To Be a Better Person in 2017 You Only Need to Do One Thing

Well, maybe I should say “One more thing,” but that’s not nearly as catchy, is it? You can’t stop going to work and paying your bills and taking your dog for a walk in the freezing cold. To be a better person this year you only need to do one new thing. However, there is a catch, you need to do that thing every day. It needs to become a habit, a part of your daily routine. Here’s how to get started today. (Check back next week where we’re going to take aim at some common pitfalls that sabotage our goals)

Step 1: Choosing Your One Thing

If you have notoriously set lofty goals for yourself and then found those cycling shoes collecting dust by February on top of the vegan cookbooks from last year, this is the challenge for you. Instead of big lofty goals that keep ending in failure, pick just one small goal this year. Have you always wanted to speak a second language? Be more social? Play an instrument? Take an inch off your waistline? Be handier around the house? Whatever it is you’ve wanted to do, that’s the one thing you’re going to do this year.

Step 2: Stick With One Thing

If you have run into trouble in the past with accomplishing goals it’s important that you stick to just one goal this year. “But, if one is good, two is surely better, right?” Sure, but not if zero get accomplished. Setting and accomplishing goals is a skill like any other, and it takes practice to master. Just like you don’t bang out a 10-miler on your first day back on the running trail, or overload the rack your first day back in the weight room, you shouldn’t overload yourself with goals either. Training your brain and reconditioning your habits is a priceless skill. So, if you do yourself a favor and start with a strong foundation, you can build on it for the rest of your life.

Step 3: Getting Started

Keith Richards must be a wizard. I can’t even hit these notes sober.

Now that you’ve got your one goal how are you going to accomplish it? This step can often be deceptively easy. You have this grand vision of how great it’s going to be when you’ve conquered it. So, you buy the tools and the wood, or the guitar (and the strap, picks, iPad apps), or the running shoes and gym membership. And with those purchases comes an immediate sense of accomplishment—we’ve committed to it!

Therein lies the problem. The simplicity of those actions paired with the immediate positive feelings of accomplishment can set us up for failure when the tasks get tougher and instant gratification is in short supply. That’s why it’s important to start with a plan. Don’t just buy running shoes and hit the road. Why are you running? To lose weight, to look good naked, to have more stamina, to run a marathon one day? Identify why you’re doing it, and then map out the steps you’re going to take every day to make it happen. Same thing if you decided to build a bar in your basement this year. When does it need to be finished? What tools and materials are you going to need? Once you answer those questions sketch out what parts of the project you’re going to accomplish each day. Trust the process and don’t get ahead of yourself, or you may find a couple dozen 2x4s littering your backyard for years to come.

I said DON’T do that!

Step 4: Staying at It

Congratulations! You’ve made it through those first few days/weeks. That grand vision is coming together. You can practically see the shiny new bar you’re going to build in the basement, all your friends gathered around watching football and eating wings. It’s going to be glorious!

You gathered the materials and learned your way around the power tools. You cut the boards for the frame. You finally start driving those nails, and by the 9th board, you realize the entire frame is crooked. Now what? The boards are too short to cut again and you’ve driven 45 nails into the tangled mess. Or, if you’re learning to play guitar your fingers may be bleeding, you’ve been at the same piece of music for four days, and you just can’t seem to hit that one note. Setbacks like these are infuriating, and lead many people to throw in the towel. But not you. Not this year. This year is different. This year you’re going to succeed because you were ready for this and you have a plan.

When you’re pushing the confines of your comfort zone you’re naturally going to meet resistance and it’s probably going to feel intimidating. You may even take some light-hearted ribbing from friends and family about the new lofty goal that you’re already failing at. Why not stop now? You gave it a shot, right? It’s just not your thing and now you know that.

That’s where you’re wrong. It’s just not your thing yet. At one point walking wasn’t your thing. Talking either. You were literally the worst at those. All you could do was gurgle and scream as you attempted in vain to resist the torture that is “tummy time.” The point is, you tried and failed at those basic tasks far longer than you’ve been at this. And, if you pick that hammer back up or throw that guitar strap back over your shoulder you’re going to be better tomorrow than you are today. It’s going to be hard. Some days it’s going to be downright brutal. You’re going to end up with bleeding fingers (this goes for both guitar and carpentry), but you’re also going to be acquiring that skill every day through sheer force of habit. That’s the only way we get better. You can’t will it so, you can only work it so.

You get to choose who you want to be. So, don’t wait for next year. Hell, don’t wait for tomorrow. Stop reading right now (after you share this post!) and start moving toward your goal. I don’t care if it’s just writing down what you want to do, do something, however small, that moves you in the direction of the person you want to be. This is the year you leave it all on the table.

Don’t forget to check back next week where we’ll be taking aim at some common pitfalls that sabotage our goals and give you some simple strategies to overcome them.

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Are you thinking about taking the first step? Are you hesitating? Already moving toward your goals? Wherever you are right now I want to hear about it. Send me a message HERE.