It’s usually around Christmas and New Years where we spend or want to spend some quality time with our friends and families, but it’s also the time where we usually look back at the past year and reflect about everything that has happened outside and inside our little world. What have we been doing? What goals have we achieved? Which lives have we made better? Have we made our own lives a little better? And ultimately, the question comes up: “What can we do to make the next year, the best year of our lives?”.
Self-reflection and self-analysis is important, because by knowing where we come from, we can get a better idea of where we need to go in the future. And during these cold winter nights we forge plans for the next year and make New Years resolutions. But when it comes to the actual execution, we struggle to stick to those plans and resolutions. A few days or weeks into the new year, we often times give up at whatever we were trying to achieve. We are back in our old routine, nothing has changed and at the end of that year, we create the same plans and make the same resolutions for the following one. And this keeps on going and going, without anything ever really changing for the better. We didn’t quit smoking, we didn’t stick with our diet and workout plan, we still have the same crappy job. Same old, same old.
Laying one brick at a time
What can we do to stick to our plans and make sure we reach our desired goals? The answer in my opinion is, like so many other things in life, simple yet hard to follow. You have to take the first step. Then take another one, and another one, and another one until you’ve reached your set destionation. Will Smith once told a very inspiring story about how he and his brother built a wall for their Dad. In this interview he said:
“You do not try to build a wall. You don’t start there. You say: “I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. There won’t be one brick on the face of the earth that’s gonna be laid better than this one.” And you do this every single day and soon, you will have a wall.”
He continues to say, that it’s difficult to take the first step, when you look at how big the task is. What we can take away from this story is, that as soon as we set our big goal or big goals for the year, we should focus on the smaller goals, one at a time and that way we get closer to our ultimate goal. By focusing on the smaller tasks at hand, we won’t be as easily discouraged as we would be, if we only focused on the big goal. One of the positive effects of finishing a goal is, that it will give us a great sense of accomplishment, regardless of how small or big the achievement was. We did something! We achieved something! That is what Tony Robbins meant, when he said that progress equals happiness. It’s not the things we own or the amount of money we have, that makes us happy, it’s the progress we make in our lives. It’s all those steps and accomplishments, on which we can proudly look back at the end of the year and at the end of our lives.
When it gets hard,…
But the desire for progress is not the only thing we need to have. Because even if we really desire a smoke-free life, a great physique, our own business or whatever it might be for you, we often times give up, when it gets hard. We then continure to live our lives with regrets. Regrets are born out of unfulfilled dreams and desires. “I wish I would’ve done that…”. “I always wanted to this, but…”. We’ve heard this many times, right? H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” And yet, we think we are far better off living with the regrets by making excuses. What we are lacking on our journey to fulfill our dreams and desires is persistence. And no man could help us develop the necessary persistence more than Napoleon Hill with his book ‘Think, and Grow Rich’ in which he dedicates a whole chapter to this topic. Here is what he wrote about how to develop persistence:
1. A definite purpose backed by burning desire for its fulfillment.
2. A definite plan expressed in continous action.
3. A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative suggestions of relatives, friends and acquaintances.
4. A friendly alliance with one of more persons, who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.
For me, what stands out the most and rings the most true, are the words “expressed in continous action”. Because in another part of the chapter he wrote, that “persistence is the direct result of habit”. And I would also say that the creation of a habit is the direct result of persistence. For example, if you start going to the gym, you have to harness your will-power to go the gym, even or especially when you don’t want to. You have to push yourself and be persistent. In the long run what happens is that going to gym becomes a part of your daily routine. No matter what obstacles or difficulties are in your way, you will always find a way to get it done. You don’t bother yourself anymore with the question IF you get your workout done, but HOW you will get it done. “It’s raining outside? No problem, I’ll wear a rain jacket.” “Car is broken? Sucks, but I’ll just walk or take my bike. Or I’ll do a home workout instead.” Creating a habit will beat every single excuse your mind could come up with. It is as Robert Kyosaki mentioned in his book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, that “the easy road often becomes hard, and the hard road often becomes easy.”
365 days = 365 fresh starts
Now you have a few tools, that can help you to stick with your desired goals and dreams, but there is one more thing, I would like you to keep in mind. You have 365 fresh starts, not just one at the beginning of the year. I say this is because it is okay to fail. We all fail many, many times throughout our lives. There will be some days where you get up with the wrong foot, nothing works out, you just don’t make any progress and it seems like the whole world is against you. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Just the simple fact that you worked on your goal, even if you failed, shows more courage and dedication than most of the people will ever get to know. “Failure is part of the process of success.”. Going after your dreams and goals is never a race, it’s a marathon. Just because you had one great day, doesn’t mean you’ve won the race, and just because you had one bad day, doesn’t mean you’ve lost the race. Every morning when you wake up, go after your desired goals and dreams, regardless of how the previous day has been. It’s a new day with new potential. Again, you have to be persistent.
I want to finish this article with the motto from one more person of great achievement. Sir Francis Drakes motto was “Sic Parvis Magna”, which translated means: “Greatness from small beginnings”. No matter where you are or who you are, everyone of us has to start from the beginning. You have to start somewhere and it always starts with the first step. Followed by another one, and another one, and another one…