New Year’s resolutions — that’s all anyone is talking about this week, myself included. And it’s likely what a meaningful number of you will be talking about at parties today with friends and family, and into the week ahead. About 41% of American adults make New Year’s resolutions.
“What’s your resolution? Nice! Nice, yeah, this year is the year I finally quit smoking, lose 10 pounds, etc …”
Personally, I have a complex relationship with resolutions because I’ve observed that many of us have a flawed perspective of what resolutions are, how you should set them, and how you achieve them — but not through any fault of our own.
Since birth, we’ve been taught by our parents, our teachers, pop culture, society, you name it, that when the clock strikes midnight and a new year dawns that we must radically overhaul our entire lives with wildly ambitious goals that we will undoubtedly cast aside within months. (Of the folks who make resolutions, only 9% will feel as if they were successful in keeping them by the end of the year.)
This lather-rinse-repeat approach to setting resolutions (often with the expectation of failure) that so many of us engage in, year after year, is demoralizing!
So, why do we keep doing it?
Stop being a resolution robot 🤖
If something is no longer serving us — a process, a strategy, a relationship even — we have to be willing to let go, to stop clinging to “the way it’s always been done,” to shake things up.
The same holds true for resolutions. My challenge to you this year is to break the mold of how you think about resolutions entirely.
Typically, we start with some version of this mindset:
“Oh, shit! It’s the new year! I’ve gotta come up with a resolution! OK, think … what are the one or two big things I’m going to completely change about my life this year?”
Maybe you’ll say you’re going to stop drinking as much this year, lose weight, and purge that specific person in your life who is a total energy vampire. Or maybe you’re thinking more about your career. You’re going to get that promotion or start your own business or get a raise.
Whatever you decide, once you’ve got your mental checklist of how you’re going to turn your life upside down, you’re off to the races!
Or so you think. What you’ve really done is set yourself up for failure, and here’s why:
- You likely have zero plan associated with any of these resolutions. They’re just wishes.
- You also probably have no ideas around how you’re going to stay accountable to keeping to those resolutions.
- Your choices were based on obvious things you’ve likely known needed to change for years — there’s no real revelation here.
Our mentally automated processes around resolutions are killing us. They’re setting us up to fail before we even start. This broken approach we take up at the end of every year is why we feel so beaten up, like we’re failures.
But you’re not a failure. You are capable of greatness. You just need to think differently.
Resolutions, revelations, and revolutions
Whenever someone brings up the topic of resolutions, there are two other words that come to mind that I find to be much more interesting and valuable to those of you out there who are seeking to better themselves in the coming year — revelations and revolutions.
Bear with me, this will all become clear here.
I alluded to the first word already in the previous section. Revelations are those illuminating mental lightning strikes we experience throughout life that fundamentally alter how we view ourselves and/or the world around us. These indelible moments are our greatest source of meaningful growth opportunities (i.e., our potential resolutions).
Then there are revolutions, or the war we’re waging each and every waking moment of the day — internally and externally — to make those revelatory resolutions a reality.
I want you to think about how battles and wars and revolutions are won. Yeah, sure, luck and pure happenstance can shift the favor one way or the other, and history is forever changed as a result. However, there is no true victory ever won without planning and accountability involved.
And that’s what I want you to think about right now.
What are the most profound revelations you’ve experienced throughout the year? Did you have revelations about your behaviors, your values, your purpose in life, how you do or don’t want to show up in the world, new health limitations, who really matters to you, or how you want to invest in yourself?
Now, once you’ve defined revelations, what kind of revolution do you want to wage in 2023 on behalf of yourself and what you are capable of achieving?
Revolutions are won on multiple fronts
Of course, while some of us have waltzed into a new year with a laundry list of resolutions, there is the school of thought that you need to focus with laser-like precision when it comes to your goals.
Instead of having many resolutions, you should have one you chase with lion-like tenacity, obsessively charting every single step along the way.
I don’t like that idea either. I equate it to that moment where you’re mentally at a fork in the road. In front of you, you have two (or maybe even three) equally important paths you should be walking to make meaningful changes in your life. Changes you know you need to make.
One of those paths might be about your health. One might have to do with your career. Another might have to do with your family or maybe spirituality. According to some, you need to make a choice — which one matters the most? Focus on that one alone and then circle back to the others later on.
While I do believe you’re setting yourself up for failure if you’re going into a new year with a scattershot list of like 27 different goals with zero connection, plan, or accountability baked in, us humans are also very capable of focusing on multiple things at the same time.
Using myself as an example, I have things I want to do spiritually next year. I want to read The Bible more. I want to attend church more. I want to show up more in my faith. I need to meditate more.
But I also have things I want to accomplish mentally for myself. Specifically, I need to give myself mental space to check out. I started my own business this year, but I can’t be Business George all the time.
