It only took 20 days, as today is January 20, but per usual it appears the New Year’s crush is over. The gym is back to its normal attendance level. Like clockwork, the first two weeks of the year the gym turns in to a mad house as everyone is super motivated to make this year better. Then it get’s hard or results aren’t shown immediately and attendance level starts to decline until all becomes right with the world and I don’t have to wait for a stationary bike to open up. This is something I notice every year. It bookends the holidays for me. For some reason I keep track of the first day I see a Christmas advertisement (this year was before Halloween….grrrrrr) and I then I notice when gym attendance gets back to steady state (this year Jan. 20th). Apparently the society norm is “Yay! It’s the holiday!, Yay! It’s a new year and this year will be awesome!”. Then it’s “Ugh, life is hard, it’s too much work to change and I guess I’ll just do what I did last year.” Sad, but true.
Look, I’m not judging, I’m stating the obvious. This is a societal rinse and repeat every year until we just give up all together and stop even trying to make a change. I’ve fallen in to this trap many times myself, especially early in my career. My cousin and I even had a slogan in 1999. Embarrassed as I am to write this I will anyway, “The world is mine in 99”. Yikes. So, again, no judgement. I’ve been there. Somewhere along the line I realized this wasn’t working. Maybe making up slogans on New Years Eve and talking about how great the next year is going to be while getting totally shit faced and waking up the fist day of a new year with a hangover isn’t the best way to get a fresh start. Or maybe I just grew up. Or maybe I was around enough “successful” people to realize it’s what get’s done every day, day after day that matters most vs. making grandiose plans and conquering the world in a year. Whatever happened, I stopped making new year’s resolutions and just committed to doing the best I could every day.
So, if you’ve already blown your new years resolution, just start again tomorrow. Jan. 21st is as good and as arbitrary a number is Jan. 1st, so try again. And if you fail, Jan. 22nd is just as good as Jan. 21st. And if you fail again….you get the point. Any day is as a good a day to start, and candidly most days are probably better than Jan. 1, as whatever your doing will be less crowded and pressurized than the first day of the new year.
For me, being better can be overwhelming for two primary reasons. First, I’m my own worst critic so it often feels like nothing is good enough. Second, I believe I can better at everything. Everything being career, management, family, parenthood, health, personal development, meditation, writing, marriage, relationships, investments, etc. etc. etc. Trying to track progress and improvement in a dozen different areas is cumbersome and feels like “work” so I’m less inclined to do it and default back to where I naturally focus which is work, as that occupies most of my time. That, however, has it’s drawbacks as I then get further behind in other areas and the cycle continues.
I know I’m not the only person who struggles with this, as I have many a friend that are career oriented with young families and express similar internal conflicts. So, what to do? Currently, I’m experimenting with the power of 3; Other, Career and Me. Those are my three big buckets that allow me to slot just about every category I care about in to. My daily goal is to do one thing (the most important thing for the day) in each one of those buckets. If I do that, it’s a “successful” day. This makes it manageable, easy to track and top of mind.
Other – means I do something that helps someone else. For me, I need to find a way to make what I do fulfilling or as I lose interest and will look for something else to do. Doing something for the sake of helping someone else get’s me out of myself (which is important to me) and selfishly altruistic as I’m building obligation, although that’s now why I’m doing it. Other can be related to work, family or a stranger. It doesn’t matter. I just need to do something to help someone else for the sake of helping with zero expectation for anything in return. I’m always surprised by how impactful this is on my mental state. Just the simple shift of focus from me to “them” helps keep things in perspective and instills a sense of gratitude for where I am in my life today.
Career – means getting the most important thing done today what will move my career forward. When running a business there are ALWAYS things that need to get done, but knowing what the most important thing(s) is and then getting those done will have the greatest impact. Understanding this and acting on it keeps me from getting bogged down with to do lists that are 4 pages long. Look, there’s always a lot of shit to do, but not all of it is critical or important. Being able to identify what “it” is every day and then getting “it” done ensures I’m moving forward and allows me to feel like I’ve had a successful day, even if my to list got longer by day’s end. Which it often does.
Me – means doing something I actually enjoy doing and allowing myself to enjoy it. This can be as simple as a long run, or yoga session, or watching a half a basketball game or going to the park with my kids at 4 pm on a Friday, or sleeping until 7:30 on a Sunday or whatever. The important part here though is to not do it and then the spend the time thinking about all the other things I “should” be doing. Do it. Enjoy it. Use it to rejuvenate. Then get back to “work”.
That’s it. That’s my gauge. Three things every day. If I do one of each of those things, then I had a “successful” day regardless of what else transpired. The flip side, if I don’t hit the milestone for the day, I take note of it and try again tomorrow. For tomorrow is as a good day as any, and probably better than Jan. 1, to start fresh and anew.