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Not a New Year's, but a Year's Resolution
It’s June, which means it’s the perfect time to write about New Years Resolutions.
An obese man goes to the doctor in June and is told he needs to commit to a whole year of dieting and exercise or he’ll die in 6 months. “Ah jeez doc,” the man says with a look of uncertainty, “that sounds great but uh… I’ll have to wait and make that my new year’s resolution, right?”
If you were there you’d have the doctor’s permission to slap the fat man across the face. It’s a life altering - no, life saving - change he has to make. This cannot be put off. He has to start immediately if he doesn’t want a friend to be reading his eulogy.
If you’re the sort of person who makes New Years Resolutions because you want to make some improvement in your life - that’s good, but why are you waiting for an arbitrary date at the beginning of the year? This reeks of procrastination.
It’s great that you’re wanting to commit to a change, but don’t tell an idea suddenly came to you while the near year was approaching. You’ve thought about it before. It’s entered into your awareness at some point. You’ve just put it on the back burner until you’ve been forced to think about it.
I don’t have a problem with people committing to change, obviously. What I have a problem with is our hyper-focus on the date itself.
Start a Year’s Resolution:
Not a new Year’s Resolution - a Year’s Resolution. Whatever date you are reading this, say it’s November 12th, start that change that you know you need to make in your life. Don’t lie and say there’s nothing to change. There’s always something that we don’t like about ourselves. Having those personal dislikes can be okay because it pressures us to become the best version of ourselves.
If nothing springs to mind spend some time with no distractions. Just think. Within 10 minutes, you’ll discover some deep dislikes about yourself. Now you have something that you’d like to change.
The worst thing someone could ever say is “that’s a good idea, I wish I made that my New Years Resolution.” It’s a preposterous statement. Is there only one day a year that you can make life changing choices?
New Years was the best time to start this new habit, today is the second is best time to start.
What should your Year’s Resolution be?
In order to create a habit that stays ingrained in you for the rest of your life, you need a system to fall back onto. Where goals can fail, systems prevail.
Scott Adams, the main proponent of the systems versus goals idea, says
“… a goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”
Losing 10kgs is a goal, eating right is a system. Wanting to bench 60kgs is a goal, going to the gym regularly is a system. Becoming fluent in a language is a goal, practising every day is a system.
If you have a goal, but don’t set a way to achieve that goal, the wheels barely start turning. If you have a system but no goal, you will end up achieving any goal that you otherwise would have set.
It’s the strength of the system and how well you stick to it that determines if you’ll be successful in your Year’s Resolution or not. Focus on perfecting and sticking to your system, the goals will come naturally.
James Clear, author of the best selling book Atomic Habits, says
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.”
I never liked setting goals. I always felt that until you hit that number that you had nothing to celebrate. Then when you finally achieved your goal, you have a day of celebration and then it’s back to a negative mindset of “I’m not there yet”.
Compare that to a system which is much more enjoyable.
Because I’m a writer I aim to write every day (yes you can get into semantics about how it’s a goal to write every day). I enjoy the process. I don’t have a goal of having an audience of hundreds of thousands of people and being invited onto TV shows and podcasts to talk about my ideas. I have a system. If it gets me there, then it gets me there. But I don’t feel like a failure until those goals come to fruition.
Here’s what Scott Adams has to say on differentiating between systems and goals.
“…thinking of goals and systems as very different concepts has power. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. System people succeed every time they apply their system, in the sense that they did what they intended to do.”
Rely on your system, not motivation.
Motivation is fleeting. Willpower is unreliable.
Your system is not.
Create a system with a firm foundation and build a world of successes on top of it.
Who am I to preach to you about success? I’m hardly world renown. What do I know? Well, I’m successful compared to what I was a few years ago, and this is just the beginning. I know that I’m using the same tools as others who are hugely successful. You can be successful too, in whatever you choose to define as ‘success’ so long as you stick to your system and forget about goals.