I need to block out time to have fun.
I need to block out time to go to lunch with my wife and kids.
I need to block out time to relax with a cigar and enjoy life.
Then there’s the education category of what I want to accomplish. Over the past six months of starting my own business, I haven’t been making the time to educate myself and learn new things the way I’ve done almost rabidly for the past 25 years.
There is no world in which I believe I should have to choose only one of those buckets — spiritual, mental, education — to prioritize and solely focus on in 2023. Much like wars are fought and won across multiple fronts and never a single battlefield, the revolution I am waging on behalf of myself in 2023 will also be fought and won across multiple fronts.
But why do so many of us fail to keep resolutions really?
It’s crazy how many of us struggle each year to keep our resolutions:
But here’s what’s even crazier if you keep digging into the data:
As folks get older, they are less likely to even make resolutions in the first place. If you think about it, it makes sense. After decades of historical failures, why bother, right? If only 9% of people get to the end of the year feeling successful in achieving their goals, what’s the point?
Also, as you become older and wiser, you start to realize something — it’s all absolute bullcrap. Really, New Year’s Resolutions, on the whole, are a total racket.
There is absolutely nothing special about January 1. You could take any first day of any month and mentally put yourself in the same headspace as the start of a new year. And you can do the same thing on June 11 or April 5 or October 27.
The dates do not matter.
You could wake up any morning this year and say to yourself, “Here is the revolution I want to ignite in my life over the next 365 days, and I have a specific plan of how to make it happen,” and then go kick some life ass.
Even that is way more effective than being the lemming who, after a few glasses of champagne, starts word-vomiting about a bunch of resolutions you know you’ll forget about within a week, just to have something to talk about at a party.
“I’m gonna fix all my problems this year! It’s gonna be the best year ever!”
Stage a revolution instead. And plan it well.
Now, let’s plan your revolution for 2023
A revolution is typically thought of as a forceful overthrow of a government entity or social order in favor of a new system. In the case of you, you’re going to forcibly overthrow your own brain, and the outdated mental models and negative habits that need to be cast aside in favor of new ones.
Your revolution will be built upon a foundation of strategic planning:
- What does success look like a year from now?
- What are the daily habits that will support your revolution?
- What are the accountability structures you need to stay on track?
But unlike resolutions which are inflexible and immovable — quite literally “resolute”and firm — your revolution must be flexible. This is critical because one of the top reasons resolutions fail is that someone experiences a shift in goals or priorities.
Life will throw you curveballs. You’ll have an off day. You’ll need to make changes. Don’t create a revolution that is so resolute that one off variable takes you completely off the rails. Develop an agile, purposeful plan of daily habits that can evolve and grow along with you and the chaotic nature of life over the course of the next 365 days.
If you want to wage a professional revolution, ask the right questions
Obviously, while I am a man of many talents, I am not a mind-reader, so I have no way of telling you what your revelations or your revolutions should look like. But to bring this conversation into a professional context, I can share a few questions that may help you if you’re looking to wage a professional revolution within your company to get better results:
- As a business owner, do you have the processes and systems in place to drive the amount of revenue you need to keep things running smoothly?
- If you’re the marketer, your question is similar — do you have the content you need to drive the qualified traffic and leads your company needs to hit its revenue goals?
- If you’re in sales, do you have the pipeline you need to hit the mission-critical revenue targets you have in front of you?
Whatever seat you sit in, what you need to look at right now is whether you have enough of your specific kind of “fuel” to get you where you need to go — whether those are goals you’ve set for yourself or your team, or goals that were set for you by someone else. If there are gaps or shortfalls, don’t panic. Make a plan, engage relevant stakeholders as necessary, and get to work. Take purposeful action.
Focus on laying each brick, not the entire wall
Even with the most agile and well thought out plans, starting your own revolution can quickly shift from exciting to completely overwhelming at first. It can get to the point where everything feels so impossible — you’ll never get to the end of this, so why bother?
Will Smith told a powerful story in his memoir that really stuck with me. When he was younger and growing up in Philadelphia, his father had Will and his brother build a brick wall for his store — a wall that was so seemingly daunting, he dubbed it “The Great Wall of Philly.”
The idea seemed impossible. A ludicrous feat that bordered on punishment, because there was no way they would be able to build such a large wall. But they did. It took them 18 months, but Will and his brother completed that wall. In an interview with Charlie Rose, he shared this regarding the experience:
“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t start by saying, ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ If you do that every single day, soon you will have a wall.”
So, that’s what I want to leave you with today, my friends.
Whatever your revolution may be, I know it will be absolutely astonishing. But don’t focus too much on the revolution as a whole. Instead, lay a brick every single day.
Your revolution will follow.