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As is tradition, everyone rings in the new year with resolutions on how they are going to change over the next 365 days. Somewhere between day number 14 and 60, most of us give up on the resolution and fall back into our normal ways. Resolution failed. Oh well, there’s always next year.
Much of the reason why resolutions fail is for two reasons. First, most are overly ambitious. People are either trying to reinvent themselves or they are trying to break a habit that’s been ingrained in them for years. The second reason is that they are too goal-oriented, in that you either succeed or fail in them and there are timelines involved (you start on January 1st and it should be complete by December 31st).
The attractiveness of starting something on the first day of the year is understandable. We’ve overindulged since Halloween, so there’s a twinge of guilt involved. Then, there’s the good feelings about the start of the new year, where we are the most optimistic and determined. However, there’s a good chance that we may be doing this resolution thing all wrong. According to an article in Newsweek, 80% of resolutions fail by February. Considering the high incidence of resolution failure, we have a few ideas on how to make this year better for you than the previous.
Instead of Reinventing Yourself, Realign Yourself
You don’t have to become a new person to have a better year. Small steps going in the right direction will do just fine. The important thing to remember is that you want to some changes that gets you to a better place. Otherwise, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
In the career front, rather than trying to jump into a new field or industry, another approach might be to figure out what your greatest strengths are and find opportunities in the field or industry you’re already in that are better suited for you than what you’re currently doing. By focusing on jobs that align with your strengths, even if you leave you’re field or industry, what you’re doing isn’t reinvention, it just means that you’re going to do more of what you do best somewhere else. It’s a small step in the right direction.
Compare Yourself to Yesterday’s You
You’re never doing yourself any favors by comparing yourself to anyone other than who you were yesterday. The only true measure of whether you are making improvement in your life is how you compare to yesterday, last week, and last year. Are you a stronger speaker or writer? Do you have more product or industry knowledge? Have you made more network connections? Are your sales numbers up?
There are two problems with comparing yourself to others. The first of which is that you could be comparing yourself to the wrong person, either someone far beyond where you are and whom you’ll have little chance of catching up to or someone equal to or below your caliber. As a business owner, do you think it would be useful to compare myself to someone like Elon Musk? Obviously, it wouldn’t. He’s accomplished way more than I have already and he’s far more brilliant. It’s a fool’s errand to try to mentally compete with someone like that. Likewise, when you are comparing yourself to someone equal to or below your abilities, you’re pacing yourself down to them instead of pushing yourself to greater heights. The second problem that comparing yourself to others is that no matter who it is you are comparing, you’ll feel far less accomplished because what you’ve done and what they have done will inherently be different. You will essentially be comparing apples to oranges.
How you compare to others is irrelevant so long as you are becoming a better you. So, always track your progress and keep pushing yourself to beat the past you and always aspire to be the future you that you envision. This is the only logical way of seeing the improvements you’ve made.
Recognize Your Achievements and Keep going
Most of the time we get so caught up in the future that we forget to appreciate everything we’ve done up to this point. So, instead of worrying about coming up with a New Year’s resolution, spend some time reviewing what you were able to do the previous year. Not only does this give you a chance to realize that you had a great year, but it also gives you the opportunity to see what you could do more of or do differently in order to have an even better new year.
Write down the ideas that you come up with and pick one or two that seem reasonable and could be implemented as part of your natural and normal daily routine. For example, maybe you are happy with your productivity, but want to up it a little bit. If there’s nothing that can be improved in how you’re working, maybe you could revise your schedule, so you start your day an hour earlier. In a year’s time, you’ve given yourself over 15 extra productive days.
Follow the D.O.R.E. System
As we said earlier, resolutions are generally too goal-oriented. They are time-bound, starting on the first of the year and ending at the last day of the year. Also, many times it’s structured in a way that you either succeed or fail. These are necessarily bad features because they do have a way of holding you accountable. However, should you fail at accomplishing your resolution, you give it up entirely. If you do succeed, then you have a great feeling for a short time, but then have the nagging feeling of not knowing what to do next.
A system works a little better because it isn’t succeed/fail and it doesn’t have a defined end-point. It keeps you searching for ways to continually improve. Our system is the D.O.R.E. system, named after a one of the first job applications I’d ever reviewed for a sales position, where the applicant stated that they were a dore-to-dore sales person for a previous company. While I have my doubts on her dore-to-dore sales abilities, I have no doubts on the efficacy of this system.
Once you decide on what you wish to do, you must follow-through on it by keeping it present on your mind all the time. Don’t let life’s distractions get in the way to improving yourself in some realm. There’s a certain amount of will-power that goes into establishing a good habit. Once it becomes a habit, it starts to become second-nature and there’s less need to use sheer will-power. For example, on these cold and dark mornings, I find it difficult to be motivated enough to get up and go to the gym. That’s where, through discipline and habit, I manage to do it. Going to the gym in the morning is just what I do.
While discipline is great, you should also make your system flexible enough that if you don’t do it one day, it’s not a big deal. Give yourself an out day or two during the week. This way you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t do it one day.
One of the biggest problems most of us have in doing something different or new is that we don’t plan for it. We think we can just wing it and things will go fine. I’ve never done anything successfully when I just winged it. Most of the time it was a total mess. I’ve always had to structure things in such a way that it is broken down into single, granular even, step-by-step parts. Then I felt confident and ready to go. The key to the plan, again, is flexibility. You can’t anticipate everything that could go wrong in your plan, so you’ll need to continuously review and adjust.
Once you know what you want to accomplish and have a plan to do it, find a way to fit it into your schedule. Make it feel as natural as possible and make it daily. You’ll find the more you do it, the more natural it will become. Why do you think dentists recommend brushing your teeth as part of your morning and nightly routine? It’s because these are two periods in the day in which you’re in your bathroom doing other normal “getting ready” activities. Likewise, how many times do you forget to brush if you don’t have anywhere to go and you don’t have to get ready? You were out of your routine and that’s when things get missed or forgotten.
Routine is important because it helps us not to have to remember things, we just do them. So, if there is something important you want to do, establish it as part of your normal routine.
In the end, it’s not enough to proclaim to ourselves what we are going to do in the future. We need to do it right away. There is no time like the present to change our lives for the better. So, get out the dore and do it!