How To Make Sure 2014 Isn’t Better Than 2015

I hope my title got your attention. If it did and you’re reading, stay with me. I promise you’ll be back on Facebook in no time.

Around this time of the year, people set their New Year resolutions, deciding to improve their nutrition, their fitness, be better husbands or wives, watch less TV, or contribute more to charity than they did in the previous year. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, the vast majority of those resolutions are doomed to fail. You won’t see a single person who’s sweating hard in the gym or on their living room floor exercising because they resolved to do so on January first. They do it because they resolved to do so each day of the year, and take only occasional breaks from their routines. They are making small, incremental improvements each day because they didn’t wait for January 1st of each year to make some monumental decision to turn their life around.

While new year resolution make it sound like a perfect way to set course to some wonderful destination, life has a habit of knocking us back on course, reminding us that it’s not exactly possible to go from zero to 5 days a week of exercise or from zero to absolute financial discipline. By now you’ve probably realised that I’m not a huge fan of massive resolutions only to forget about them two months later. (Oh and if you don’t believe me, step inside a gym on the first Monday of January, and take a (mental) picture. Wait for 8 – 9 weeks, and go back and take another picture. Put them side by side and then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

So how do we make 2015 better than 2014, as the post title subtly suggested? Here’s a few thoughts:

1. Less goals, more grit. 

Most people set goals and start working on them. In time they might get sidetracked or discouraged, especially if things get in the way and the goal starts to seem less and less achievable. What if, instead of focusing on a goal, we focused on one or two core behaviors that would bring us closer to where we want to be? What if we worked at becoming 1% better at that one crucial thing for a year, how much better do you think we’d become? Remember, we’re not talking about 365 x 1% which is 3.65 times better. We’re talking about compounded improvements, sort of like compounded interests. In theory, by improving by 1% each day, at the end of one year you’ll be 1.01^365 times better. Thats about 37 to 38 times better, an improvement of about 3778%. Not bad, eh? (Yes, I know you hate Math so I’ll stop here).

Bottom line is – grit has a better track record at making champions than goals do. Don’t take my word for it. Read what Jerry Seinfeld had to say about it when asked how to become a great comedian.

2. Be Grateful.

Make a conscious effort to remember the things you can be grateful for. They don’t have to be all good. Take the time to look back at things that happen in the past and find ways to be grateful for them. Did you lose your job and suffered in disappointment and despair only to find a better opportunity a few months or years later? Remember to be grateful not only for the new position, but also for the event that got you started on the path to finding it; be grateful for getting that first kick in the butt, for it was a good thing. Take a step up and write down those things you’re grateful for. You don’t have to write 25 things in a day. But do write down one each day, and try to increase that number to three or four or five. Most people wait for Thanksgiving to list the things they’re grateful for. Don’t. Each day can be Thanksgiving day.

3. Focus on The Essentialsfocus

Even if you’re not an Apple fan, take a look at their sales pages and commercials. You’ll easily identify one common factor that is at the core of their success as an organization. Their design is clean and simple. Their products focus on meeting certain needs with ease in mind. Steve Jobs said it best: “focusing is about saying no”. How does that translate into what we want to achieve in 2015?

We have this tendency to take on multiple projects, sometimes because they seem attractive, or other times because we’re just nice people and don’t want to appear mean by saying “no”. Focusing on what is important to us is, like Jobs said, about saying “no” to everything that is not in line with the object of your focus. Forget shiny objects, forget about saying “yes” jus to be nice. Find a way to say “no” while being nice and firm, and move on.

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