Using New Years to kickstart your personal development

New Year’s is a time to reflect upon your achievements and failures over the last year, and set goals and progress towards what you want to become over the next year. Most people I know, myself sometimes included, tend to make New Year’s resolutions, and end up breaking those resolutions before February 1st.

However, I’ve learned a ton about personal development over the last year, and I feel that I may have the key to having a successful New Year’s resolution.

A few months ago, I discovered Steve Pavlina’s blog, and was inspired by his views on New Year’s resolutions. Basically, his concept is that instead of setting specific goals, set a primary focus on what you want to work on throughout the following year. He also suggests that if you have many areas to improve upon, start with physical fitness.

Even though I love this concept, I’m not going to follow it exactly. I have both a focus, and a specific goal.

In reflecting on my biggest character flaw, I’ve determined that being unproductive is hurting me the worst. Therefore, my focus this year is to improve my productivity by eliminating time-wasting activities, creating more energy and motivation, improving my focus, and creating more willpower.

Following Steve’s suggestion, I’m going to focus on physical fitness first. I’m not overweight, but I don’t exercise regularly. I did earlier this year for a few months (Jan to March), and I felt fantastic, as well as being at an all-time high level of productivity. I want to get back to that level and go beyond.

My plan to do this is through running. I love to run, and I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. Therefore, my specific goal is to run a marathon before the end of the year.

I believe that if I start my day out right by running, I will greatly enhance my ability to have a productive day. As long as I get into the habit of starting my day out right, it will be much easier for me to experiment with ways of doing things to try to improve my personal productivity. For example, I’ve already figured out some ways to improve my productivity, but I still need to implement them.

In short, I intend to:

  • Focus on improving productivity
  • Run a marathon by the end of the year

What should you focus on this year?

I, like Steve Pavlina, suggest that if you have many areas to improve, focus on fitness first. One reason for this is that physical fitness has tangible rewards, is measurable, helps you in many areas of your life. There is nothing more important for you than to be healthy. By having good physical health, you will be able to accomplish your other personal development goals easier. The benefits are numerous, but I want to focus on some less emphasized benefits: your focus, willpower, inner strength, and self confidence will all benefit tremendously from frequent exercise.

Other areas of improvement may consist of relationships, spirituality, service, diet, productivity, and many others.

If you’re still not sure, do the following exercise: Close your eyes and take several deep breaths to relax. Think about your life, what you’re happy about and what you’re not happy about. After several minutes, you should have enough ideas on things that you want to do. Pick the one that you think will help you the most. Now imagine yourself having accomplished that goal by the end of the year. This simple meditation will help you focus on what is most important to you.

I do not suggest that you set a goal like I did, unless you are adequately prepared for it. Over the last few years, I have tried to set up a consistent workout routine, succeeding for a few months as I said earlier. Now is the perfect time for me to set this definite goal of running a marathon (and in turn, working out consistently), as I know exactly what to expect in trying to accomplish this goal. By setting and announcing an achievable goal publicly, I am enhancing my commitment to this goal, and in turn, the likelihood that I will achieve it.

I am adequately prepared, both physically and mentally to begin this challenge. I’ve spent several hours researching exactly what it will take for me to run a marathon. I’ve bought all of the necessary equipment (although I’ll need to buy another pair of shoes before I’ve run the marathon). I have proper support structures in place that will boost me in achieving this goal.

For me, this goal isn’t a wish that I would like to accomplish. This goal is something that l’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m finally ready to take on the challenge. In short, the time is right for me.

My motivation to run a marathon is primarily rooted in my primary focus for the year. By training everyday, I feel as though my productivity will shoot through the roof. Also, accomplishing a physically difficult task will definitely enhance my willpower (part of my productivity focus).

Making sure your New Year’s Resolutions don’t fail

How can you make sure that your New Year’s Resolutions don’t flop like everyone else’s?

For a lot of people, they set lofty goals that are nearly unachievable or that they are not adequately prepared for. Then, sometime in January, they end up failing their goals and giving up.

