Here we are at the start of a new year in January, and you’ve been assessing your personal goals for a few weeks. By now, many people understand that the goals that they set less than two weeks ago will probably fall away into the trash heap of good intentions by the end of the month.
It’s not that you don’t want to get in shape, spend more time with the people you love, see a few more sunrises or sunsets, or live a life that is not filled with regrets. The challenge in all of it is that daily life somehow seems to get in the way. It doesn’t take too long to get distracted by the mundane, but necessary, things in life that revolve around family obligations, work or school.
Let go of the big goal
I’m going to tell you something that you may be surprised to hear from me if you’re someone who follows my writings. I generally believe in dreaming and doing big things, which is a theme I often express in my writing. That’s how I live my life and find success at work. However, the big goals are based on lots of tiny steps. I’ve gotten excellent in understanding and internalizing that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. That said, each of the small steps is intentional. So, if you’ve wanted to change something in your life, but have not found success, get rid of focusing on the big goals and resolutions for this year and think about the smaller parts toward living the life you want to lead.
The making of a habit
If you’re seeking to live your life with intention and purpose, you’re in luck. You’re alive today and can reset what you want to change to move forward. It begins by taking small steps and developing habits. In as little as 21 days, you can start to create patterns that will slowly shift the course of your life. If you’re seeking to develop habits around larger themes in life, those will take a bit longer. Science has told us that it will take 66 days for long-term fundamental changes. But, whether you’re looking to make small or significant changes, 21 days or 66 days both begin with Day 1.
Move forward with micro results
If you’re seeking to make a change, even if it’s a big one, forget about the singular big goal which will disappear by the end of the month. Instead, think about a theme in your life and the results you want to achieve for the year. Let’s say you’re looking for a new work opportunity, break down the results you want to see into monthly action plans. For instance, take the month of January and chip away at fixing your resume––nothing else––until completed by the 31stof January. The result you’re seeking for January is a revised resume. In February, create another result you want to see by the end of the month. Perhaps you can say that you’re going to network with 3 people you know and 2 that you’ve never met each week of the month. By the end of the month, you’ll have spoken to at least 20 people and officially gotten yourself into the job market. Following in March, you’re going to move to the search engines and submit your resume to 10 posted job opportunities weekly, which will provide you with 40 submissions by the end of March. Then move on with one focused result you want to see for each of the remaining months without worrying or getting overwhelmed by anything. Again, you’re looking to keep things achievable.
Why monthly and small results work
No matter what you want to do in your life, change does not happen overnight. It would be nice if it did, but that’s not reality. There’s a reason why people say that patience is a virtue. It takes patience to change, and more often than not, change comes through the incremental steps you take to achieve results. That’s why thinking about a big goal can sometimes be daunting and out of reach. Instead, if you picked an area in your life that you wanted to change, and then spent each month focusing on a small result toward the more significant change you want to see, you’d get closer to achieving what you’re looking to gain. You’d also succeed in developing habits that will move you forward in a realistic manner.
When you focus, daily, on a regular monthly result, you build the muscle memory in your brain to slowly incorporate it as a priority, and whether it’s in 21 days or 66 days, what’s important to you will become something where your mind will focus. For example, let’s say you’ve started to network and haven’t done it in a long time. If you focus for one month exclusively on networking, as you improve and get better at it, you’ll develop the skills to keep doing it as a habit.
If you’re seeking to change something in your life this year, figure out a plan for creating monthly results around the life that you want to see. By working on it in smaller parts, in different ways, you’ll ultimately achieve the change and also create some of the habits that will stick with you and help improve your life.
Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)
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