Nine out of ten people fail at their New Years Resolution every year 1.
Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.
So, in 2017, I suggest we take another approach.
Instead of relying on willpower, let’s focus on the following big ideas for making this our best year ever.
[Note: Make sure to read to the end for a special invitation to my FREE 7-Day Personal Transformation Challenge!]
Aim for Arete
Arete is an ancient Greek word that means “excellence of any kind” 2.
The arete of something is the highest quality state it can reach.
By aiming for arete, you focus on the quality in everything that you do.
Whatever action you’re taking, you strive to do it to the very best of your abilities.
You try to live up to your full potential, moment to moment, with excellence as your ultimate goal.
I admit that sounds a bit grandiose but aiming for arete doesn’t mean you’ll always be perfect.
It just means you have the intention to be the best version of yourself in any given situation.
And that’s a pretty great place to start.
Now, let’s have a look at how to live with arete.
Focus on the Fundamentals
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden taught his players how to put on their socks and tie their shoes 3.
That kind of ruthless focus on the most basic fundamentals has been a recurring team of many successful coaches.
The fundamentals may not be the most exciting thing you do, but they are crucial to your success.
So, in 2017, let’s up our game in the following areas:
- Sleep — This is perhaps the biggest health and productivity “secret” out there. Research has shown that if you want to feel great and perform at your very best, sufficient sleep is non-negotiable. Get better sleep this year.
- Nutrition — The food you consume becomes the fuel and building blocks of your body. Replace refined carbs with good protein and fat, fruits and vegetables. Eat foods that make you feel good later, not just in the moment.
- Movement — Peak performance requires physical activity. Not only because it’s crucial for your health. Research has shown that it’s also essential for your brain’s ability to learn 4. So, give your body the exercise it craves.
- Focus — I recommend meditation to pretty much everyone I meet. This practice has so many benefits, it’s ridiculous 5. If you haven’t started meditating yet, now is the time.
Master Your Craft
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals that apply to everyone, it’s time to look at your personal fundamentals.
I’ll share mine to give you an example. My personal fundamentals are:
- Teaching — Writing, coaching & (at some point) speaking.
- Learning — Habits, behavior change & how to live.
- Promoting — Get my work in front of as many people as possible.
As long as I’m spending my time working in these areas, I know I’m on the right track.
Each day spent learning, teaching, and promoting what I teach, is a day well spent because I’ve strengthened my fundament.
What do you need to do every day to become a master at your craft?
When you take the time to uncover your fundamentals, it becomes much easier to focus your energy in the right places every day.
Manage Your Energy
Most people worry a lot about time management. I’m much more concerned with how I manage my energy 6.
The hours you put in are important. But the amount of energy you bring to each hour is even more important.
That’s why I keep preaching the importance of fundamentals. And it’s also why I recommend planning your days in accordance with your energy levels.
I know from experience that my energy tends to be highest in the early morning and lowest in the afternoon.
So, I do all my writing before lunch.
And, since email tends to be the least draining and most rewarding thing I do, I’ve scheduled it in the late afternoon when my energy is at its lowest.
How will you rearrange your schedule so you take maximum advantage of your energy this year?
Switch Goals for Keystone Habits
In psychology, there’s a concept known as “goal competition.” 7
Goal competition says that one of the biggest obstacles to reaching your goals is the other goals you have.
If you’ve ever tried making a lot of big changes at once, you might relate to this.
Your goals end up competing for your time and attention.
And, as a result, you get overwhelmed and end up with little to no progress at all.
That is why I’m a big fan of building “keystone habits” instead.
A keystone habit is a particular behavior that creates positive ripple effects across all areas of your life.
Here are my keystone habits for 2017:
- Squats. By showing up at the gym to do squats, I know I’ll do the other exercises as well. That, in turn, will help with better productivity, sleep, diet and so on.
- Deep work. By scheduling deep work every day, I should be able to learn, teach, and promote better material than ever before.