This is the reason that I really like Steve Pavlina’s concept of setting a primary focus. That way, it’s impossible to fail. If you merely learn much more about your chosen area of focus, and your limitations and strengths in that area, you’ve accomplished something. Many of the most important things in life have to be hammered at by multiple attempts, multiple failings, before you know enough to accomplish that specific goal. I don’t know anyone who’s married the first person that they’ve kissed.

Let me give you an example to illustrate the differences between the typical New Year’s eve goal setter, and the year focus and goal accomplisher. To begin, the probably more familiar New Year’s eve goal setter. For this example, I’m going to use physical fitness, since it’s the first thing that you should focus on, it’s measurable and tangible, and it’s easy to relate to.

On New Year’s eve, Sue goes to a party to celebrate the end of the year. Talking with her friends around the kitchen table, a discussion of New Year’s resolutions comes up. One of her friends Kim asks her, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

“I haven’t really thought about it” is her reply. “I think that I’d like to lose some weight.”

“Yeah me too. That’s a great resolution. Maybe we should work out together to keep us on track.”

“Sounds fun!”

On New Year’s day, Sue wakes up with a hangover. Too many glasses of wine. Good thing that it’s Friday, because that means that she can ditch out of work early. At around five, Kim calls. “So what’s the plan? Are we going to work out?”

“Ugg I’m not feeling up to it today. Let’s start tomorrow.”

“That’s ok with me, I’ve had a long day at work anyways.”

On the second, Sue meets up with Kim for their first workout. She feels great after completing it, but a bit sore. The next day, they meet up again, but don’t work as hard because they overdid it the day before. On the third, they’re beginning to get used to working out. They make plans to work out in the evening throughout the work week.

The first week is a success for both of them. Sue and Kim are starting to get in the groove, and it’s working out great. The second week is similar, until that Wednesday (the 13th). Kim calls Sue, sick as a dog. “Sue, I’ve got the flu, I won’t be able to work out with you for a couple days.”

After work that evening, Sue works out by herself. She is sad that Kim isn’t there to keep her company.

On Thursday (the 14th), Kim is starting to feel better, but still too sick to work out. Sue decides to take a day off, because she had to stay late at work (the first time she’s taken a day off since the 2nd).

On Friday (the 15th), Sue calls Kim to see if she’s feeling better. “I’m feeling a lot better, but I want to take it easy for a few days, so I don’t get sick again.”

Sue works out by herself the next couple of days. She misses her workouts with Kim.

On Wednesday (the 20th), Sue calls Kim and tries to get Kim to start working out with her again. Kim says that she’s not going to work out with Sue anymore, because she’s really far out of the habit. Sue stays home and doesn’t workout because she’s upset with Kim. She doesn’t go back to the gym.

As you can see, neither Kim nor Sue end up accomplishing their New Year’s resolutions.

A few days before New Years, John is reflecting on the past year, and decides to focus on physical fitness over the next year. He decides to set a short term goal of losing five pounds by the end of January, which he knows he will be able to do from past experience.

On New Year’s eve, John stays away from alcohol, wanting to have a good start on his New Year’s resolution.

He decides to hire a personal trainer, so he knows exactly what he should be doing in order to lose weight. The personal trainer works with John, teaching him what to eat and which workouts he should be doing.

John also decides to join a group at his gym. He makes several friends in the group, and they keep track of each other.

By the time February rolls around, John has learned a great deal about fitness and nutrition, made new friends, and is highly motivated to keep working out. Throughout the year, John continues to go to the gym regularly and set monthly weight loss goals. He also builds strong friendships through his group, and loses a lot of weight.

Do you see the differences between these stories? John prepared for his goals. By hiring a personal trainer, he effectively recruited a mentor that guided John through his transition into becoming fit. He also didn’t depend his success on a partner, who may or may not help him keep his goals. Instead, he used the social pressure of a group to keep him motivated. Also, by not setting an unachievable, vague, or unrealistic goal, John set a small, manageable goal. By having a focus on physical fitness, John creates the flexibility to improve based on his current level of fitness.

New Year’s is a wonderful time to set yourself on a path of personal growth. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. Determine your 2010 focus and have a wonderful, successful year.

– Neal

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