Last year was my best year of life in a few ways. My life was more interesting than ever before because I set a goal to do interesting activities every week — and I accomplished that. I planned to improve my social intelligence, health, strength, and fitness this year, and I’ve seen noticeable progress in these areas, as supported by other people’s feedback.
I have a lot I still want to achieve. And I want to make this new year the best year of our lives. There are few things I want to share with you that may help you do that.
Reflecting on the Last Year
First, reflecting on your past can help you figure out what went right and what went wrong so you can change. If you keep behaving the same way, you’ll get the same results. These videos by Marie Forleo are a good framework to reflect.
Bringing More Joy Out of Your Purchases
This fresh article by Tim Ferriss expounds upon Ramit Sethi’s philosophy of reflecting on the purchases that bring you joy. The exercises mentioned can double or even 10X the amount of joy you get from your financial life, sometimes without having to spend more money than you did.
What purchases brought you the most joy this last year? What purchases were the most expensive and how much joy did they bring you? By looking back at your experiences, something most people never do, you can identify pockets of opportunity.
I’ve found that car repairs have been a huge purchase, and that didn’t bring me much joy. CrossFit was a moderate, recurring purchase, but it brought me a community, strong relationships, and a stronger, fitter body than ever before. (I dead lifted 195 pounds five times a few days ago). Eating out was a low-cost purchase that brought me diminishing happiness over time even when I went to new restaurants. Buying small, useful gadgets and timeless pieces, like a magnetic phone holder for the car, my first pair of leather boots and white shoes, and weave iPhone cords brought lasting joy and use.
So, now I know what to spend more on, what to keep spending on, and what to spend less on. Every person is different, so you may come to different conclusions based on your purchases.
Identifying Fruitless Goals
Next, goals are important, and we naturally set goals. But are they the best goals? Let’s spend more time thinking about why we want what we want before we chase after it. Many people automatically think they need to lose weight, look good, buy a fancy car, get a nice house, and so on. But when they ask why or get to their goal, they sometime discover that it’s for approval from someone they shouldn’t care about or they realize it doesn’t make them as happy as they think.
Sometimes, becoming rich, revered, and looking great naked are healthy, valid goals for the right reasons. So, I don’t want to discount those goals. Having a good body and health can help with your confidence and focus. But I am saying you should consider other experiences that can be more enriching than the obvious, like travel, affordable but cool experiences with loved ones (like escape rooms!), or re-connecting with a childhood friend.
What would you regret most on your deathbed? Add that to your goals.
The Most Important Step
Most of the successful people I have studied have a process for staying on track with their goals. One part of sticking to your resolutions is realizing that consistency is most important, not burning yourself out in the first couple months. This Instagram video I filmed breaks it down. The truth is that your biggest danger won’t be starting your new habits. It’ll be sticking with them once February, March, and April roll around.
This video explains how scientific research has uncovered the power of conserving willpower, avoiding plain distractions, writing your goals, and keeping habit change “atomic.”
Frankly, I think a 1% improvement per day is too audacious. That’s 365% a year. If you can do that for your bench press, you’d be world champion in a couple years.
They also understand that we underestimate how much we can do in five years and overestimate what we can do in one year. If your goals are grand, which they should be, then you’re probably not going to complete them in one year. You might. There’s always a chance if you’re lucky and work hard.
But likely, it’ll take longer than you think, but if you persist, you’ll accomplish your big goal. But that means you’ll have to break down your big goal into small, milestone goals so you can track your progress over the year. For example, if my goal is to pack on 25 pounds of muscle in five years, I may set a goal for 10 pounds this year. That means my monthly goal may be 3/4 of a pound of muscle a month. That’s something I can reasonably work towards and measure.
There are various ways of defining a goal, but I urge you to consider S.M.A.R.T. goals. When your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, you can easily track your progress and find out where you went wrong to adjust in the future.
Others use Napoleon Hill’s system: define a definitive, specific thing you want to receive, the deadline for achieving it, the value you will give in exchange for it, read it out loud at least twice a day, write out the goal in present tense as if you achieved it, and feel as if you’re already in possession of it. The aim here is to use visualization and the law of attraction to become the person who would be worthy of that goal and could exchange enough value to get that goal.
But let’s say you’re looking for a new method. Try this…
STSMV’s stand for short, time-sensitive, measurable victories. I made this acronym up, though it’s inspired by the book Rework by Jason Fried.
For some people, goals drain their willpower. They’re tiresome, boring, or tedious.
Especially if your goal requires doing something you hate, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Something that has a deadline far away lets you endlessly push off getting started, the trigger for procrastination.
Rather than thinking “I can’t be happy until I achieve this”, think “moving towards my goals and seeing progress ENERGIZES and EXCITES me!”
That can be done in various ways. One is to find variations of behavior that move towards your goal that are more fun or fulfilling. If you hate running, but you want to exercise, what about tennis, stunt acting, boxing, krav maga, CrossFit, Orange Theory, cycling, a softball league, or a thousand other things?
By using STSMV’s you can have short victories that take ten minutes or less to finish that energize and motivate you to keep going. That’s how I realized I succeeded at having a consistent 5-day gym routine for the last four years. I’ve been trying to go to the gym consistently for over a decade. But one mindset shift changed everything.
Rather than beating myself or burning myself by going for one to three hours in a single day, I celebrated the consistency I had, even if it started at 15 minutes at the gym a day. Moreover, I honored Fridays the most usually because I got the most motivation from those moments when others stopped coming to the gym, and I still showed up. And those moments usually happened at the end of the week.
The momentum that these victories brought kept me happy and consistent for weeks, which turned into months. And once I got that rhythm, I increased how long I stayed at the gym gradually.
The Next Step Forward Only Technique
Focus on just the next step forward today.
How can you climb a 20,000 foot mountain? One step at a time.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Will Smith says that his father taught him that you don’t set out to build the greatest, biggest wall ever. Instead, you say you’re going to lay a brick today as perfectly as you can. And you do the same the next day. And soon, you have a magnificent wall.
Forgive Yourself When You Slip
Research shows that those who forgive themselves for when they screw up or break their consistency succeed more than those who beat themselves up. Expect to break your habit once in a while when you try to form the habit. There will be days when you don’t go to the gym, eat junk food, or fail to work on your career. What matters most is understanding that weekly and monthly averages matter more than what happens on a particular day.
The world is wild. There are thousands of factors at play, some out of your control.
Being too much of a perfectionist can hurt you.
Some people say that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
Well, if that’s true, then what if I said I wanted to turn into a pig with wings?
Can a 90 year old woman consistently be the sex symbol of Hollywood in every new movie that comes out if she just puts her mind to it?
Can a two foot man become the next Michael Jordan if he just believes and works hard?
Maybe you can still see significant progress, but we must ground your goals in some bit of reality. Sure, none of us knows what truly is possible, but start one step at a time, and leave a little room for life and time to create what everyone thought was impossible.
That’s how “I wish I can fly” turns into “I invented the airplane.”
If things are way out of whack and you hate your job or life, you can change things.
But simple things you must keep in mind: realize that your passions may change or that you may stumble across new passions.
Start with five-year goals. Sprinkle in a couple ten year goals. But don’t go too far into the future. As Conan O’Brien said during a commencement speech at Dartmouth University, your goals and what you wish to become will change. What you want to be at 20 may not be what you want to become at 30.
For further reading, check out my article on why New Years Resolutions fail.
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