With the New Year upon us, people from around the world are feeling inspired to make significant changes in their lives, and to get out of whatever ruts they might have fallen into, in times gone by.
As human beings, we all need the opportunity for an occasional fresh start in one or another area of our lives, and it’s a great thing to finally confront issues that have been hounding us for some time, and to take steps to address them.
Unfortunately, though, many New Year’s resolutions don’t really stick, and many of the best intentions that we begin the year with end up falling by the wayside as time goes on. By March or April, it’s common to have fallen back into familiar habits that drag us down rather than lifting us up.
If you feel as if you’ve been “static” or “stuck” for too long, and have been unable to properly pursue and achieve your dreams, you absolutely should do something to change your situation – whether that means the amortization of a loan, training for a new career, or anything else.
Here are a few tips to actually start making things happen in your life, as opposed to getting sidetracked again.
1. Stop trying to perfectly work everything out in the abstract – start taking action, and learn as you go
The phrase “Analysis Paralysis” probably applies to more people today than it has at any other point in history. It’s incredibly easy to get completely and totally wrapped up in an endless web of theory, reflection, information, and introspection.
For those of us who are naturally more introverted or academic, in particular, there is a real danger that we end up totally overwhelming ourselves with different ideas, perspectives, theories, and data points, to the point where everything just seems too overwhelming and nothing ever gets done.
Of course, the Internet is the ultimate tool for this kind of abstraction and overthinking. How many people out there, for example, have wanted to get in shape, only to then end up watching hundreds of contradictory videos on the best training methodology to follow? Usually this feeds a fear of “doing it wrong,” which in turn means that no real training ever gets done at all.
If you want to really start making things happen in your life, it’s essential that you stop trying to perfectly work everything out in the abstract, and start taking action, instead. Learn as you go, adjust your strategy as you gain experience, and see how things play out in reality. Unless there’s a real safety hazard or ethical dilemma involved, just get started right now.
There’s another interesting phenomenon that ties into this: often, when we sit around and try to “logically think about” doing stuff that we are intimidated by, we will end up constructing nightmare scenarios in our minds that don’t at all reflect the reality of what that thing would actually be like.
To use the example of fitness again, plenty of would-be new gym-goers imagine that they are going to walk into the gym and everyone will stare at them and laugh as they flail uselessly through their workout.
In reality, the vast majority of people, in the vast majority of gyms, are either going to be completely indifferent to your presence, or are going to be actively supportive. But you’ll never know that if you spend too much time trying to mull things over in your own head.
2. Get seriously into physical exercise
It’s probably not too surprising that an article like this, on a site like this, would recommend getting seriously into physical exercise. All the same, though, physical training really is one of the best ways of getting yourself into the habit of taking action and making positive changes in your life.
When you go to the gym and get fit, you are not just working your muscles or your cardiovascular system. You are also simultaneously training all kinds of mental habits that will carry over to every other area of your life.
For example, to get into shape you need persistence and patience. You need to keep turning up, session after session, until your body has had enough of a stimulus to really change. Then, you’ve got to remain consistent if you want to keep those gains.
Going into the gym on a regular basis, in turn, requires you to get used to overcoming internal resistance and ignoring the self-defeating little voice in the back of your head that tells you things like “everyone’s going to laugh at me,” or “I’m not going to be any good at this,” or “I’m not feeling it, better just stay home.”
Of course, just getting through the workout itself also requires some grit and focus.
On top of all that, when you start seeing and feeling the changes that come with a regular fitness routine, your confidence will rise, and so will your motivation to get other lifestyle habits of yours in line – cleaning up your diet and getting enough sleep, for example.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also evidence that physical exercise literally gives you more willpower.
Often, getting seriously committed to physical exercise is an absolute keystone lifestyle change that can lead to a cascade of growth and unlock potential across the board.
3. Actually set yourself some clear goals, even if they intimidate you
It’s really tempting to never actually set yourself any clear goals, because that way you don’t have to deal with the stress, anxiety, and potential blow to your self-esteem that comes with failing to meet those goals.
While setting goals is “risky” in that way, it’s even riskier to not set them – because by not setting any goals you rob yourself of something positive and worthwhile to work towards, and therefore also rob yourself of the journey of growth and exploration that you always have to go through while pursuing achievements.
Everyone who has ever done any serious goal-setting knows that failing to meet goals is just a part of the game – but that the more practice you get, the better able you are to judge the goals you set for yourself, and in turn achieve them. What’s more, even when you “fail” to meet your goals as originally laid out, you will still grow, develop, and gain all sorts of new insights along the way.
If you want 2020 to be the year when you make some real changes to life, and actually start getting things done, then begin by setting yourself ambitious goals that you will be willing and able to commit to and stick with for a decent amount of time.
If you struggle to come up with your own goals, or to hold yourself accountable to them, you’ll be able to find various clubs and challenge groups out there that can give you a good framework to start with.
4. Put some skin in the game, and find people and systems to hold you accountable
A huge reason why people frequently fail to meet their potential and stick with their goals is because they don’t really have “skin in the game,” and aren’t really held accountable in any clear and tangible way.
This is often a big issue for people who are trying to carve out their own path in life in one way or another – whether in the case of an entrepreneur who seems to lack all structure and order after leaving their old day job, or in the case of someone trying to get fit in the gym with an entirely self-created workout plan that they just can’t seem to stick with.
To start actually getting things done, look for people and systems that can hold you accountable. Join existing groups, sign “commitment contracts,” or hire a personal trainer. Just make sure that there is someone to check in on you, and some penalty for slacking off.
This is a collaborative post.