Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions – Do This Instead
We all know New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. A study at the University of Scranton found that almost half of Americans make them, but only eight percent keep them. That’s bad math.
You hope this year will be different, and suddenly you will be transformed into a promise-keeper and all your goals to lose weight, save money and volunteer in Africa will miraculously come true. Really?
The reality is we have to take one simple, but uncommon step first. We have to build willpower.
Like a muscle, it turns out that willpower – our ability to get things done, even when we don’t feel like it – can be developed. Long thought of as some gift of nature that only super athletes and type ‘A’ personalities were anointed with, you can, in fact, develop more willpower through the discipline of habits.
One of the leading researchers in this area, Roy Baumeister, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, calls willpower "the key to success and a happy life.”
Oprah Has It
When Michael Jordan was shooting hoops long after his team mates and coach packed it in for the day, he was building willpower. The same applies for Oprah’s meticulous preparation for each of the 28,000(!) guests that appeared on her show since 1985, Stephen King writing every morning, and Jerry Seinfeld never missing a day when he would work on his material.
Their discipline of practicing good habits over and over and over built more willpower. And it’s willpower you need to overcome procrastination, distractions, and days when you’d rather sleep in. Let’s look at how you can build more willpower.
No More Coffee
A financial planner once advised me that before I could plan for my financial savings I needed to track where I was spending money. For two weeks, I dutifully recorded everything from a pack of gum to groceries. When I tallied it up, calculated in pre-tax dollars, I was shocked by how much of my earnings were being poured (excuse the pun) into coffee. The special roast I was grinding at home, take-out cups and afternoon lattes were adding up.
I was so appalled I changed my habit from coffee to tea. At the time, I was just starting to invest in real estate, so that’s where the savings went. That was 17 years ago, and that habit has served me well.
Every time I turn on the kettle or stand in line at the local coffee shop I exercise my tea-drinking habit and build a little bit more willpower. It’s what B.J. Fogg, Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University calls “tiny habits”— small victories that make essential deposits in our willpower bank account.
Double Your Income?
Do you have ambitions for the New Year, like doubling your income, finishing that first book, or two weeks in the Caribbean? I hope so because that’s the first step.
Next, I want you to anchor each goal with a new or improved habit. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, your new habit could be a 20-minute fast walk every morning at 7:00 AM. Same time, same habit every day.
How about a goal to increase your business income by 20 percent? Great! Now create a habit of reviewing your sales numbers once a week on, say Tuesday mornings.
Need to finish that book you’re writing? Why not start a habit of writing for one hour every morning, six days a week (it’s been working pretty well for Stephen King).
The formula I use is this: great habits lead to more willpower which leads to reaching big goals.
Sure you might have a landslide year and all your dreams come true: more clients, bigger sales, and vacations to sandy beaches. Or you can make that happen every year by first working on your habits.