At this time of year, the blogosphere becomes littered with goal-setting guides. Year after year, hopeful people set New Year’s resolutions to do better and try harder. Then, after a brief period of motivation, we slip, forget and give up. Next year, you tell yourself, will be different.
Instead of providing just one more guide for ineffective goal setting, I thought I’d share with you the technique I personally use to hack my New Year’s resolutions. This anti-tactic has been my preferred approach for boycotting resolutions for the past five years. Join me in rejecting traditional and you’ll make 2011 the best year yet.
Step 1: Acknowledge that it’s all bulls***
The first secret to hacking your resolutions is to accept that the calendar flipping from one date to the next is a form of false closure. The date’s significance is a myth. It’s all that remains of the (more legitimate) celebration of the winter/summer solstice.
It’s only when you free yourself of the pressure of “new beginnings” that you’re truly empowered to transform your future. Instead of turning over a new leaf, your New Year becomes a transcendence of your immediate past. You’re not starting afresh, you’re building on the foundation of hard work and experience that last year brought you.
Now that you’ve dropped the notion of a “new year”… take some time to get introspective. This is why I’m releasing this post now, before Christmas. The holidays give you the window of opportunity to do this important thinking – not the date on the calendar. Take advantage of the time you’ve got to review the past and be grateful. Then, think of the future and be excited.
Dismiss the date. Embrace the introspection.
Step 2: Commit to your QUEST
Screw goals. Pick a quest instead.
Us humans have a long history of questing. It’s practically built into our cultural identity.
A quest is superior to a goal because the journey itself is rewarding. It’s an epic ongoing voyage which will immediately go down in folklore as a story worth telling.
Ditch your goals in favor of choosing the journey that you want to go on. Pick a quest that will necessitate the accomplishment of your goals along the way.
It’s a trap to focus on goals themselves. The digital nature of goals is their ultimate undoing. They’re either achieved or their not achieved. You have it… or you don’t.
It’s this on-or-off characteristic that destroys most people’s willpower, a few weeks after setting a big goal. It’s tough to work hard towards “a Ferrari” – even if you’re managing to save 5 figure amounts each month! It’ll be months before you drive it so the tangible accomplishment of your goal feels far away.
Same deal with all the other cliched resolutions.
Weight loss? It sucks that you’re not there yet, so why not eat a donut. Want to escape debt? There isn’t any shade between red and black… and being “only just in the black” is actually a lot less fun than being leveraged to the hilt. At least you can party with a credit card!
When you have a quest, every day that you’re on your journey is a victory. Just like Jason and argonauts sailing the Mediterranean, even on boring days (when you’re merely “sailing”) you do so with a grin on your face. You know you’re on your quest.
What I’m describing is the ultimate reframe from valuing outcomes to valuing journeys. Instead of tangible stuff, you focus on the doing.
This is why I set quests instead of goals.
At a psychological level, this strategy pays enormous dividends in motivation. The feel good vibe of achievement remains consistent throughout the year… so long as you stay on your quest. All that means is checking your compass and trimming the sails… or your metaphorical equivalent!
Of course, some days will be more significant than others. They’ll be days when your quest requires you to do battle with sleepless dragons. They’ll be times when the songs of Sirens tempt you from remaining true to your course. They’ll be days when you celebrate finding your golden fleece… and there will be days when, lost, you despair.
Being lost is part of the quest. It’s to be expected. The dragons, Harpies and other obstacles in your way are all there for a reason. Throughout your year, you’ll never forget that no matter what happens, you’re already on your quest.
Whatever happens is perfect.
When you set sail on a quest, dismiss goals from your mind. The important ones have an uncanny knack of popping up, in unexpected ways, anyway.
Instead, focus on equipping yourself for your journey. Ask yourself:
- What kind of person do I need to be to be the hero in this story?
- What beliefs and values do I need to hold?
- What capabilities do I need to develop?
- What habits and behaviors do I need to master?
If you choose to set out on a quest this New Year’s Eve, your life will change. If you take the time, this holiday, to answer the questions above… the legend of your accomplishments will travel far and wide.
Sure, you’ll lose the weight, get the car and escape the debt. The goals will get ticked off.
But you know what? My bet is that you won’t care nearly as much as you think you will. Those goals won’t seem important. Once you get started questing, you’ll quickly learn that the journey itself is the ultimate reward.
Addicted to momentum, you’ll accelerate yourself through 2011 and beyond, creating wealth, freedom and impact where ever you go.
Do something truly exceptional and the legend of your quest will be told for ages to come.
What’s your quest going to be? I’ll be publishing the results of my NYE introspection on the blog when I get back from my ritual trip. In the meantime, I’m curious to hear what you’ll be thinking and planning over the break…