you aren’t taking action every single day toward accomplishing your dreams, you’re wasting your time here.
Yes, apply the Stephen Covey approach of beginning with the end in mind. Also maintain your awareness of inertia and that getting started is going to be the hardest part.
It will be such a grind at first. It’s probably going to suck. That’s why most people quit after a couple of weeks. The shit gets real and it gets real hard.
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson was gifted to me by a friend for the 2019 New Year. This concept maintains that we can incline or decline with action or inaction. Small daily actions will compound…either moving you up the incline toward your desired outcome or declining (reclining on the coach) like you’ve been doing, which is why you repeat the same tired goals every year, having never accomplished them.
Always engage your brain. The third part of the formula to form a new habit is maintaining thought control. Specifically, you should be engaging your prefrontal cortex to make all of the decisions regarding your impossible goals. This is the only way that you create new habits and override the autopilot that you’ve had engaged all of this time that it took you to get to where you are now.
I’d like to tell you that you’ll only need this engagement in the beginning, but in reality you will always have opportunity for the battle between the imaginary angel and devil on your shoulder.
Your primitive brain will always step in to apply that motivational triad that has kept us alive as a species: seek pleasure, avoid pain, conserve your energy.
The higher thinker inside of your brain is happy to learn new things, but it does take greater processing power, so expect there to be a battle in the beginning.
Your prefrontal cortex will remind you of the impossible goal that you set.
Your primitive brain will tell you how great it feels to stay in bed on a cold, rainy day.
Awareness is key here. Be aware that your human brain is simply working as designed and that you and you alone have the power to override it.
You are capable of doing amazing things. Indeed, impossible things. The reason I challenge you to try the impossible is because if we simply look around, we can very quickly realize that we wouldn’t have the things that we do if inventors and dreamers had kept their thoughts realistic and attainable.
The fact that you’re reading this on a computer or smart phone is a concept that would have been mind-blowing only a couple of decades ago.
So, instead of going again in January, step it up this time. After all, we are starting a new decade. And the road to accomplishment is a marathon, not a sprint.
“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” – Stephen Covey
No, don’t set another goal. Crush it.
Would you like to be coached on this or another area of your life? Book a free consultation with me here.