Happy New Year! A fresh start, a time when folks fill empty slates with objectives and pledges. But what if I told you there’s a different approach, one leading to genuine success?
Forget the usual clichés and generic methods. Let’s explore a unique route grounded in research and hard-won lessons that can usher you into a meaningful, enduring change.
The world embarks on a fresh voyage as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. We jot down our objectives and resolutions, brimming with the promise of a better year. It’s a tradition as old as time, and we’ve all partaken. Run a marathon, learn Spanish, perhaps write that novel—ambitions soaring high, stirred by a new beginning.
But pause for a moment. What if there’s another way, a path less trodden but more rewarding? What if I told you that the common goal-setting approach may not be the secret to genuine success and happiness? Allow me to share my own journey, one that led me from being a goal enthusiast to a life imbued with purpose and contentment.
The Pitfalls of Conventional Goal-Setting
I was immersed in goal setting for the first 45 years of my life. Armed with my trusty Franklin Covey planner, I attended self-help seminars, diligently adhering to conventional wisdom regarding SMART goals and vision boards. I methodically charted my path to success, but then life threw me a curveball—the dot-com crash.
Suddenly, my meticulously crafted plans crumbled, leaving me exhausted, overweight, and nearly penniless. My family’s stability teetered on the precipice. It was a wake-up call that made me realize there’s more to life than ascending the ladder of success. The journey ahead beckoned me toward something deeper and more meaningful.
Uncovering Your Authentic Desires
Standing on the cusp of my 69th year, I can confidently proclaim that I’m entering the most fruitful, meaningful, and fulfilling decade of my life. The lessons that brought me here can guide you on a similar path. It begins with peering beyond the surface desires and uncovering your hidden truths.
What do you truly value? What are your deepest desires and genuine aspirations? What I propose isn’t a quick 30-day fix or another fleeting self-help trend. It’s a messy, candid, and occasionally uncomfortable process that challenges your beliefs and helps you embrace the unforeseen—the latent brilliance within you.
The Seven Realms of Self-Examination
To embark on this transformative journey, commence by taking stock of your life. I’ve devised seven areas I scrutinize each year that are pivotal in my transformation. These seven realms can serve as the pillars of your life, built to endure the inevitable tempests.
- Resilient Mindset: Comprising grit, gratitude, and a growth mindset. When adversity strikes, view it as an opportunity to learn and evolve. Your mindset should echo, “I succeed, or I learn.”
- Mastery, your Genius Spark: Discover your optimal self and cultivate it. Master the formula for reaching your zenith.
- Love and Relationships: Cultivate connections that invigorate and propel you. Surround yourself with at least five individuals who uplift and challenge you to become your finest self.
- Energy: Prioritize rest, movement, and wholesome sustenance to fuel your mind and body.
- Purpose: Your universal purpose is to become the best version of yourself. Unearth where your role and work demand your best. Then, labor daily to bridge the gap between your current self and your potential self.
- Virtue: Define the ultimate ends you seek in life. Picture your funeral—what would people say about your life? You can master your strengths and forge supportive relationships, but continually ask, “To what end?”
- Progress: Focus on modest, fundamental, incremental improvements to make strides. Throughout history, only a handful of fundamentals have remained unchanged. While it might be tempting to be swayed by the latest shortcuts to success, ultimately, the fundamentals are rooted in common sense and endure. If I asked you about the keys to good health, robust relationships, or career triumph, you could likely jot them down on a 3×5 index card. Jim Rohn, a cherished mentor, reminds us there are no fresh fundamentals, so remain cautious of anyone professing otherwise.
Assessing these seven areas grants clarity about your life and lays a sturdy foundation for your transformation.
Prioritizing the 80/20 Principle
With your assessment complete, it’s time to prioritize. The 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto Principle, can guide you. Identify the few aspects in your life that, when focused upon, yield the most profound impact. Avoid spreading yourself thin; concentrate on what genuinely matters.
For instance, in 2016, I prioritized sleep, which profoundly altered my life. Concentrating on the essentials of quality sleep became an ingrained habit. Prioritizing the right domains can lead to lasting change.
One of my objectives for 2024 is to refine my daily routine by altering the bookends of my day. I acquired this notion from Heroic’s Brian Johnson. The core concept is that we wield the most control and discretion at the outset and conclusion of our day. Thus, I intend to make the most of this time by rearranging my routine. I plan to contemplate and strategize just before retiring for the night and then, upon awakening, channel my energy into my foremost priority of the day. I shall delve deeper into this concept in a forthcoming article.
Embracing the Long View
Shift your outlook from setting specific goals with arbitrary deadlines to embracing an enduring odyssey. Tal Ben Shahar articulates it thus:
Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.
Rather than fixating on the prize, as Shahar advises, fix your gaze on the path.
According to performance science, focusing solely on outcomes can breed a self-critical narrative within us, akin to a coach or parent highlighting our deficiencies. However, when we permit ourselves to be present, engaged, inquisitive, and attuned to the emotions inherent in our actions, we can perform at our zenith and evolve. Reflecting on past endeavors, I often discerned no joy or growth in achieving my goals, just relief. This phenomenon is a common occurrence among those I coach. When I inquire if they find enjoyment or growth in their pursuits, they often fall silent or shrug.
The journey itself constitutes the transformation. Remember our guiding principle: be a bit more present and a bit less distracted; be a bit more creative and a bit less critical; be a bit more in the flow and a bit less forceful. These aspirational states should guide your daily choices.
Crafting Your Prototype Day
After outlining your aspirations and pinpointing the few elements you believe will wield the most influence, employ a framework to test your plans. You require a framework to assess the viability of your ideas. This necessitates crafting a prototype day that embodies everything you aspire to accomplish and become. This day should prioritize your objectives and steer you toward their attainment.
Mastering the Habit of Habits
One pivotal skill for success in the 21st century is mastering the habit of habits. Willpower alone pales before entrenched habits. Forge new habits gradually, following James Clear’s four-step process from “Atomic Habits.”
I revised my daily routine to bolster my focus and well-being. For instance, I switched from typing to handwriting my gratitude list, a small shift that enhanced my reflections and creative thoughts before bedtime.
Furthermore, I altered the timing of my gratitude list, shifting it from morning to just before retiring. To achieve this, I adjusted my schedule by advancing dinner to allow quality time with my wife after supper. To aid my transition at day’s end, I set a calendar alarm as a reminder. I’m still wrestling with my habit of watching YouTube shorts before sleep, but I’ve opted to watch brief presentations from my favorite motivational and devotional speakers instead. I share this to emphasize that even slight changes can significantly impact your routine, and it’s imperative to redesign your habits as a whole to ensure their sustainability.
Becoming the Change You Seek
As you embark on this voyage, reflect upon your finest moments from the past year and the hurdles you encountered. Define who you are at your zenith and pledge to improve daily. Embrace that by focusing on personal growth and transformation, you become a better friend, spouse, partner, and employee. These enhancements will reverberate through your immediate surroundings and the broader world. You shall reap more success and vitality, engendering a virtuous cycle that empowers you to surpass your limits.
In the wise words of Gandhi,
Let’s become the change that we want to see.
It all commences with crafting a new reality for ourselves, one small step at a time, one chapter at a time.
Congratulations! You’ve taken the initial strides toward your finest year yet. Now, take action and embark on your transformative journey today!