Looking Ahead

First off, Happy New Year. Thank you to everyone for investing a bit of your time each week to read this blog. There are a ton of blogs out there and every time someone reads one of my posts I take it as a compliment.

So, here we are in another New Year. Many of you will have made New Year’s resolutions by now. Some of you will have already fell short of making those resolutions happen. The vast majority of the rest of you will fall short of realizing your resolutions in the next couple of weeks.

That does not make you a failure or an unsuccessful person. It’s proof you’re human. I actually did hear of one person who figured out the whole resolution thing. They have made a resolution along with a definitive plan to accomplish it. Their resolution is to read more in 2023. In order to accomplish that they have turned on Closed Captioning on their television. 

I think that’s called “gaming the system.” Let’s face it, most of us just stink when it comes to executing on our resolutions. 

That’s why I don’t bother with resolutions. I’m no better at following through with them than anyone else. Instead I make commitments. Then I develop a solid executable plan to make certain I can honor that commitment. Then I tell the people closest to me, people who matter most to me, about the commitments and ask for their help in holding me accountable for that commitment. Often times I do more than tell them, I write out the commitments along with my plan to honor them. I print them out and give them to the people. I practically beg those people to hold me accountable.

I tell them, only kind of jokingly, they if I fail to keep that commitment they will be at least partial responsible for my falling short. I know my best chance for success comes from being accountable to someone. That’s true for you as well. We ALL do better with accountability in our lives. Again, that just proves we are human. 

So if you’re looking ahead for greater success and happiness in 2023 the first thing you have to do is be certain you’re looking ahead. Go into the New a year with a future perspective. Not a past perspective. Take your 2022 lessons into the future with you but leave the losses and disappointments behind. 

Invest some serious time reflecting on where you want to be when 2023 is past. Also consider what time, energy and resources you’re willing to invest to make that happen. Then make a commitment to take whatever action is required to make it real. 

Share that commitment with people who care enough about you to hold you accountable. Truly accountable. They need to be willing to bug the hell out of you and you need to be willing to allow them to. 

We can ALL use a little help now and again. Being held accountable to do what we said we would do is some of the most awesome help you’ll ever get. If you want anything “better” in life then step one is realizing that you’re ultimately the one who must make it so. So go forth and make it so!

A Different and Better Year Ahead?

If you randomly ask 100 people if they would like 2018 to be “better” most everyone would say yes. When you ask them what they are going to do to ensure that it is indeed better you’ll likely get just as vague an answer as the question you asked. 


The problem with the question of course is that “better” can be defined in literally millions of ways. Better to one person might be less rain in 2018 but if your a farmer in a drought stricken area less rain would be the exact opposite of “better.” 


The more specific you are in stating exactly what “better” looks and feels like the greater your chances of actually having a better 2018.


Setting goals for yourself in 2018 can most certainly help, making resolutions almost certainly won’t. But whether you have goal or resolutions heading into the new year your best chance of having a better 2018 is simply to make better choices and decisions.


You likely have far more choices than you realize and you have a ton more control over the circumstances of your life than you think. If fact, if you’re like most people you don’t actually consider just how much of your life you can change just by changing the choices you make. 


You choose your friends… do you ever consider that? Do you complain about one friend to another? I suppose everyone does that once in a while but if you are consistently complaining about one or two people in your life then you should be asking yourself why you are allowing them to be part of your life. 


The most successful people do not complain about things they have control over, they just choose to change them. You get to choose your friends and you get to choose most of the people who are a part of your life. 


You are basically the compilation of the five or ten people you spend the most time with. That means one of the fastest ways to change your life is to change the people you hang out with. 


That’s not always easy, in fact it’s frequently hard, but it is worth considering and then doing if you want to be in control of your life. 


Another choice most people seldom consider is their thoughts. You DO choose what to think in any given circumstance. You can look for the good or the bad in most any situation and more often than not, you’ll find what you’re looking for. 


Your thoughts play a major role in controlling your life because your thoughts almost always are reflected in your actions (even if you believe you can hide your thoughts from other people) and it’s your actions that people pay attention to. Always remember, people believe some of what you say but they believe everything that they see you do. 


I’d encourage you to pick one day, one single day is all you’ll likely need, pick a day and consider for just a second or two why you thought what you just thought. Where did that thought come from? Before you do something pause for just two or three seconds and ask yourself why you’re doing it. 


It will likely take far less than a day for you to realize how many choices you actually make without considering how much those choices will impact your life.


Sooner or later we all sit down at the table of consequences. Whether what you eat at that table is sweet or bitter is the result of hundreds of choices you make each day, many without even realizing it was a choice. 


Once you realize how many choices you actually make in a day, many without even thinking, you’ll have a chance at making better choices. Better choices lead to a better life. 

So what exactly does “better”mean? Well that’s just another choice that you get to make for yourself.

Ditch the Resolutions

Want more success in 2017? Then ditch the New Years Resolutions and replace them with a mentor. 

There is so much evidence that New Years Resolutions have no lasting impact that I won’t even bother with explaining why they are almost always a complete waste of time.

