Unlike a lot of other people, I don’t share the same disdain for new year resolutions.
Yes, I know–you shouldn’t need an arbitrary date to get started on your goals. While that’s true, it’s also true that the start of a new year is an excellent time to start on your goals because it’s a psychological clean slate: No matter what happened last year, you can always start fresh this year.
So, as we begin this year, here are 8 ideas that have helped my clients and me and will (hopefully) help you be better.
1. Learn to love the process because it’s not about achieving the result but the person you become in the process of achieving your goals
Goals, in and of themselves, are pretty much pointless. They’re just benchmarks we use so we know where we want to go. The real benefit lies in the journey on the way to achieving your goals.
Because it’s during the process you learn things and pick up skills and strategies to add to your repertoire of Useful Things™.
Because once the ‘high’ of achieving your goal dissipates (and it always dissipates), you’ll still have all the skills and knowledge you picked up along the way that you can use in other areas of your life.
But there’s another reason why loving the process is so important. It’s how most things in life work.
Between where you are right now and where you want to be–the ‘before’ and ‘after’–there’s a period of days, weeks, months, and years of unsexy, boring stuff.
It’s the stuff that won’t sell fitness magazines, diet books, or coaching programs. It’s the unsexy stuff. It’s the day to day grind type stuff.
But it’s the stuff that matters. And it’s where progress happens–in that unsexy, boring gap.
2. It’s not what you do during the good days that matters but what you do during the bad days
It’s easy to be motivated, optimistic, and stick to your goals when things are going great. It’s a lot harder to be and do those things when you have bad days. But it’s what you do during the bad days that matters more because the truth is, this is real life, and you’re going to have more bad days than good days.
An easy way to do this is to pick your MVAs (minimum viable actions). A minimum viable action is the minimum you can do without feeling overwhelmed when life is slapping you in the face.
For example, instead of “track every meal and eat well 7x per week” you would focus on just one meal every day that you track and ensure is healthy (protein, lots of veggies, etc.). Instead of, “train 4x per week” you would focus on getting to the gym at least once per week.
If you can do more, that’s fine. But if you can’t, focusing on executing your MVAs will help you keep some semblance of routine and structure and help you maintain healthy habits. And when things calm down again, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to get back on track than if you’d completely stopped.
3. Act like the person you want to be in the future, today
Right now, you have a vision of the person you want to become. Ask yourself: what good habits does future me have? What bad habits does future me not have? What does future me do that I’m currently not doing? Write these all down and then pick three things you can start doing today.
To get to the goal you have to first become the person who’s already achieved the goal. Because you don’t get the abs (goal) and become the person who has abs, you have to, first, become the person who has abs and then you’ll have abs.
4. Amazing results (changes/progress) are a culmination of all the small things you do every day.
Nobody makes a drastic transformation overnight. It’s the culmination of all the small (positive) decisions that person’s made every day over weeks, months, and years that eventually lead to huge results.
If you want to make huge progress in the long run, you should be more focused on accumulating as many good decision as you can every day versus letting one bad decision ruin everything.
5. Don’t let someone else’s idea of ‘success’ define your own idea of success
In my late teens and early twenties, my definition of success was defined by other people–you need to get a degree, you need to get a high-flying job, etc. But this wasn’t my definition, it was something that was forced on me by others.
My definition of success today is the number of people I’m having a positive impact on through my coaching and content.
I think it’s important to define what ‘success’ means for you and then work towards that.
As a corollary: when you do decide what success means for you, don’t let other people make you feel bad about your choice.
Want to get lean because you want to look good naked? Awesome. That’s your goal and nobody has the right to make you feel bad about it.
6. It’s always about the long-game
This year, I want you to start thinking in months not days and weeks.
Because it’s not about how your actions will help make life easier today. But how your actions today will help make life easier for you in the future (avoid responsibility debt).
7. In a world that encourages immediate gratification, delaying what you want now for what you want most is a superpower
This one is self-evident and most of you reading this are thinking, “No shit, genius.” The problem, then, isn’t knowing but executing. So how can you delay immediate gratification?
Here are three things that work for me.
- Set up your environment for success. As I write this, I have a website blocker turned on that’s preventing me from opening Facebook or YouTube or a number of other sites that I would much rather waste my time on than sit and write this article. My phone is in another room so I’m not tempted to check it every second. By setting up these things ahead of time, I have no choice but to write no matter how much I want to check social media or watch cat videos on YouTube. I don’t risk temptation, I completely avoid it.
- Apply time constraints. Instead of “I’m never going to check social media” I negotiate with myself, “if I write for 3 hours today, then I can check social media as much as I want for the rest of the day.” This works because I’ve given myself a tangible beginning and end for my daily writing routine. For you, this may mean setting a deadline of 4-6 weeks where you’re super focused on losing fat. Once that time is up, you can switch to maintenance for a little while before resuming the fat loss. Applying time constraints with a definitive start and end date will help increase your focus and helps to reduce some of the overwhelm that comes with trying to achieve a goal that may take some time (i.e., dieting for a few weeks versus a year).
- Take some time off. Fridays and Saturdays are rest days for me. I don’t create anything. I spend Friday morning reading all the articles I’ve collected over the week and then in the afternoon, I’ll go out for a meal with my girlfriend. Saturdays I sleep in and do whatever we have planned for the day. This helps give me a mental ‘recharge’ so once the new week comes around, I’m fresh and ready to go again. You could do something similar. Maybe Monday to Friday are ‘diet days’ for you where you’re super focused on your goals and do everything you can to stick to the plan. Then on the weekend, you could have ‘maintenance days’ where you increase calories to maintenance and spend the day relaxing and eating a bit more than normal.
8. You can’t have it all
Future You who is fit and healthy is doing things you currently aren’t. This hypothetical you in the future has also given up things that at one point they thought they enjoyed but realised weren’t serving them.
This is called opportunity cost and is one of the cosmic laws of the universe: to get something you have to give up something in return because you can’t have it all.
If you’re constantly eating out and this is ruining your progress, then you need to start preparing your own meals. If you’re going out every weekend and getting totally shit-faced, then I dunno, maybe don’t do that? If you find you’re constantly overeating on hyper-palatable foods then you’re going to have to stop buying them and limit your exposure to them.
Because despite what every fitness person with an Instagram account tells you: no, you can’t have it all.
You’re going to have to give up some stuff if you want to achieve your goals. That’s what being an adult is all about, making the hard choices today so you can be better tomorrow (refer back to #6).