I just read yet another thread of people pledging resolutions, suspiciously many being ones they failed last year. This year they really meant it, though.
I had to comment on what works and doesn't.
Habits that work
The day Nelson Mandela walked free for the first time in 27 years--a day of global importance and incredibly busy--he got up early and do you know what he did?
His daily exercises. The calisthenics he'd done almost every day of those 27 years.
A day Gandhi was told that a day would be so busy he'd have to skip meditating, he replied
I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.
Resolutions that fail
Short-term thinking creates short-term results. If you want long-term failure, stick with resolutions and people who do them.
If you want long-term success, make your peers people like Mandela and Gandhi. Talk about long-term results!
They didn't start exercising and meditating as one-year resolutions. They started them as ways of living. They didn't think
Hmm... should I exercise today or not?
Hmm... should I meditate today or not?
They earlier chose to do those things daily forever. They valued those activities' benefits and removed the decision process. That means they didn't do things they valued less. That's what living by your values means.
That's living a good life.
The Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activity (Sidcha)
If you're going to do something daily forever, how do you know it's worth it?
Whether it meets your values, only you know, but I can tell you how to tell if a habit will give you enough to benefit you. After all, watching 5 hours of TV or smoking a pack of cigarettes a day are habits but won't improve your life (sadly the average American already watches 5 hours of TV a day).
The acronym is as important for habits as SMART is for goals.
Cigarettes don't qualify because they aren't healthy. Nor does watching TV, which isn't challenging.
Here's unsolicited feedback from someone whose sidcha is writing in his blog every day, which he started after seeing how I write in mine every day (2,818 posts and counting since January 2011), which qualifies as a sidcha.
How would you like to write about an improvement to you life like this, that cost no money and that you enjoyed doing?
One last thing, Josh. I'd love to share you with a post I've scheduled for this Sunday, which I think is my most personally significant one yet and the one I'm most proud of.
Just under 5 months ago I wrote a post about being on a quest to find something 'I give a lot of [expletive] about', thinking that I hated my job (and I wanted to find something I cared about as much as these guys, at 32:00).
BUT all along it was right there in front of me Josh!
I'm doing it.
I was looking for a job I cared about and a complete life I cared about, and all along I WAS DOING IT. There's nothing I care more about than writing and learning, AND it's what I DO.
Writing and teaching students and helping them attain the life they want, is something I GIVE a lot of [expletive] about! And I'm DOING it.
And how did I come to that realisation? Writing EVERY DAY (and not to mention how writing has helped me get through a recent personal trial I thought would be impossible to not only okay, but content, and GRATEFUL for it)--it's writing every day that has helped put all that in perspective (and helped me prove to myself I'm actually stronger than I thought I was).
So thank you Josh, I know you might say you only played a small part in that, but thank you. I love my life now, I live every day like it were my last, and I look forward to waking up every day, and you are one of the people I have most to thank.
I've started assigning sidchas in my leadership classes I teach at NYU. One student chose planks this fall. She lost 4.5 kilograms as a side effect, since planks aren't about weight loss. The self-awareness and discipline that the sidcha developed enabled her to achieve extra goals.
Sidchas develop discipline, diligence, integrity, and other leadership skills.
Another side effect: her husband started running for exercise, without her trying to motivate him. He'd meant to start for so long he'd given up on it. She led him through her behavior.
More about sidchas
If you want to learn more about sidchas, I've written about them at length. Here is a collection of posts and a video on them, including suggestions for sidchas you can start, as opposed to any old habit.
Longtime readers of this column in Inc. have read about my sidchas and their value:
Enjoy your sidchas!