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21 Things That Beat Your New Year's Resolution

These goals are probably easier to accomplish than that new diet--and they're likely more rewarding, too.
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The main problem with deciding on a New Year's resolution is the waiting part.

Why put off doing something you really want to do until a certain day? Anything worth doing is worth declaring and doing now.

Every statement listed below is based on an action--an action you're probably not taking. That's why knocking these off could pay greater dividends than almost anything currently on your to-do list.

And each is a lot easier to accomplish than some grand, sweeping, hopefully-life-changing-but-in-the-end-you-never-manage-to-accomplish New Year's resolution:

1. "That wasn't nearly as bad as I thought..."

The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.)

Nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you think.

Plus it's incredibly exciting to overcome a fear. You'll get that "I can't believe I jumped out of an airplane!" rush, an amazing feeling you haven't experienced for too long.

2. "It's totally my fault."

People make mistakes. So we blame them for our problems.

But we are almost always to blame, too. Maybe we didn't provide enough training. Maybe we didn't foresee a potential problem. Maybe we asked too much, too soon. We did or did not do something we could have.

Take responsibility instead: Not in a masochistic, woe is me way, but in an empowering way. Take responsibility and then focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative next time.

3. "I finally got started!"

You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas.

Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something.

Every day, we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stops me and may be what stops you, too.

Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step.

The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

4. "You're awesome."

No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them.

And feel free to go back in time. Saying, "I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year" can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. Maybe a little more impact, because you still remember what happened a year later.

Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

5. "I'll show you, --hole."

I'm ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me--or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I'm justified in feeling that way or not.

See, whether I'm justified in feeling slighted or angry is not the point. I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more importantly, achieve what I want to achieve.

Call it manufactured anger. Call it artificial competition. Call it, shoot, childish and immature. I don't care--it works for me.

And it can work for you.

So don't turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary--in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or angry--because that will help shake you out of your same thing, different day rut.

6. "Can you help me?"

Asking someone for help instantly recognizes their skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration.

That's reason enough to ask someone to help you. The fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

7. "Can I help you?"

Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help.

But don't just say, "Is there anything I can help you with?" Most people will automatically say, "No, I'm all right."

Be specific. Say, "I've got a few minutes, can I help you finish that?" Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help. You'll make a real difference in someone's life--and you'll take a solid step towards creating a connection with that person.

8. "I just did something no one else is willing to do."

Pick one thing other people aren't willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Whatever it is, do it.

Instantly you're a little different from the rest of the pack.

Then keep going. Every day do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week you'll be uncommon. After a month, you'll be special.

After a year you'll be incredible, and you won't be like anyone else.

You'll be you.

9. "I don't care what other people think."

Most of the time you should worry about what other people think--but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live.

If you really want to start a business but you're worried that people might think you're crazy, F 'em. If you really want to change careers but you're afraid of what people might think, F 'em. If you really want to start working out but you're afraid people at the gym will think you're fat or out of shape, F 'em.

Pick one thing you haven't tried simply because you're worried about what other people think--and just go do it.

It's your life. Live it. F 'em.

10. "They're no different than me."

Incredibly successful people don't necessarily succeed because they're smarter or more talented or somehow genetically gifted.

The only thing that makes them different from you is the fact they have done what you haven't done... yet.

You can be them. You can be better than them.

11. "I'm really sorry."

We've all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive.

Pick someone you need to apologize to--the more time that's passed between the day it happened and today, the better.

But don't follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, "But I was really upset..." or, "I thought you were..." or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you're sorry, say why you're sorry, and take all the blame. Then you'll both be in a better place.

12. "I'm the king of the world!"

Maybe Leo was on to something. According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing--standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips--will dramatically increase your confidence.

Try it before you step into a situation where you know you'll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound freaky but it works.

13. "Yes."

You're busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, stay safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today.

Say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you're most afraid of.

When you say yes, you're really saying, "I trust myself."

Trust yourself.

14. "No."

Still, you can't do everything. You can't help everyone. You may want to but you can't.

Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you.

Say no at least once before the end of the month--the harder to say, the better.

And don't worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people too.

15. "You're fired."

Maybe there's an employee you really need to let go but haven't. Or maybe there's a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend.

Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back, and let them go.

16. "It's not perfect--and that's okay."

Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome.

Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned.

Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers will tell you what needs to be improved--which means you'll get to make improvements that actually matter.

You can't find out until you let go.

You can't really do anything until you let go.

17. "That's not my job--but who cares?"

Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done.

No matter what your role or what you've accomplished, you're never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring.

The next time you see something that needs to be done, do it.

18. "Maybe I should do it that way."

Sure, we're all individuals. (Okay, I'm not.) We should always set our own courses and follow our own paths--most of the time.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish, and follow that path.

One time, don't try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

19. "Jeez, that was stupid. We should do it again!"

Sometimes the dumbest things result in our fondest memories: The time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and another employee drove all night so you could arrive at the customer's warehouse first thing the next morning to sort defective product; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm, sleeping on cots and eating vending machine food and cranking out orders...

Each happened over 20 years ago, but my memories are vivid.

Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy--the harder, the better. You probably won't love it while it's happening, but the result will be doing something cool and creating a memory that will always make you smile.

20. "Hi, Mom!"

Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They will always be there for you.

They won't be around forever. Call them.

21. Nothing.

Self talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you've worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of...

...Look in the mirror, smile, and just nod at the person looking back.

Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgement of achievement and, more importantly, fulfillment.

IMAGE: Archive Photos/getty
Last updated: Dec 10, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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