There is also ample evidence that having a mentor does have long term impact on the mentees future success. If you truly want greater success in the coming year then your first step is to get yourself a mentor. 

I’ve been blessed throughout my career with mentors who cared as much about me as they cared about their own success. That perhaps is the single greatest attribute a mentor must have, they really need to care about the person they are mentoring.

I get asked on average at least once a week to mentor someone and one of my biggest regrets is that I have to say no. I’m mentoring a few people already and I couldn’t truly be effective mentoring more. Mentoring is serious stuff and requires a serious time commitment on the both of both the mentor and the mentee. 

If you’re serious about having a mentor in 2017 then look for a person who is willing to share their knowledge, skills and expertise. Sadly, too many people in organizations see passing along their knowledge and skills to be a risk to their job security. In fact, nothing is further from the truth. If you have the ability to help others grow then you will always be needed somewhere.

Your mentor needs to be a person who will take a personal interest in you and who desires a personal relationship with you. They must invest themselves in your success. If your mentor frequently needs to cancel or change the time of your meeting then you likely need a different mentor. 

Your mentor needs to be someone who cares enough about you to offer you constructive feedback. They have to have the courage to potentially tell you some things that you may not want to hear. They also need to have the compassion and communication skills to tell you it in such a way as to allow you to hear it, understand it, believe it, and act upon it. 

A good mentor is a person who sets a good example. They regularly achieve their own goals, they are respected by others and they demonstrate successful habits. They “walk their talk” while challenging their mentees to do the same. They never ask someone else to do something that are unwilling to do themselves.

Regardless of your age or level of success you’ll be better off in 2017 if you have a mentor. A real mentor. Formalize a mentoring relationship with someone who can help you grow personally and professionally and see for yourself the difference it will make in your level of success in the New Year!

Eight Percent

Eight percent! That’s the percentage of people who make New Year’s resolutions that will keep them. 25% of people will keep them less than a week. 

I never recommend making resolutions in the first place, I am far more partial to setting actual goals. Goals are much more concrete but you must remember that if you’re setting true goals then you’ll need to invest some time to develop a plan for achieving them too.

But if you insist on making New Years resolutions at least give yourself a chance to keep them. 

Here’s how:

Make it simple. Many people make a long list of resolutions and when they fail at one the momentum, and motivation, to keep the others goes away. Make your resolutions small and easy to keep…. a little progress is better than no progress at all. 

For instance, don’t resolve to lose 25 pounds, resolve to leave a few bites on your plate at the end of your meals. Losing weight requires a life style change and those kind of changes seldom come from a simple decision or resolution. Leaving behind your lifelong membership in the clean plate club however can be much easier.

Be specific. This principle comes from the most effective goal setters. The more specific you are when stating your resolution the more likely you are to keep it. Specificity leads to an emotional attachment to your resolution and makes it easier to invest in…and keep.

Rather than say you’re going to “be a better person in 2016” state in very specific terms what behavior you will change or eliminate to make that happen. Don’t forget the simple part… a resolution to be more positive is too general to succeed and it’s also likely complicated. 

So resolve to smile more, make a conscious choice to smile often because it’s tough to be negative with a smile on your face.  Decide this very moment how many times a day you’re going to smile and then set an alarm in your smartphone to remind yourself. Every time that alarm goes off think of something that makes you smile. You’ll be surprised at how it can improve your attitude.

Share your resolution. Tell people who care about you that you made a resolution and ask them to help you keep it. Successful people are not afraid to ask for help, if you’re serious about your resolution then you’ll almost certainly need some help to keep it. 

Try and try again. Most people give up their resolution the first time they fail to keep it. If you fail to keep your resolution on a Monday then make it anew on Tuesday. If it was worth making once then it’s worth making again. If it’s a self-improvement resolution you’re better off keeping it half the time throughout the year than you are keeping it all the time for the first few days of the year. 

Eight percent is a relatively small percentage but being part of it can make a big difference for you in the new year. It’s never easy to succeed but if it’s truly worth it to you then you’ll do more than make a resolution, you’ll keep it too. 

Stop Before You Start

Geez, what happened to 2014? It went fast didn’t it? I hope it was a productive and prosperous year for you. I hope you kept all your resolutions and achieved all your goals. I hope!

Hope is nice but it’s no substitute for an actual plan.

If you’re like the vast majority of people, your resolutions were toast before you received your first paycheck in 2014. If you set goals your odds were somewhat better. If you set goals along with developing a plan for exactly how you would achieve them your odds of reaching them were actually pretty good.

If your plan included what you would stop doing in order to start doing something more productive then your odds of achieving your goals in 2014 were excellent.

Most of us are very busy people, we just don’t have much free time on our calendars. Yet when setting goals for the coming year we just add more to the mix. To be more successful we will start doing_____________. Go ahead and fill in the blank.

Do your goals for 2015 include starting new habits, starting new activities, starting new projects? Well that just isn’t realistic unless you first plan to stop doing something too.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve joined fitness clubs. I budgeted the money to pay for it, but not the time to use them. It was just one more thing that I didn’t have time to do. To be a bit more precise, it wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, I just didn’t make using the clubs a priority. To use them, I would have had to stop doing something else, I CHOOSE not to do that. It wasn’t really a concious choice but it was a choice just the same.

