At the start of every new year, I am inevitably asked by someone if I have a New Year’s resolution. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making New Year’s resolutions, I just don’t usually don’t make them. When it comes to setting goals at the onset of the new year (or any time for that matter) I think it’s far more productive to 1). focus on the design or process of reaching a goal (not just the goal itself), and 2). reduce the number of goals you may have and focus on the most important ones.
We are less likely to achieve our goals when we don’t fully understand what it takes to achieve them. This is why it’s critical to design a process for reaching a goal versus simply setting the goal itself.
Create an Environment for Success
One of the best pieces of advice I was given early on in my career about achieving goals was to create an environment for success. For example, if you have a goal to exercise in the morning, place your gym shoes and workout clothes at the foot of your bed so you don’t have to search for them in the morning. This way you can quickly put your clothes on without stumbling and shuffling around in the morning trying to figure out where things are. If you want to eat better, take all the food out of your house that you know you shouldn’t eat. If you have a goal to read “x” number of books in a year, then create an environment where you can read uninterrupted for a set period of time each day. If you prefer to read in the morning, make sure that before you go to bed the night before that the space where you intend to read is free and clear of distractions and your reading materials are laid out in advance. No matter what your goal is, the process you design for reaching your goal must be deliberate. It will not just “happen.”
Focus on Fewer, More Important Goals
Second, instead of adding a bunch of goals to your New Year’s resolutions list, try adding just one or two of your most important goals. One of my all-time favorite speakers was the late Dr. Myles Munroe. He taught that the most successful people in the history of the world never tried to be good at everything; they were laser-focused on being the best at just one thing.
There’s a cultural undertone in America that says we need to have and do more all the time. As a result, it seems many people live cluttered and confused lives that are directionless and without focus. One’s natural response may be, “Well, I don’t know what to do.” My response to that is when you don’t know what to do either A). do what you already know or B). get advice from someone who is already doing what you think you want to do. The best strategy is to combine options A and B. When you operate with this mentality it helps to eliminate procrastination and creates action.
Focus takes discipline. It also takes a shift in your mindset from thinking you need to do more stuff to instead focusing on doing fewer, more impactful things. Trying to be a jack of all trades and a master of none is hard and it usually leaves you feeling frustrated, tired, and confused. Once you gain clarity on a direction, focus all of your energy and effort on that.
Cheers – KM
The Hard Work Myth by Barnaby Lashbrooke
Rework by Janson Fried & David Heinemier Hansson
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris
The Success Equation by Michael Mauboussin