Have you ever wondered why we set New Year’s resolutions? I believe that as a species we are wired for personal growth. Our higher reasoning power has allowed us to not just survive but thrive.
But in our noble pursuit of personal growth, are we in fact selling ourselves short as we seek to clear the slate at the beginning of each new calendar year? This evening I heard some shocking statistics our mentors came across recently. Did you know that by February 43% of people have given up on their resolutions? Well if you thought that was bad, March looks even worse with only 10% still pursuing their goals. So why do we start the year inspired and motivated to change yet a few weeks (or days) later we lose the drive to stick with it?
Firstly, change is hard. It requires grit, discipline and perseverance. Sometimes we romanticize setting goals and resolutions and believe the process of reaching a new outcome should be fun or easy and we should feel “happy” pursuing that ever elusive commodity; “happiness”. Unfortunately transformation is not an instantaneous process. Just think of some of the most popular films through history. More often than not, it begins with a dream which is met with resistance, otherwise known as the struggle. When the character(s) meet(s) this adversity with a winning attitude to persevere, this leads to breakthrough. Only then do we see the victory. Sadly most people are too impatient to do the work required to make the change they desire.
While motivation gets you started, it’s your habits which keep you going. As the old adage goes, “Motion precedes emotion”, so unfortunately instead of waiting for the fire to light before fueling it with wood, we must first take action to fuel our fire before we can enjoy its warmth. Similarly, we need to put in the consistent action (habit) necessary before we often reach a state of feeling motivated (which in turn reinforces the action just taken, increasing the chances of repeating it tomorrow). Ever wake up and not feel like working out, but you push through and go anyway and by the end of your work out you feel ready and motivated to conquer the world? Not feeling motivated? Push through the fear, resistance, excuses or whatever it is that is holding you back and as Nike so succinctly put it,
“Just do it.”
Secondly, when making New Years’ resolutions, we can fixate on one or two key areas while neglecting other facets of our life.
For instance, have you ever met someone who has a really great professional life but their personal life is coming apart at the seams?
What about the fitness buff who spends all their resources developing physical prowess, at the expense of their emotional and spiritual wellbeing?
What if, instead of chasing happiness, which is a volatile and fleeting emotion, the key is to pursue fulfilment by chasing the next level in every area of your life?
While it is important to be focused in life, when taken too far, we can find ourselves facing some pretty dire consequences. For example, someone chasing a goal with no regard for their long term health may not be around to enjoy the fruits of their labour further down the road. What’s the point in reaching the top if you are no longer around to enjoy it with those you love? Similarly, enjoying the view from the top (regardless of the arena) is a lonely place if you have driven everyone who cares about you away. This is where having a broader birds eye view of your life can be helpful. A tool which can be very helpful for illustrating this is the Wheel of Life.
Just as a bike wheel which has become too bent out of shape will make riding not only uncomfortable, but difficult and dangerous, a life wheel that loses too much resemblance to a wheel can indicate a challenging life journey if left unmanaged. Phil and I review our wheels periodically in conjunction with our planning and reflecting as we navigate through our daily activities toward our goals for the year and our larger five year goals.
Of course it would be an unreasonable expectation to expect to achieve a perfectly circular Wheel of Life (that is not the point), but I believe seeking growth in all areas of your wheel is where contentment lies. So, in summary, contrary to common belief, I am convinced you can not only have your cake, but also savour every single bite.
Pursue excellence, because just as a circle has no end, so too is the worthy pursuit of excellence; endless.
“Life without balance can cost you your relationships. Life without balance can cost you your health. Life without balance can cost you your spirituality. Life without balance can cost you your wealth and your happiness. So find things to motivate you from all areas of life. Your success depends on it.” – Jim Rohn
After all, as John Ruskin said,
“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but who he becomes by it.”