What is the point of a New Year’s Resolution? Simply put, they are born out of our desire to accomplish more in the course of next year than we did in this one. We set them in order to improve our lives.
That’s the driving force; but when we get down to actually writing them out – or sputtering them aloud through alcoholic fumes, as the case may be – we sometimes lose sight of that fact. We fall into one of two traps:
1. A List of Thou-Shalt-Not’s
This is by far the most common form of New Year’s Resolution; The ‘I will no longer…’ approach. Variations include: I will quit smoking, I will give up eating junk-food, I hereby swear to stop aiming for stray cats as I drive home.
Sadly, diets don’t work and they’re generally bad for you. And as for smoking; of course you should quit, but that’s not a New Year’s Resolution. That’s common sense. Don’t wait until January first – step away from the death-stick.
New Year’s resolutions should be filled with hope. They should not be the beginning of a stretch of despair, which you measure in torturous days leading up to their inevitable and depressing failure. Resolutions are about seeing an exciting, sexier, more successful you, not about watching to see how long you can suffer through some form of denial, then crumble. For that reason, ditch the ‘Thou Shalt Not’s’ from your list. Where necessary, turn them into positives, like, ‘Become healthier and physically fit.’
2. A To-Do List
The second unfortunate habit is to simply create a tedious and relatively meaningless list of tasks to do: Paint the house, shave the dog, teach the mule to gamble.
This misses the entire point of the New Year’s Resolution, which is to improve your lot in life. We don’t want to bog our New Year down with admin, and we certainly don’t want to do administrative tasks at the cost of an opportunity to move forward. If we hope to make any progress toward our dreams, goals should always be prioritized above daily tasks.
So, what is the alternative?
Look for Levers
Levers. Door-openers. Ladders to the next level. I recommend setting goals that empower you with the capacity to improve your life. In other words, invest in the kind of behaviours that can contribute toward adding an extra zero to your income, getting you promoted, or boosting your total condition in some fashion.
These behaviours come in all shapes and sizes. For the sake of simplicity, let’s divide them into ‘Input Levers’ and ‘Output Levers.’
Input Levers consist of anything that you ‘take in,’ in the form of additional knowledge or skills, which then gives you greater leverage in life. Learning the art of public speaking would count as an input lever. It can boost your career prospects and assist you in selling more, becoming more influential or landing a leadership role. Signing up to study that course that you know is the next step in getting to where you want to go would qualify as an Input Lever too, as would reading the right books. Most soft-skills are excellent Input Levers.
Output Levers are things that you do each day in order to improve your lot. They are the daily production that, over time, adds up to a scenario-change.
Output Levers are the behaviours that you have always known would improve your life, but which you have resisted. They are often discipline-based, such as waking up earlier and spending an hour working on a long-term project.
For years, I have contended that the best Output Lever of all, in almost any industry, is to write a book. A book to your name can position you as a more serious practitioner in your field and can overhaul people’s perceptions of you. It can open doors.
So, as you think about which elements of your life to tinker with going into the New Year, use this guiding principle. Don’t do tasks. Look for levers.
Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and author who encourages people to think. He speaks on Expert Positioning and the misunderstood link between work and wealth. He is a 5x winner of the SA Championships for Public Speaking and the author of three books. See him in action or read more of his articles at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter: @douglaskruger.