Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

Here is the key to drastically increasing the probability that you will keep your New Year’s resolution:  Start it on December 31st.

Alright, alright.  Sure, it may not sound like the greatest thing since DVR at first glance, but don’t throw it away without some thought.  

Plans for the future like to stay in the future

There are books and articles galore on the importance of goal setting.  I had read them and even followed through on the goal setting part. I wrote them down and set up a plan for achieving them.  No matter what I did, though, I didn’t seem to achieve most of them. Why?

Procrastination is a great a powerful force of nature.  It seems like everything around you has a built in procrastinator function to keep you from doing what’s important.  Beds are the worst. I like to get up early but not without some significant arguing with the blankets and pillows.

When we decide to set a goal for ourselves, we probably just had a powerful emotional moment.  Whether it’s a comment from someone about our weight, a bad day at work, a friend passed away, met someone who traveled the world like we always wanted, etc., that event has created a giant source of momentum for us.  We now feel so emotionally motivated that we decide to set a goal…

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to walk 30 minutes everyday.  Starting Monday, I’m going to start saving money for my dream trip every month.  Starting New Year’s Day, I’m going to begin applying for new jobs…

Those are all great plans except for one key aspect – they start in the future.  By placing our start date in the future, we have already surrendered to the procrastination monster.  We are off on the wrong foot. The time between goal definition and commencement is the most important factor in success.

Actions in the present like to stay in the present

My dad always likes to say, “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”  I usually just took that as, “Yeah, I know, I should get my work done first and then I can play.”  There is a lot of wisdom in my dad’s words that just didn’t sink in until lately.

I hinted at this in my previous post but it is worth mentioning again – there is so much power in starting a new goal the day you set it.  I promise you you’ll be more motivated the day you decide to have a goal than you will be a few days or weeks down the road when you planned to start it.

I experienced the power in this first hand 3 weeks ago.  Just like my approach with writing, I always hated running so figured I needed to dive into it and try to uncover the “runner’s high” I hear so much about.  In the past, I ran because I had to when I joined the Navy typically doing the bare minimum necessary; a grueling 1.5 miles every 6 months.

However, taking a dose of my own medicine, I set a lofty goal of running a marathon next summer.  Go big or go home. My first instinct was I’ll start on Monday so that my OCD-ness would be happy along with the procrastination monster.  Fortunately, instead of waiting, I did my first run of my marathon goal that same day. I normally hate running, but just the feeling of taking control and not letting procrastination win kept me smiling and dreaming of achieving my goal that whole first run.  

So, give yourself a present by starting your goal/resolution in the present, and that mindset will stay with you each day as you achieve your goal.  If you set a goal to stop eating junk food, then go to a gas station today and stare at the candy and snack section for five minutes. Next, walk away and give yourself a pat on the back for slapping procrastination in the face.  You’re off on the right foot.

Feared things first

One last thought on procrastination.  I read about a technique someone used to be effective at work that I have adopted into my everyday routines.  When you think about all the things you are going to do today, take note of the things you most fear to do, then do that first.  If you wait till the end of the day, you build up anxiety that takes your focus away from your other tasks decreasing your effectiveness.  When you knock it out first thing, the rest of the day is breeze! Try it…you’ll see.

Starting is always the hardest part.  I love taking someone on their first flight lesson and letting them taxi the plane on the ground.  It becomes clear right away that it takes more power to get the plane moving than it does to keep moving.  

Get yourself moving and you’ve already passed the hardest part, and build up your momentum and it will carry you past your goal!

Happy New Year!

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