“Now is the time to start living the life you’ve always imagined for yourself.”
We’re in the last quarter of 2017 and 26 days of November have already passed. A lot of people get up on the 1st of January with the enthusiasm that they’ll start new good habits or break old bad habits, start something, change themselves: The New Year’s Resolutions.
Sadly though, for a lot of people the enthusiasm soon wears off. They don’t follow through on their goals and give up too early. By the middle of the year, most people don’t even remember their New Year’s Resolutions let alone progressing on them.
Part I: Why you should start now?
1. Enough time to choose and plan:
Lot of people have in their back of the head some ideas on which they want to work on. Like to lose/gain weight, to have a skill, be better in relationships, start a habit and break another one. In the last week of this year they’ll make a choice and formalize it buy buying gym membership, web hosting, camera, a rose, some guide book or whatever is appropriate for their task. And then start on 1st January. And then fail, because of lack of proper, step by step planning, not thinking of obstacles or later on realizing the task to not be so important.
Some of these situations may occur even with well thought choices and detailed plans. But the chances are really reduced.
Choose and plan now: Right now, you have sufficient time to look back over the year, find out the areas where you really need to change yourself, prioritize them, plan on how to work towards achieving them, step by step, think of possible odds and their solutions. So when you really get down to do it, potential obstacles don’t deter you.
2. Enough time to get started now:
It takes more than 60 days to create a habit. This may seem straightforward but we should keep in mind we may not be consistent. In anything new, after the initial excitement wears off we are faced with the challenges that truly test our commitment. We feel the “dredge” as we slowly shift out of our comfort zone into war zone where most people give up.
One should give themselves at least 75 days for a habit they really want to instill. And though we don’t have 65 days, we’ve 35 days. When you get up on the 1st of January, you’d already be experienced and accustomed in that habit by 1 month. You’d less likely to give up and more likely to follow through.
Part II: 10 Ways to Get Started
1. Look back at the year so far, reflect and list out what you want to change/improve/add in your life. what could be improved?
You’ve 11 months (and a whole lifetime actually) to look back on what worked and what didn’t this year (and so far in your life).
Here are some helpful questions, think and make a note of the answers: What are the areas where you lack and where you can improve? What are your bad habits and behavior patterns that have hold you off from being your best and achieving your goals? What have been your lifelong ambitions? What’s the number one thing that if you achieved would have the greatest impact on your life?
2 (a) Based on #1, write down your 5 most important 2018 goals
These goals are the mot important goal that you think would take from few months to a year to achieve but would essentially improve your life significantly.
If you can’t come up with 5, come up with as many as you can. More than 5 is also fine but don’t exceed 10, otherwise they become too much to properly focus. You can make another list of goals less important than these top 5, as secondary priority. And don’t worry, we’ll be refining them throughout this post and the next two posts on Thursday and next Sunday.
2 (b) Do not forget to include the most important aspects of your life in your 2018 goals
Our Health, Relationships, Self-Improvement and Career are 4 aspects we should work on every year. So include goals and habits around these 4 area. If you set out only four habits, one related to each of the four areas, in a year you’ll get 3 months to work solely on a single habit. Which is more than enough time to develop a habit. And by the end of the year you’d have 4 good habits that improve your health, relationships, your career and yourself too. Similarly you can have one goal for each month.
3. Break your yearly goals into quarterly and monthly goals
“The gym is more crowded on first of January than it is on first of June. ”
The reason being most people are hardly still following through their yearly goals and resolutions. Most people’s goals are vague and too big and never broken into smaller steps.
Ideally, if something’s so important to you that you’d include in list of things that would change your life then you should definitely work on it every week or at least every month if not everyday.
I’ll take the example of reducing weight since it’s easily measurable and thus easy to divide. e.g. if your current weight is 90 kg and your goal weight is 75 kg with muscular build then you’ve to reduce 15-20 kg and gain 5kg equivalent of muscles.
If you’ve never worked out, you should spend first 3 months developing the habit of working out daily [see 2 (b) above], starting out in smallest step possible [point 5 below]. So first month, say 3 push ups, or 100 meter jog. As well as mindfully reducing junk in diet and incorporating healthy foods. Then gradually increasing and including more exercises. In the second quarter, as you’re regular in workout, you’d want to reduce 3-5 kg weight, and update yourself more on nutritious foods and better exercises. The third quarter as you should become very regular in workout and restraint in workout, you should aim the highest here, say 7 kg weight loss and very less to no junk food with harder workouts. In last quarter you’d want to focus more on muscle gain and attain your goal weight.
4. Start acting now, in November itself, on the most impactful goal among all goals
“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start.”
