With the new year fast approaching, you’re probably thinking about what resolutions you should make and how you’re really going to keep them this year.
Ninety percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Setting some unrealistic goal that represents a wholesale 180-degree lifestyle change is a recipe for disappointment.
Here’s what to do instead.
For each decision you face in your health, your work, your finances, or your relationships, ask this question:
“Is this decision going to help me or hurt me?”
This question comes from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. The premise of the book is: Say YES to the tiny insignificant decisions today that help you, and NO to the tiny insignificant decisions today that hurt you.
Doing so, one day at a time, allows you to make 1% improvements, instead of 1% declines. It may not seem like much, but if you can improve 1% each day, you’re 365% better off by this time next year. (Not even accounting for compound interest or the fact that 2016 is a leap year!)
Instead of a lofty resolution, aim for the slight edge habit of doing the little things each day that move you closer to where you want to be. The sum of these little micro decisions stimulate success at work and at home, promote positive healthy habits that stick, and ultimately help us lead happier lives.
The Science of Success
Olson defines success as “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”
It’s about progress, not necessarily completion. It’s not the summit; it’s the climb.
The problem is the things that create success in the long run don’t look like they’re having any impact at all in the short run. If you go to the gym today, you’re not going to have a six-pack tomorrow. If you don’t go to the gym today, you’re not going to keel over from obesity tomorrow.
That’s where the “help me or hurt me” question comes in. Olson explains that people most commonly fail their slight edge decisions because:
- While they’re easy to do, they’re just as easy not to do.
- You don’t see any results at first.
- They seem like they don’t matter.
But they do, and you can see it over time. No one is born 100 lbs overweight or $100k in debt. Those results are the cumulative effect of probably years of “hurt me” habits.
Habits: So What Do I Do?
So if we can’t see the results right away, and the impact of not taking action is equally invisible in the near-term, how do we know what to do?
Sometimes it’s hard to know the answer to that, especially on business-related tasks. Is this really going to get me more clients? Is this work really going to pay off?
One example the author gives is the daily habit of reading 10 pages. If you keep that up for a year, you’ve added the knowledge of a dozen books into you brain–which is more than many adults will read in their lifetime. All from 10 pages a day.
But beyond reading, what can you do?
Aside from any business-specific tasks you have in mind, I focus on two areas: health and networking.
Make it a point to exercise for at least 10 minutes a day. Go for a walk. Do some push-ups. Move around. After all, if you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?
Proactively build and strengthen your network. Stay in touch with old friends and peers. Reach out to new contacts. Like someone’s Facebook post.
These things are easy to do, but they’re equally easy not to do. As you build these positive micro-habits, they become automatic; an object in motion stays in motion, right?
A Happier Life
Freud said there are only two ingredients to a happy life: “love and work.”
Do you agree?
If you have loving relationships and get to spend your days working on stuff you care about, that sounds like a recipe for happiness to me.
We tend to put milestones on our happiness. Like, if I get six-pack abs, then I’ll be happy. If I get a new car or a new house, then I’ll be happy. If I have a $1 million in the bank, then I’ll be happy.
But what if we have it backward? Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”
Can we embrace the journey instead? Can we figure out how to be happy during the progressive realization of a worthy ideal?
Focus on the actions that help you instead of hurt you, even if you know, you won’t see results right away. The gradual compound effect of those actions will surprise you; they certainly have for me.
Olson compared a tiny creek that runs through your hometown with the majestic Grand Canyon. The only difference between the two?
Keeping up the same positive actions day in and day out can produce tremendous results. The secret is just not to dwell on the results today.
What’s going to be your slight edge this year? What are you going to make 1% progress on each day?
Photo: Flickr/ Rich