Around this time of year, people start making resolutions, which is not the same thing as actually committing to something and building the discipline to sustain it long enough for it to transform you. Mostly, people commit to stop doing something they believe in some way harms them. If you are going to quit something challenging and transformational, start with one or more of seven things that hurt you more than you might recognize.
- Stop Drifting: If you are only going to make one resolution for the new year, the new decade, or the rest of your life, choose to free yourself from “The Drift.” The Drift is all the external beliefs and ideas you have been infected with over the course of your life. The Drift is mostly made up of a set of limitations, the perceived constraints on who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing. Being caught in the Drift is what leads people to a life of mediocrity—or something less. Resolve to free yourself from the Drift by being intentional about what you want your life to be and taking the massive action to make it so.
- Shed Unhealthy Beliefs: Most of us are unaware of our unhealthy beliefs, our negative beliefs, our self-limiting beliefs. Research suggests that you have as many as 80,000 thoughts per day, with 80% of them being negative. And just like that, you are back to the Drift. The voice of self-doubt, your inner critic, isn’t your voice. It’s society. It’s your parents. It’s your peer group, unless you have been wise enough or fortunate enough to be adopted by people who have already shed their unhealthy beliefs. Your brain is trying to keep you alive, but it no longer fears the appropriate danger. While you are not likely to be threatened by a saber-tooth tiger, the type of threat your brain is prepared for, even while it doesn’t recognize the danger of being less than you might be.
- Stop Focusing on Things You Don’t Control: There is very little that is under your control. You don’t control what happens in politics and foreign affairs, nor do you have any real influence. You don’t control what happens in the economy, which goes through cycles of ups and downs over time. You have no control over what other people do or don’t do, and one way to ensure you suffer is to focus on things you don’t control as if doing so would somehow change things. The one thing over which you can exercise control, even if it still requires willpower, is yourself. Resolve to make your primary focus what you can control, giving your attention to things over which you have no control to an awareness instead of an attachment.
- Quit Procrastinating: If you are going to quit something harmful to you, you might start with procrastination. Because it is always right now, it feels like you have more time to do the things you want or need to do. As long as you have been alive, there is always tomorrow, a tomorrow that may come with surprises that make it impossible for you to do what you put off doing today, giving yourself less time and more stress and a greater sense of overwhelm. If something needs to be done, do it now. If there is a deadline, do the work to beat it and give yourself peace of mind.
- Stop Complaining: If complaining made anything better, the world would already be perfect. More complaining isn’t going to help. Complaining that things aren’t the way you want them to be is a narrative that you run over and over in your mind, giving more power to something than it deserves. If there is something that you can do to make things better, then do it. If you are unharmed by what it is that you might complain about, let it go and avoid the self-imposed and unnecessary emotional energy you waste by complaining.
- No More Hitting the Snooze Button: You might need to stop hitting the snooze button when your smartphone alarm goes off in the morning, something that would benefit you tremendously over time. It’s entirely possible, however, that you should stop hitting the snooze button on your life. You don’t need nine more minutes of sleep, and you don’t need to wait until you have your degree, until your kids go off to college, for the timing to better, or any other decision that prevents you from doing what it is you want to do.
- Discontinue Thinking Too Small: This is a product of the Drift. It’s an infection of your mindset that tells you that you need to set realistic goals, something you are sure you can achieve. Thinking small is how you end up with mediocre results instead of exceptional results. If your goal isn’t big enough that it stretches you, causing you to grow in ways you couldn’t have imagined, your goal is too small. If your goals frighten you, you have something worth pursuing.
Nothing here prevents you from resolving to drop a few pounds, getting some exercise, and all of the other resolutions one makes at the start of a new year. But if you want to make the next year your very best year, you’d do well to choose from the list and commit to something even more important—and more transformational.