- Meditation. If I meditate every day, I’ll be more present, less stressed, and better focused. That will obviously be extremely helpful in everything I do.
What keystone habits will you adopt this year?
Start Ridiculously Small
One of the biggest reasons so many people fail at their New Years resolutions is making them too difficult.
We want results fast and, as a result, we ask too much of ourselves too soon.
It doesn’t matter if we haven’t been exercising for the last couple of months.
We still expect to hit the gym bright and early January 1st.
That is an example of what I like to call “starting with the biggest domino first.”
And when that big piece budge, we get discouraged (or maybe even injured) and quit.
In my experience, it’s WAY better to start at the other end.
Knock down a domino that’s so small it’s nearly effortless to knock over.
Do one pushup. Meditate for one minute. Read two pages in a book. Add one vegetable to your meals. Do five minutes of deep work.
Focus on establishing the behavior first, then incrementally increase the effort. Domino by domino.
Shape Your Environment
We tend not to think about it, but our environment has a HUGE effect on our behavior.
- If we have snacks on the table, we’re likely to eat them.
- If we have a remote control on the living room table, we’re likely to turn on the TV.
- If we sleep with our phone next to our bed, we’re liable to pick it up first thing in the morning.
In many ways, we shape our environment and then our environment shapes us.
We can use this to our advantage by manipulating what Psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the “activation energy” of our habits.
The bigger the obstacles standing in the way of the behavior, the more activation energy you’ll need to muster up and the less likely you’ll be to do it.
So, what you want to do is:
- Decrease the activation energy of your desired habits.
- Increase the activation energy of you undesired habits.
- If you want to eat less, store away your big plates and use salad plates instead.
- If you want to read more books, put your TV remote control in another room and a book right next to your living room couch.
- If you want to write more, have your word processor launch automatically when you start your computer and use an application like StayFocusd to eliminate distractions.
Surround Yourself With Awesome People
Just like the stuff in our environment affects us in a big way, so do the people around us.
As human beings, we are social creatures with a strong tendency to conform to each other.
And that, of course, has huge implications for our lives.
One study, for example, showed that if your friend becomes obese, your risk of obesity increases by 57 percent 8.
The people around us affect what goals we decide to pursue 9 and even what feelings we get to experience 10.
In other words, it’s been well documented that:
- If you hang out with people who are pessimistic and lazy, you’re likely to feel as negative and perform as poorly as they do.
- If you surround yourself with enthusiastic and hard-working people, those are the feelings and attitudes you’ll adopt instead.
The people around you determine what’s normal so be very selective about the people in your social circles.
Finally, it’s important to have a playful attitude to all of these ideas.
Taking these things too seriously suck the joy out of them.
And if you don’t enjoy them, you probably won’t act on them.
So, treat all your efforts as exciting experiments where you get to be both the scientist and the subject.
If something doesn’t work out as you planned, that’s fine.
It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you’ve gathered a new information.
In an experiment, there are no failures. There’s just valuable data.
So, instead of getting discouraged, get curious!
Form a hypothesis about what didn’t work and run another experiment.
Then persistently repeat this approach until you’re happy with the results.
A Special Invitation
If you found this article useful, I highly recommend you join my FREE 7-day Personal Transformation Challenge.
The purpose of this course is to give you everything you need to create massive change in your life and set you up for your best year ever.
We’ll dive deeper into big ideas and hard-hitting, practical strategies for becoming the best version of ourselves.
And to make it as easy as possible for you to implement everything we’ll cover, I’ll send you a complimentary workbook to use throughout the challenge.
Sound good? 🙂
Here’s to a spectacular 2017! 🙂
- New Years Resolution Statistics
- Arete (moral virtue)
- Coach John Wooden’s lesson on shoes and socks
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey & Eric Hagerman
- What Are the Benefits of Meditation?
- Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
- Goal-Directed Behavior
- The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years
- Goal Contagion: Perceiving Is for Pursuing
- Emotional Contagion