As we are moving past the time when most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions, I offer this subtle reminder. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED. It is sometimes a difficult thing to swallow. Goals and resolutions are pretty and shiny when we create them. Everything will go great! You’ll be able to maintain this level of excitement until you get to the end! The problem is that we usually forget or don’t know the following.
When you set up a goal or make a resolution it is much like ordering your favorite dessert. For me that would be the classic chocolate milkshake. Unfortunately you forgot to read the fine print. Before you will be served your delicious dessert, you have an appetizer of pain coming. That will be followed by a main course of discipline with self-sacrifice sauce and side order of humility. Once you are able to choke down those mammoth size helpings of something that YOU DIDN’T ORDER, you’ll finally get that thing that you wanted.
Just remember that THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, all of it is part of the deal. Embrace it. You’ll actually find at some point halfway through the main course that you like the taste of it. Those things that you overlooked on the menu are actually something that you want for yourself. The problem is that most people retreat too early because THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED! At the end of the meal you’ll have to settle up the check. If you stuffed yourself full with meal and goal, the bill is paid with PRIDE. If you left your meal unfinished, then you have a debt of REGRET that is difficult to wipe away.
Decide on what you want from the menu!
It’s January 9th and the gyms are getting less crowded by the day. The “Gymcensus” is almost over. With the holiday season having just ended, the story behind Christmas should be in mind but I’ll recap just in case. The story of Christmas starts with Joseph bringing Mary, his betrothed, to Bethlehem to be counted for the census. Due to the large influx of people, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary were forced to stay in a stable because there was no room at the inn. In that stable Jesus was born. Then he and his family had to flee in order escape the wrath of King Herod who intended to kill the child. Now we have created the modern equivalent.
The Gymcensus is a slightly skewed reenactment of the story of Jesus. After the holidays, all people who want to believe that they will be fit this year must travel to a gym. They must go as often as possible during the first few weeks of the new year in order to be counted in the Gymcensus. Since it is so crowded and there are a limited number of elliptical machines, people are forced to lift weights or run. At that point these people must flee the gym because they are afraid that exercise might kill them. Either that or they flee from their friends that they told about the gym commitment because they cannot face their “failure”. While this depiction of a New Year tradition may be comical, it does not need to be so pervasive. Most gyms give you the tool that you need in order to stay through the census and actually become more fit. That tool is the mirror.
The mirror is an underused tool in and out of the gym. In all honesty, the trip to a gym is completely unnecessary. The main action that needs to happen is to look in the mirror and come face to face with your opponent. Once you have looked your opponent in the eye and sized him or her up, you’ll have a very good idea of what he or she is capable of. Then all you need to do is beat your opponent by 1%. Perhaps I grazed over that too quickly. The only person that you are competing with is you! You just need to start by doing a little bit more than the lazy version of yourself would do. If you do that, then you’ll gain momentum. DO NOT COMPETE WITH A PICTURE IN YOUR HEAD OR A PHOTO IN A MAGAZINE! You’re setting yourself up for failure by doing that. Only compete with you, the you of today. Don’t take part in the Gymcensus! Use the mirror in your gym, bathroom or wherever to regularly challenge your greatest opponent to be better. If you don’t, then no one will.
You’re not here just to be counted, you’re here because you count!
Jocko Willink does an AMAZING job of illustrating a more intense version of this lesson when he talks about the “man in the cave” in his interview with Tim Ferriss. It’s worth a listen.
The act of making a New Year’s Resolution is a good concept. Taking the opportunity to start fresh with a brand new set of goals is admirable. The problem is that most people don’t follow through on their new resolutions. There are many reasons why most resolutions fail. Below are some of the normal pitfalls and suggestions on avoiding them.
- Going It Alone – Change often takes willpower and some people are in short supply of it. So one way to increase your chances of making a change is to partner up with someone. The small group adds a bit of social pressure that feels less like will. Or even better, join a new peer group where your desired outcome is the norm.
- Biting Off More Than You Can Chew – People often set themselves up for failure by trying to make too many changes. Start with bite-size chunks that are manageable. Break it down into a daily basis where it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Also set up systems that help make things automatic. Program a wake up call in your phone and put your shoes by your bed if you want to run every morning and reward yourself for little successes.
- Bringing Old You to the New Year – If you would like to make a change in your life, don’t bother making the resolution. There’s not enough power of emotion behind that. You need to get to the point where you need to make a change because it is who you truly want to be in your soul. Change is inconvenient, difficult and a Do It Yourself project. Come up with all of the reasons why this must happen and you might have a chance.
- Confusing Progress and Success – Often people walk the first five miles of a thousand mile journey and become satisfied with their progress because this is the farthest they’ve ever gone. Define the endpoint and keep it in mind. Don’t be satisfied with anything less.
- Making Setbacks into Failure – Everyone screws up, stumbles, forgets and blows things off. Don’t beat yourself up. If the goal is worth having, then it is worth going through some missteps. Will you only be satisfied with having your goal if you never faltered once? Then don’t even start, we all screw up.
As is always true, these posts are as much for me as they are for you. Good luck in 2015! Make it a great year on purpose.