I don’t think any one of us expected this past year to be what it’s been. A lot has happened (that might be the biggest understatement of 2020) and we’ve all felt bogged down by old and new concerns, anxieties and situations.
We’re now in that time when people start making their resolutions for the upcoming year. I personally think we inflate the importance of New Year’s resolutions; we ought to be evaluating our lives, habits, and patterns of thinking daily, not just once a year. After all, it is the things we repeatedly do that determine our quality of life and the extent to which we live up to our potential.
By developing and strengthening our sense of self-awareness on a daily basis, much like training a muscle, we’re more likely to be successful in our endeavors. Instead of writing resolutions, it might be more helpful to keep a running list of the daily objectives we need to be focusing on, then set up our routines around those aspirations and evaluate our own performance at the end of the day. This is a more effective way of working on our goals because it ensures that we don’t lose time for self-improvement as a result of a lack of consciousness. I mean, how many times have we gotten halfway through the year and suddenly realized our resolutions went down the drain?
Forget About Resolutions; Write A Daily To-Do List
Let’s not make a big deal out of New Year’s resolutions. Let’s instead apply the same strategic thinking to creating daily objectives to strive for. This also makes it more likely that we will actually stick to and achieve those goals because they won’t feel so lofty and overwhelming. The trouble with having big dreams in front of us is that indecision and fear can paralyze and stop us from executing against them. It’s much less demanding to look at a major goal and break it down into its constituent parts that can be tackled, rather than making one broad, unfocused objective. We’re more likely to get started on a task if it’s small, actionable, and concrete.
There’s this quote about writing by E.L. Doctorow that says:
‘Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’
This is true of any goal or venture, not just writing. You don’t have to see the whole trip to get to where you’re going — at any given time, you only see a few feet in front of you, but you make the whole journey like that. In the same way, we might do better to stop focusing on the end goal and instead pour our attention into the small things we can do today that will move us one inch closer to our dreams. Only look at the pieces that you should take on today and in doing that, over time, you’ll naturally build up the skill sets necessary to actually achieve those goals.
“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say ‘I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid,’ and you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall.” — Will Smith
So forget about New Year’s resolutions. After all, January 1 is just another day. A new year doesn’t magically turn you into a new person. Instead, focus on winning each day as it comes. Make a list of actionable tasks that you repeat daily in order to improve at the things that are important to you but you’re not yet good enough at.
For example, my dream is to be a musician. If I spend too long thinking about the grandiosity of that dream, I psych myself out and get so fearful that I won’t even want to attempt anything in pursuit of it. Instead, I turn my attention to making sure that, every day, I am doing my vocal practice, going over my scales, improvising, adding to my knowledge of music theory, learning a new technique, playing old songs, or working on a new one. These are all tasks that are doable in the moment — they aren’t big and scary, but they all ultimately constitute what my big and scary dream of being a musician entails.
Be Your Own Biggest Supporter AND Critic
It’s essential that we evaluate ourselves along the journey. This ensures that we can pivot and make adjustments when we find we’re going about a certain thing the wrong way. By being constantly self-aware, we’re ensuring that we don’t let a long amount of time go by before realizing that we didn’t actually do the thing we set out to do.
At the end of every day, it might be helpful to ask yourself:
- Did I do something that moved me the tiniest bit closer to my dream?
- Did I optimize my time and spend it on valuable tasks?
- Did I manage distractions well?
- Did I work on improving in areas that I’m yet good enough at?
Remember to have compassion for yourself along the way. We’ve got to recognize and celebrate the small wins or we’ll get to the end goal and still feel unfulfilled. But if we value ourselves for the pursuit of our goals, not for their actual fruition, we’ll begin to enjoy the journey right now.
But that compassion has to work in tandem with honesty. If we want to achieve mastery, we have to build up the courage to look objectively at our inadequacies and admit to ourselves where we’re falling short. It’s the only way we’re ever going to be extraordinary.
Clean Up Your 2020 Clutter
To create something remarkable in our lives, we’ve first got to clear away the old clutter.
Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine says: “Part of learning is unlearning what you already knew.”
So let’s start the new year by doing a simple task. What’s one habit, anxiety, thought, or even person you know is not serving you? If you quietly listen to your heart, you’ll find you already know what it is. Get rid of that one thing whose absence would improve your life. It’s just one thing to focus on. It’s just a 10 feet drive.
But releasing that thing will open up space in your life for a new habit or discipline. From there, you can slowly start adding in other tasks that you’ll strive to repeat every day in order to get closer to your goals. Let’s spend our mental energy on those daily objectives instead of making broad, generalized resolutions that are hard to attain right in the moment.
More often than not, we evolve through small, incremental changes, not huge leaps. It’s those small changes that stack over time to create significant shifts in our lives. So don’t get caught up in the idea of a destination but rather focus on driving across the 20 feet in front of you, and before you know it, you will have arrived.