“Everything you’re working on is an investment in tomorrow. Now is the moment we get to plant the seeds for later.” Seth Godin said that in one of his final blog posts of 2016. Its wonderfully apt for the beginning of a new year when we are all creating resolutions and consciously considering lofty aspirations for the year ahead. Simply the idea of new beginnings and fresh starts is wonderful motivation for us all to take a look at our lives at a larger scale than the weekly grind and think about what we want to accomplish in terms of personal goals and desires. However, isn’t it always the case that these resolutions are rarely sustained through all the various twists and turns of an entire year. Why is that?
I believe its because we so frequently set these ambitious but very general and poorly quantified goals for ourselves. ‘Exercise more’ or ‘save money’ are common examples. While these are noble and will surely lead to a benefit of some kind, a few months into the year they will almost certainly have been forgotten and things will be back the same as they ever were. So how do we not let that happen again? I believe there are two keys to maintaining resolutions throughout the year and beyond.
1. Step by incremental step
Rather than burdening yourself with huge mountainous goals, I think it better to aspire to accomplish one small, pebbly goal at a time. Lets take ‘save money’ as an example. What does that really mean? It could mean anything which makes it mean nothing. Rather, maybe you could automate a weekly deposit into your savings account? Or you could define one thing you spend a lot of money on and simply try to reduce the spending on that one thing. Then once that has become normalized, you can focus on whatever next thing to spend less on, and pretty soon you’ll notice significant savings. The point is to not try to boil the ocean. Take an iterative, baby step approach with your self improvement goals and you’ll notice that they are far easier to reach and maintain, which then makes it easier to reach the next baby step and then the next.
2. Make it a habit
They say it takes one to two months for something to go from being a conscious task or concern to becoming habitual. Creating habits is the key. In terms of mental and physical energy involved, habits exist in a sort of subconsciousness that necessitates far less to maintain than other common chores. Put a reminder of you resolution somewhere where you will see it everyday. Use a calendar. Don’t keep it a secret; tell friends and colleagues about it to keep you accountable to more than just yourself. This will be especially important in those first 4-8 weeks while trying to build the habit.
Then the real magic is with these two combined over time. Think of each week as a tiny investment in tomorrow. Life will not change quickly, but that’s exactly the point. Be patient and persistent, and you will surprise yourself this time next year.
Happy New Year to you. 2017 is going to be a good one.