January 2, 2018

Resolutions, Goals, Plans, Systems, Habits, Self-Image




Happy New Year!
Or not.
It's up to you.


Resolutions are those promises we make to ourselves every year around this time because it seems like a good thing to do, and there are a lot of people talking about New Year's resolutions.


Resolutions are really half-promises, at best, because while we feel that we should make some resolutions, we also know the awful truth about resolutions: almost everyone fails at their resolutions. That automatically give us an out. We promise we are going to do something, or give up something, or change somehow, but we also know that we probably won't follow through because nobody does.

This attitude is guaranteed to produce zero results, but there is a way to change the way we look at resolutions so that it will become automatic that we will actually do what we want to do.

It would be helpful that we stop using the word resolutions. I carries a lot of negative baggage, what with all the failure history. How about if we use the word Goals? What's the difference? Well resolutions seem to be something we say to ourselves. A wish. A hope. A Goal is something you write down, and preferably share with others (significant other, coach, good friends). If it is not written down it is just a wish. If Goals are written down, they are more likely to happen. So, first thing we do is pick up a pen and start writing. Go ahead, pick up a pen and start writing. I'll wait here...

Welcome back. And congratulations! Most people, probably north of 95% of people have no written Goals! So, automatically, you are now in the top 5% and well on your way to success. All you need to do now is start writing your future. But first, a disclaimer: just because you might have Goals at the end of this exercise, there is no reason to assume that you will actually achieve your Goals. In fact, 95% of people who have Goals will not achieve when they have written. The deck is overwhelmingly stacked against you if you proceed with the way most people set goals. 

What you will learn today is how to set Goals that become automatically self-fulfilling. 

And it all starts with the answer to a very simple question: Who am I?  Who do I want to be? What do I want my Life to look like? What am I willing to do to achieve this?

Who am I?
This step should include a written description of yourself in all positive terms, no negatives. Many people see themselves in terms of what they are Not, what they Don't Have.  

There should be a lot of Gratitude for what you do have, right now, in your life. So it all starts with a feeling, an appreciation, of Gratitude. 

Make a list of some of the things you have going for you: I have a nice smile. I am a good friend. I'm smart. I work hard. I have a good sense of humor. People like me.

It doesn't need to be a long list, just a few important positive things about yourself. You can change this list anytime you want, so this is just a quick start and gets us to the next step:

Who do I want to be?
A lot of people get stuck here. It's a fearful thing, to write down on paper who you want to be. What if you're wrong? What if what I want to be turns out to be bad in some other way? What if, what it, what if... This looping through what if's is what stops us in our tracks. Now you know why almost all people have zero goals written down.

There is a subtle distinction in this question Who do I want to be? Many people might mistake it for What do I want? The answer to What puts us in the mode of thinking in the material world: I want a boat, a couple of really neat cars, a big house on the oceanfront, a beautiful wife and kids, and a good dog. Or whatever. We think in terms of what we don't have now, and what a good future will look like. So what happens is that we put what we want at a distance to right now. 

I propose a different solution: Think of who you want to be in terms of living an ideal life day by day. Leave the toys out of the picture, for now, please. I guarantee that the toys will come automatically if you simply become the person who is on the path to achieving his Goals.

See yourself living the life you have imagined, but without considering the toys. How do you feel, personally. Not because you have toys, but because you are living well. 

Here are a few examples of seeing your future self: 
Physically I am healthy, I feel great and look great,
because I enjoy exercise and I eat right and sleep well.
I have great friends and family relationships 
because I am a great friend.

What am I willing to DO to achieve this?
You might be tempted to answer this question in the form of 8 hours per day, or 40 hours per week. They are obvious answers to the question. That would put a limit on achieving your goals. I suggest a different approach. 

When we see ourselves as working hard now to achieve some imagined future thing, some thing that may take a long time to achieve, it is easy to give up, or to get distracted with some other shiny object, or to just get lazy for a while.

Begin with the end in mind. What is needed is a self image of being a person right now, who is On the path to the achievement of their Goals.  If I happen to be temporarily Off the path, then I simply, without any negative feelings, get back On the path. That self-image of a person who is On the path leads to the achievement of their Goals.

If I am On the path, then I see my future self as the person who created the path, and continued on the path, to create that future self. It is from that perspective of your future self that you look back and tell the story about the person you used to be. You can tell the story of your awakening, your vision of your future self, and how you set your Goals to get there. And you can then share the story, and your method, with others who need to learn this (Pay it Forward), as I am doing now.

The answer to What am I willing to do to achieve my goals is a lot simpler than you would ever expect. It's not really a lot of work at all. In fact, the secret is simply changing your mind, your attitude, your self-image. 

Adopt a self image that you are a person who goes though each day doing the things which will create the future you want. Just do it. It's important to deal with only one day at a time. 

Do what, exactly? Well, that is going to become clear once you start writing down your Goals. The awakening occurs when we fully understand that everything in life happens because of the Actions we take. This is the "scientific principle", the basis of everything we know to be true. It simply states that every condition exists because of some Action that created the condition. Every Cause has an Effect. Nothing exists without some Action that caused it. Therefore, in order for us to create some future condition or Goal, we must have caused it by our Actions. I say Actions in the plural because the Goals we want will almost certainly be the result of consistent Actions taken over Time.

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a Habit.

Aristotle

It is really so simple: just do the things that will produce the result. Inaction produces no result.

The fist thing on the way to success is to be clear about where we are going (Write it Down), and then, every day, to refresh ourselves on where we are going by reviewing our Goals and our Plans for achieving our Goals. 

Oops, did I slip something in there, that thing about Plans? Yes, there needs to be a Plan for achieving Goals, or they are just wishes, guaranteed to remain wishes until we take Action. 

Of course, our Actions must be according to our Plans. Random actions will produce random results, Inconsistent Actions will produce inconsistent results. Planned actions have the highest probability of producing Planned results. So let's make a Plan. 

The best Plans are the things we can do every day, or most days. Every day begins a new opportunity to get on the Path, do take the right Actions, to learn from our yesterdays, and to adjust our Plans accordingly. 

The solution, then, is to get into the Habit of taking the Planned Actions that will deliver the Results (Goals).

Getting back to the Goals... The best way to write a Goal is described in the Wikipedia entry regarding S.M.A.R.T. Goals. That's all you really need to know how to write your Goals.

Now group them into Long Range (5+ years), Medium Range (2-5 years), and Short Range Goals (1 year or less). Short range goals should be grouped by quarter, monthly within the current quarter, weekly within the current month, and daily within the current week). That may sound like work, but it becomes automatic when you review your Goals daily.

Set a Plan for what Actions you need to take in order to achieve your Goals.

Review your Plan every day, and update it, in writing, if necessary, to reflect real world conditions. 


Summary
If you do these things, you will become a Goal achieving machine. Start now, and remember that you need to focus on Daily Habits that will transform you into the person you want to be. One of those habits is to review your Goals and Plans every day, and to continually improve them.

And if you need help, just ask. I have a system that makes it easy: EZchecklist™.

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Additional reading from my favorite Goal achieving human, James Clear: