The beginning of a New Year is always a great time to make resolutions. These are the promises, commitments, aspirations that we hope will set us on a new and better course. Sure, we all know the statistics of how hard it is to start something new and keep it going. Whether it's an exercise routine, reading more, drinking less, or better work habits. But new habits die fast, and old familiar routines take over once the winter doldrums set in.
What is the secret to success for creating lifestyle changes that will lead to long-lasting results? Some experts will tell you to set a low bar and create a "tiny habit" where it's easy to succeed. It’s much easier to set a goal to run two miles twice a week, instead of saying I want to run a half marathon in April.
Forget popular wisdom. If you want to make life-changing behavioral changes then "GO BIG OR GO HOME." That is my best advice to inspire you for putting your words into action. It sounds counterintuitive to set big hairy audacious goals (also known as "BHAGs"). Let's say you want to start a new business; according to the Small Business Administration, 50% of new businesses will fail in the first five years. Do you want to be a pro basketball player? Well assuming you even have the height, physical ability and are still young enough, the odds are still stacked against you.
Any new habit, big or small requires both motivation and ability. Are you going to be motivated to get up at 5 am on a cold dark winter day to go to the gym? Only if you really have a goal that makes you want to do it.
Big goals are not impossible goals. Big goals are the reason we get up every day. They are the stuff of our dreams. But not dreams that are unrealistic. Dreams, that no matter how hard, feel within reach. They are attainable with both passions, hard work, and commitment.
I exercise every day. I do it because my goals are big and audacious. I want to keep doing an Ironman distance triathlon every year. But my motivation and reasons for my exercise-mania-driven lifestyle are more expansive than just keeping my race streak going.
I just read a story in the New York Times about a 67-year-old doctor from Breckenridge, CO who has skied up a Colorado mountain every winter morning for 30 years. Sounds like an OCD trait that borders on mentally unhealthy behavior. But his goal was never to set a streak for consecutive days or bag 100 ski days a year. To quote the article in the New York Times; "a friend would say it’s the least interesting thing about him."
Instead, Dr. Craig Louis Perrinjaquet leaves him home in the predawn cold and dark for a much bigger purpose. He is doing the exercise to stay fit for his life's humanitarian work delivering medical supplies and care in war-torn countries around the world. Sure, as do many endurance fitness junkies, me included, we get a mental high and a physical reward for just doing the workout every day. But I can assure you that the joy of working out is not enough to sustain the drudgery and hard work of a daily routine.
If you want to keep your New Year’s resolutions, set a big goal that is meaningful. One that will truly change or improve your life. Sure, losing 10 pounds or running a 10k is meaningful. But these are just steps towards something bigger. Maybe it's being healthy enough to play with your kids as they grow into adults. Maybe it's going back to school for a degree or training to pursue a new career track you had always wished you had chosen.
New year’s resolutions are not about new habits they are about new goals and aspirations. The simple “tiny habits” are the steps or practices needed to get there. There is an old joke with profound wisdom; “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer is practice, practice, practice. The author Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book "Outliers," the key to mastering a skill is practice, and "ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness." His book chronicles how greats like Bill Gates and the Beatles toiled away for thousands of hours before becoming experts in their fields.
Some talent and ability are prerequisites. But you need the motivation to practice the habits to get there. So figure out what is your “Carnegie Hall” and go for it!
This is Alex Cooper. You can find and follow The MindsetCEO on LinkedIn or YouTube. Visit our website and book a call to see how I can help you on your journey from Founder to CEO.