The vast majority of New Year's resolutions end in failure. Here's an easier, more effective approach to making awesome changes.
How are you doing with those New Year's resolutions? Not very well?
That's no surprise. Working to make those big changes--to your business, to your workday, to your health... to anything--is really hard. And it's really stressful.
And it's really easy to get frustrated and give up.
Setting big resolutions is great, but all too often those big resolutions are also too fuzzy. Here's one many people set: "This year, I want to get in better shape."
What exactly does that mean? "Better shape" can mean anything from "able to walk up two flights of stairs without feeling like I'm going to pass out," to "running a marathon in under three hours." So when you start going to the gym and "eating a little better" it feels purposeless.
Here's a better approach.
Success is never overnight. Success is the result of a series of small, incremental, repeated steps. So pick one thing, one small thing, and do it every day. In time it will become a habit--and in time you'll make tremendous changes in your life.
Just pick one thing to do--one tangible, measurable, goal-oriented thing that in and of itself helps achieve a purpose--and resolve to do it every day. Commit to do it. Put it on your to-do list or calendar and do it.
Here are some examples:
1. You want to lose weight.
Every day, eat one meal differently. Just one.
Have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. Or replace your afternoon cookies with a meal replacement bar. Or pack tuna and a small salad for lunch instead of eating out.
Making sweeping changes to your diet is incredibly depressing. It's a lot easier to commit to changing one meal.
Over time you'll lose a little weight, you'll feel a little better, and you'll be motivated by your success to make other incremental changes.
2. You want to build a better network.
Commit to spending ten minutes a day making connections.
Pick a person on LinkedIn to connect with, and then maintain that connection. Or send a note to someone in your community recognizing their success or congratulating them for an achievement. Or call a supplier and compliment the service you received.
Just make sure your ten minutes a day is focused entirely on giving, not receiving. Do that every day and you'll make real, lasting connections.
3. You want to be more productive.
Make one change to a daily habit. For example, quit being Pavlov's dog when your inbox tone sounds and commit to only looking at your inbox three times: Say at 8, noon, and 5. You'll be surprised by how non-urgent most emails really are, and you won't get stuck in the reply-quickly-just-to-be-friendly-and-seem-responsive cycle that wastes so much time.
Or pick one task a day to see through to the end instead of multitasking. Or, before you start your day, add one "not to do" item to your to-do list.
Pick one change, and do it every day. You'll instantly be more productive... and you'll start looking for other things to change.
4. You want to get smarter.
Studies show exercise does more to bolster thinking power than actual thinking: People who walked for just 40 minutes three days a week built new brain cells and improved their memory functions.
And while multitasking is usually inefficient, in this case feel free to take a walk with your significant other--the time you spend together, away from distractions and interruptions, will definitely benefit your relationship, too.
5. You want to do more good.
Pick one cause. Just one. Then write a check. Or call to see how you can help with one event or initiative. Or ask if there's something your business can do to support that cause.
While the world is full of people who need help, if we all do just one thing to help someone else... think what a difference that would make.
6. You want to get fitter.
The easiest way to improve something is to measure it. We all tend to perform better when we're observed, even if we're just observing ourselves.
So if you want to be more active, commit to using a fitness tracker to monitor your physical activity. (You can use this or this or this or even something as simple as this.) Start using one and you can track how many steps you take throughout the day, how many calories you burn... pretty soon you'll find yourself taking the stairs and going for a walk at lunch just to up your totals.
(Believe it or not, it's actually kind of fun.)
7. You want to learn a skill.
Most of us wish we were born with a gift. In fact we were: We all have the ability to practice in a focused, goal-oriented, effective way.
Say you want to learn to play guitar. Cool: Commit to spending some amount of time every day practicing. But don't just go through the motions. Say you're playing scales: Try to be perfect. Then play at half speed and try to be perfect. Then play at double speed and try to be perfect.
The whole time you practice focus on some measurable result. The immediate feedback you receive from mistakes will help you modify your technique... and the immediate feedback you receive from success will boost your motivation and make you want to challenge yourself even more.
Challenge yourself, apply yourself, and adapt to the immediate feedback you'll receive when you practice in a focused way. Fifteen minutes a day spent engaged in that kind of practice beats hours of mindless "effort."
8. You want to start a business.
The thought of going from zero to thriving enterprise is daunting. So take one step. Call one potential supplier. Visit one potential location. Scout one similar business. Have lunch with one successful entrepreneur.
Blast out one draft of your business plan.
If you really want to start a business, doing one thing will make you really excited about doing another thing... and soon you'll be chugging along like a runaway entrepreneurial train.
Of course those are just examples. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, no matter how impossible it seems to accomplish... just pick one thing and start doing it every day.
That's a resolution you can keep--and a resolution that brings you a lot closer to whatever big goal you want to accomplish. And because you can keep that kind of resolution, it's one that will make you feel a lot better about yourself.
We can all use a little more of that.