How to prevent your dreams from crashing into a ditch this year.

Have you engaged in some self-evaluation over the past week? I have. The start of a new year has a funny way of forcing us to take stock of what we have, how we look, the state of our careers, our relationships and the effects of our bad habits. Then, once a year, we take actions to course correct. But this once-a-year-course-correction approach is severely flawed. Almost as flawed as my ability to properly fold fitted sheets.

Life is a highway

Imagine your ideal life as a road. All you have to do is drive on it. Now, imagine you find yourself veering ever-so-slightly towards the ditch, or oncoming traffic. When should you make a course correction? As soon you recognize you are veering! But what if you don’t? What if you only steer once a year?

The problem with annual corrections

If you only make a course correction once a year, you will only ever make a maximum of 100 adjustments (and that’s making some generous assumptions about your longevity and the age at which you scribbled your first New Year’s resolution).

At just 100 adjustments over a lifetime, one of two things happens. You either veer far off course each year, or you travel really, really, really slowly to prevent winding up in the ditch before the end of the year. Either way, 100 lifetime corrections severely limits your ability to travel your ideal path.

Driver Safety Quiz

Question: How often do you need to make subtle adjustments when you are driving an actual car on an actual road?

Answer: Every few seconds.

What should you do instead?

It’s simple math.  An annual evaluation and course correction will allow you 100 chances to follow your true path. A monthly correction will provide you with 1200 chances.  Weekly evaluations provide 5200 lifetime adjustments. While a daily course correction will provide you with 36,500 chances to travel your true path (plus roughly 25 leap days which you can use as you please).

I’m not saying you need to course correct every day. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t.  But a weekly or monthly inventory check will dramatically improve your odds of attaining your goals and living into the life of your design.

So don’t wait until the end of the year. Start by re-evaluating your course today, one week into the new year. If you are not heading towards your own true north, make the necessary adjustments now. Keep recalibrating. And steer yourself exactly where you want to go.

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The best way to make your New Year’s resolution stick.

Happy Resolution Season! Today kicks off the magical four-week period at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to change their lives for the better. If you are a regular gym-goer it is the worst time of year. Because when you arrive for your regular workout some dude who hasn’t exercised in eleven months is wheezing and dripping all over your treadmill.

What do you want to change?

You probably have a list of things you want to start, stop or improve. I applaud that. But far too often, despite the fresh optimism of the new year, we fail to turn our resolutions into powerful new habits. So I will share my secret, counterintuitive technique that makes it much easier to create a healthy new habit.

How Hard Do You Work?

It is natural to assume that if you want to make a major change in your life you should work hard at it. That approach works for some. The beaver loves to be busy. The sled dog loves to mush. But the couch potato loves to potate on the couch. For most people the hard work simply reminds them how much they dislike the hard work.  That’s why the activity hasn’t developed into a habit, yet.

I was at the gym when it opened this morning to start the year with a leg workout. (I’m not actually as svelte as stick-figure me).

The Easier Approach

My secret formula to goal achievement is to put in less effort. While it is natural to think that hard work in the gym or the office will get you better results faster, your long-term success will be hampered. Because most people quickly grow tired of the work, the suffering, the pain or the sacrifice.

Get Lazy to Win

When I start a new habit, or resume my workout routine after a pause, I do less than I could. I do less than I should. And that is the key. By under-exerting myself I keep the activity enjoyable. I check the box. I know I worked out, or spent time on the project, or studying or whatever the case may be. But I only did the minimum. Or the medium. But never even close to the maximum. At first.

This does 3 things:

  1. It makes me feel accomplished.  After all, I did work towards my goal. I got on the cardio machine. I lifted weights. I created an initial sketch of the business I wanted to start. I skipped dessert. (Yay me! I’m doing it!)
  2. It makes it fun  I did the parts that make the endeavor enjoyable. I worked up some sweat. But I didn’t push hard enough to suffer. I didn’t cramp. I didn’t feel like throwing up. I didn’t overload my brain. And most importantly, I never wished that it was over.
  3. It makes me hungry for more. This is the key. I know I can do more. I know I have more in me. Even in this early stage. So I look forward to more.

Calluses vs. Blisters

Hard works requires calluses. You need to build up layers of your own armor. You do this through repetition. Slowly, repeatedly over time. Your body develops a tolerance to the work and the motion. So you can withstand more.

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But most people blister. They work harder than they are prepared for in the beginning.  And their body or brain rejects the work. The effort is seen as a threat rather than a treat. You get sore. The pain says stop. The skin bubbles and peels off and then you bleed. All the feedback is negative. The rational person rejects the entire activity. Then retreats to the couch again to potate.

But people who slowly build calluses keep going. They see the improvement they are after. Which means they can increase the effort without decreasing the fun. They feel accomplished and prepared for more. It’s a beautiful thing.

Staring my business

When I started my adverting and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a vision for what the perfect, fully-formed agency would look like. But I started small. And slow. I didn’t worry about all the things I should be doing, or that I would eventually need to do to make the business in my head a reality. If I tried to do it all from the beginning I likely would have been overwhelmed, stressed or scared. Instead, I did a little bit more every day. And it’s been fun the entire time. The kind of fun that keeps me coming back for more.

The Key Take Away 

Don’t kill yourself in January. Underdo it. Make it fun. And make yourself want to come back for more. Plan for long-term success. But allow yourself time to build momentum. By doing so you can change your life forever. Starting today. Isn’t that exciting? So do less. Enjoy more. And get a little bit better everyday.

Happy 2018. This is your year!

*If one of your goals is to read more in 2018, subscribe to this blog. I’ll share a few hundred words to read a couple of times per week. Which is not enough to hurt you.