(Because – let’s be real – you’re going to anyway)
“NEW YEAR – NEW ME!”
The social media decree litters our news feeds each January followed by droves of declarations of self-improvement. All of our followers are asked directly (if only by virtue of making it public) to hold us accountable for the promises we make to better ourselves. And throughout the year they all get to watch us succeed.
Because, honest as our intentions may be in the moment, New Year’s resolutions rarely last much longer than that. We all start off strong: 2 weeks without a cigarette here, 20 dollars saved there.
But then something happens…February. February happens and no one gives a shit about what they or you or anyone else resolved to do last month. No accountability is enforced because the rest of us gave up too, and let’s not draw attention to all of our embarrassing failures.
The New Year’s resolution is a tradition filled with hope and positivity and good intent. And it sucks.
The New Year’s resolution is the crash diet of self-improvement. The problem is that it typically comes without a long-term plan. At first, it’s exciting and inspiring. But as soon as the novelty wears off, so too does the motivation to continue.
So, I’m asking you to forget about your New Year’s resolution and instead take a moment to make a plan. A new year is a great time to implement some personal development goals. But so is a new month, week, day. You don’t need a holiday to get off your ass and start working on yourself. Maybe you just need the reminder. So here it is:
Happy New Year! Now get to work.
Next, you’ll need a plan. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to staying motivated. Your plan has to come from you. Figure out WHY you want to change. WHY you want to quit smoking, save money, learn to play the French horn, or whatever you resolve to do is far more important than how or when you go about it. Your WHY will either carry you over the finish line or knock you on your ass as you round the corner into February.
WHYs can go deep. In fact, they should. After all, without a solid WHY, you might find that your efforts were ultimately wasted even if you accomplish your goal.
Here’s a trick for testing the strength of your WHY:
Ask yourself WHY you would like to make the change.
Now answer. Look at your answer and ask yourself WHY again. Repeat until you have no more WHYs to ask.
Annoying? Absolutely. But without identifying the root of your motivation, it will be difficult at best to stay motivated enough to complete your goal. Your WHY is a powerful tool, and you can have the same WHY for a number of different goals.
Once you’ve identified your WHY, make a list of the actions you’ll need to take to accomplish your goal. Just like you did with breaking down your WHY, break down your action list until it’s in its most micro form. For instance, if your goal is to write a book, your list of actions might look like this:
1) Write book
But break it apart so that each action requires only one step.
Reverse engineer your goal until it cannot be broken down further.
1) Research book topic & similar books
2) Create a chapter-by-chapter outline
3) Identify how many pages are ideal
4) Decide between a publisher or self-publishing
5) Write first three chapters
…you get the idea.
Oh, and actually write it down. When you cross a task off a list, you have accomplished something. These mini accomplishments will serve as your rewards along the way to achieving your long-term goal and keep you moving.
Now you have a solid reason and a solid plan and you’re ready to get started. The next part is staying motivated. An amazing thing about having a well-defined plan is that they can be somewhat self-perpetuating. You are motivated because you know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. No question about it. You also get to pat yourself on the back with every small step you take in the direction of your goal. There are always times when we get discouraged, lose sight of our WHYs, or get distracted by life. Shit happens. But with a plan and a WHY, jumping back on track is so much easier.
So, get after it. You don’t need to wait until the clock strikes midnight or the ball drops or the sounds of paper noisemakers ring in your ears. You don’t need hundreds of followers to hold you accountable (unless that’s part of your plan) because you’ve got this. Start your next adventure now. New year – same old badass you.