Unless you found yourself with an abundance of time in 2014 it’s foolish to add more to your “to-do” in 2015. Before you add anything new, take something off.

So let me suggest you begin your 2015 planning by making a “Stop-doing” list. A list of those “things” that you do which get you little or nothing in return. Make a concious choice about how you invest your time in 2015. Open up some time in your day to begin doing some new things that help you reach a goal.

Your success in 2015 might not determined by what you do; it may well be determined by what you don’t do any longer.

Your Last New Year’s Resolution

If you’re like most people you’ll make at least one or two New Year’s Resolutions in the next couple of weeks. If you’re like nearly 90% of the people who make New Year’s Resolutions you won’t keep even one. 

Now, I have no proof to back me up on this but I’d be willing to bet that most of the 10% of people who do keep a resolution keep the “fun” ones. The ones where they resolve to eat more chocolate in 2014. I could keep that one without even trying!

Resolutions fail for a variety of reasons; first they are intangible, not actually real, just kind of a thought. I sort of have the feeling that a good many resolutions are made with the “benefit” of liquid lubrication and hence are soon forgotten completely. There are also lots of scientific reasons why our brain can’t process a weak commitment like a resolution but we won’t get into the heavy science here. 

Whatever the reason this much seems clear; resolutions are just not an effective way to change or improve your life. 

Goals are.

If you want a better 2014 then don’t make resolutions, set goals. I write and speak a lot about a very formal goal-setting process. That’s a big undertaking, many people start that process and just don’t have the discipline to follow-through. So let’s not do the whole goal-setting process here, lets do a little one, an easy one. Let’s talk about setting some goals that anyone, well almost anyone, can achieve. 

Let’s set a goal to change one little habit each month in 2014. You’ll work on one thing in January and by the end of the month when this new thing has become a habit you’ll be ready for another new habit in February. 

If you want this to work for you then here’s what you need to do:

Change only one habit a month. No matter how easy this seems early on, don’t get over-confident and try to take on more. Our chances of over-all success go way down the first time we revert back to “old” habits so focus on ONE thing until it has become a part of you. 

Start small and stay small. You’ve got a year, there is no need to make big changes on any day when you have the perspective that 365 of those days make a year. You need to do something everyday but you don’t have to do everything on any day. If your goal is to lose weight that make it a habit to switch a candy bar for something more healthy at least once a week. Every week! 

Share it with others. Good habit building becomes so much easier when we add accountability. Write down what your new habits will be and tell everyone who cares about you. (Don’t bother telling people who don’t care about you, you’ll find that they are a major obstacle to your success) Ask them to help by checking on you frequently. Report your results to them; go ahead and brag  a little bit, after all, you’re building a better life for yourself. 

Reward yourself. All work and no play doesn’t just make you boring, in all likelihood it makes you less than successful too. If you’re going to develop new, better habits in 2014 then there needs to be something tangible in it for you. That doesn’t make you a selfish or greedy person, it makes you human. That’s just the way it is. So give yourself small rewards along the way; just make certain the rewards don’t conflict with the new habit you’re trying to develop. 

Before we begin how about one final New Year’s Resolution? Let’s all resolve to make no more resolutions. 

Now that’s a habit I could get used to! 

Plans or Resolutions?

thDo you make New Years Resolutions? Most people do, and most people are very good at sticking to their New Years Resolutions, some for as long as 3 or 4 days.

The diet industry loves the New Year… every New Year. It’s by far the most popular time of the year to start a diet. For a good many people losing weight and eating healthier is their top resolution.

There is not much research to be found on the subject but I suspect the second week of the New Year is the most popular time of the year to end a diet.

Fitness clubs love the New Year even more than the diet industry because their memberships soar in early January. People sign up for a year, commit to monthly withdrawals from their bank accounts, get their tour of the facility and fitness assessment and then never see the inside of the place again. I had an executive of one of the big fitness chains tell me once that if even half of the “members” actually used the club they would have to triple the size of the facility to fit everyone in.

Regardless of the resolution they almost all have one thing in common, they are made out of good intentions. When we make a New Years resolution it’s because we really want to make a change; we know we need to and we are willing to make a commitment to do it.

Or are we?

So many people make resolutions because they are easy to. We make them in casual conversations with friends, sometimes we make them after a few beers, sometimes we might make them after a few too many beers. The beauty of making resolutions is that the less we think about them the easier they are to make.

The funny thing is, successful people rarely make resolutions. Successful people make plans. Real plans. Well thought out plans. Plans with steps, goals and time-lines.

They make plans with accountability built into them. They determine the investment they are willing to make in their plan. They know that success will likely require both a financial AND time investment. They know that a plan, at least a good one, can’t be made casually and shouldn’t be made after a few beers.

They know that the time they use to make their plan is an investment and not an expense. Most importantly, they know that a good plan will beat the best resolution 99.9% of the time.

Resolutions don’t create commitment, plans do!

As we end 2012 and begin a New Year, don’t SPEND time making resolutions, instead INVEST time making plans that will lead you to a more prosperous 2013!