This is the most important point this post is trying to make. Don’t wait till January 1st, start now, right now. Regardless of how your past year has been, how your life has been. ACT! Taking action and getting into habit is the single most important thing to attain your big goals. And it doesn’t have a perfect time or the right time or the right feeling and it will never come. Life is short. Start now.
5. Start with the smallest steps, get over the initial bump
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” -Confucius.
Dream big but start small, very small. Start so small that you can’t procrastinate or make excuses. If the goal is to be in prime health, start with 1 push up for 1 week. If it’s to wake up at 5 AM when you wake at 11 AM, than start with goal of waking 5 minutes earlier for a week. If it’s to buy a house, then start with putting away 5 cents everyday for a week. If it’s to run a marathon, begin with 10 meter jogs for a week.
Set such ridiculously small goals that your comfort seeking, fear mongering, self sabotaging mind can simply not convince you to not do that.
Then, when you’re comfortable with it, increase. 1 to 3 pushups, 5 to 15 minutes, 5 cents to 50 cents, 10 meter to 50 meter. Week by week, keep improving.
6. Build consistency by creating a system or habit around your goal
“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Frederick Langbridge
In the really good book, The Power of Habit, the author Charles Duhigg describes each habit is made up of 3 parts: 1. Cue (Trigger) 2. Routine and 3. Reward. i.e. There is a trigger or cue which gets us into the routine or action and afterwards we get some reward. Depending on how positive or negative it is, we’re more or less likely to do it again.
We can utilize this information to form our habits around our goal. For trigger, we can utilize existing daily habits like waking up, bathing, brushing teeth, having lunch etc. So e.g. if you are finding hard to find time for your 1 push up, do it daily after brushing your teeth, this is the routine or action part of the habit. Bind your new habits to existing habits. Workout after brushing teeth, go for a jog after waking up, make three call after dinner etc. This is good when starting, slowly you want to build a system around this habit itself that ensures and helps you to finish this task.
So keep your running shoes and clothes on bedside to go just after you run. Add a “Do X pushups” on your bathroom mirror. Your phone on the kitchen marble to call once done with dinner. And reward yourself. See below.
7. Reward yourself
I wanted to cover the reward part separately. Each time we do something pleasurous, the brain as a response releases certain neurotransmitters like dopamine, seretonin and a few others and a circuit in our brain, called the reward circuit, gets activated. The more we do that task and reward ourselves, the more neurotransmitters are released, the more reward circuit is activated, the more it’s activated the more likely, easily and intuitively we are to do it next time. In laymen terms, reward circuit is also responsible for drug addiction but we can use it here to our advantage, we’ve discussed dilemma of good and pleasant earlier.
So after you’re done with the action (routine) part of your habit, do something that makes you feel good, something pleasurous, reward yourself this way. Overtime your brain would begin to associate that reward with the activity and you’d feel less resistance in doing it. But don’t give self defeating rewards. A cupcake after workout is wasteful.
8. Rely on discipline rather than motivation
Discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you don’t want to do it.
Despite being so detailed, despite remaking on importance of your goals, despite breaking them into ridiculously small steps, despite setting up habits and utilizing rewards for your goals, there would be days you’d still not do that little task and you’d fail in taking any action.
That’s where discipline comes in. We’ve talked about how to be more self-disciplined earlier. Overtime, you’d want to mentally rely on your self-discipline developed around your habit. So that you go do your task even when you don’t feel like it, or are in a bad mood, or ‘tired’, over all these excuses you finish your work. That said, be mindful of progression and your health and don’t push yourself mindlessly. Begin small and slowly progress. Be disciplined in small steps.
9. Create a list of books to read
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison
Learning is essential for our growth and reading is one of the simplest ways to do that. Each year on should create a list of books to read. It doesn’t matter how many. 6 books for reading once every 2 months to 12 books for monthly read or 52 books for each week. Decided on some great books. Read books that help you grow. This was our 2017 reading list.
10. Do the sign ups and shopping for your goals now
This may not apply to everyone and to all goals. But some of your goals may have some pre-requisites. So if it’s gym membership, or website sign up, or domain buying, or books to buy, or shoes to buy or enrollment in the coaching. Do it now. Not in the last week of December, not in the first week of January. Do it now and get started.
All the best for your 2018 goals. Get started and keep going.
In the next two posts I’ll be sharing how I use 5 free apps to keep a track of my yearly goals down to hourly progress and 2018’s public goals to give an idea of how to set these goals.
If this post was helpful, please share it. Please tell us how do you set and achieve your your yearly goals?
Till the next time, keep improving yourself, stay positive, stay emotionally resilient, take care and keep trailing on your Untrailed Path.