First off, a Happy New Year to you and yours from us here at Library of Biz!
The New Year is here, as are the resolutions that inevitably come with it! Don’t make the mistake of treating the New Year as a magical time of unbroken promises where you suddenly grow inhuman resolve and willpower. There is no special time between December 31st and January 1st where that sort of thing happens. The reality is that we are all human beings.
As human beings, we are all quite fallible, prone to failure, and often able to snatch certain defeat from the jaws of success.
A Lesson About Goals
Even if you don’t believe in the Bible, it does at least share the wisdom of an ancient people. Agree with it or not, it possesses the level of staying power.
In Matthew 6, Jesus is working through a number of teachings that everyone finds difficult. This discourse, or teaching, is known as the Sermon on the Mount. No small number of people have found the passages difficult to obey and completely frustrating to understand.
When things take a little more time to stew is when I perk up to learn something new. Requiring the trouble to unpack a saying or circumstance is like the announcement that there is wisdom involved in the process. Wisdom is the powerful intersection of knowledge and experience.
Jesus is teaching the crowd in front of him about many things, but he moves into the territory of wants and needs. He then shares this cryptic phrase:
Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 CSB)
I’ve seen so many people take this as a prohibition against everything from gambling to even thinking about entering into a business deal based on the future. Call me crazy, but if this guy was indeed the Son of God or a historic religious teacher, he would be blown out of the water for saying something so insane. In fact, if this was the only message of this verse, I don’t think the Bible would still be around.
It would be particularly bad advice not to entertain some thoughts about tomorrow. Jesus just knew that no matter how hard we plan and scheme, we are human and finite.
Next time you ride down the road, take a look across that yellow line. One of those cars could easily be distracted at the wrong time.
Sure, you could plan to swerve out of the way, but there might not be enough time. That could put huge wrench into your 401Ks or your family’s wellbeing. You may have life insurance to help, but that doesn’t bring you as a person back to fulfill the hole in your family that will be left.
The wisdom of the passage is in the full understanding of the human condition. You can resolve to lose weight. The comes the candy bar here and the office donut. Six weeks later, you’ve indulged in sweet tea (the nectar of the gods) or one too many fast food trips. You can resolve to be friendlier or nicer. And then comes the bad day where you finally unload on the guy.
Crash and burn. Burn and crash. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Forget About Resolutions…
Literally. Forget about resolutions.
There, I just saved you four to six weeks of personal guilt and agony.
…And Set Your Goals
We’ve blogged in the past about our experiences. I even wrote an eBook (which we give away for free if you sign up at the bar at the bottom of this page) about my experiences of writing down goals only to forget about them for most of the year. Then, I opened the goals up at the end of the same year and realized half of them were met.
I had direction. Resolutions are directionless. Resolutions are little rudderless ships going nowhere. They might follow a good breeze, but hit a storm with crazy wind and it’s Lostville, population you. Goals take you somewhere with a measurable arrival.
Most resolutions are made with great intentions. Ask a person for his or her resolutions, and you will likely get feedback that will undoubtedly help them to be better people. Words like more, better, nicer, and so on dot the landscape. Ask me a few years ago and I would have said the same thing!
However, none of these resolutions are specific or measurable.
And this is why resolutions fail. This, coincidentally, is also why gyms rake in the money this time of year. Imagine all those people who sign up to lose the weight, but don’t show up once to work out. Congratulations, you just kept the local gym in business by giving them free money. (We’ve done this one ourselves!)
Goals are part of something larger that will help propel you to new levels of success, but for them to work, you also need to build the underlying systems.
Goals Help You Build Systems
We fail without the right habits. You are a human, so you too will fail when you set a resolution. It will probably be because your habit of eating runs counter to your desire to lose weight. Or that desire collapses when it encounters the 2-for-1 ice cream special on the freezer aisle.
Our example of Jesus earlier implied that the Son of God had a system in place to overcome worry and over-focus on tomorrow. It turns out he did and we now call it Christianity.
When we set goals, they can help illuminate a path to success.
Take paying off a debt, for example.
If you want to pay the car off, most households just pay the payment due and outlast the term. This also leads to the typical behavior of signing up to do it again either right after the payoff or very shortly thereafter. As Dave Ramsey would say, that’s normal.
If you set a goal to pay the $5,000.00 due on the car off early, your behavior changes. You either earn more or spend less money to increase those monthly payments. Instead of just getting by paying $300/month, you forgo a vacation or launch a side hustle.
See how the intentional goal changes more than just paying off the car? If your side hustle to pay off the car is still hot, you suddenly have the $300 extra from the car payment and additional income. At that point paying off the other car or the house early becomes a good bit more realistic.
My Own Example
I used the car example because it’s pretty close to what happened that year I first wrote my goals.
Even though I forgot about the goals overall, the time I spent planning and being intentional about paying off the car worked. My wife and I already planned a route by which we would pay extra on the car, and we stuck to it. It became a habit every month to send additional principal.
Then came tax season. We play it close to the cuff and try not give Uncle Sam a free loan of our money. That year, however, we had an unexpected refund. The refund paid off the car. It was just enough. I’ll never forget the call to my wife to tell her the good news!
The system was in place the moment I made the goal. When I opened the notebook with my goals at the end of that year, I had forgotten that I specified a month to pay off the car. The month we paid off the car was the exact month I had set in my goal.
The tax break was a lucky or fortunate one, but the stage had already been unknowingly set by the extra car payments prior.
Imagine what we can do when we are even more intentional than this?
Make Goals Not Resolutions
This will publish on January 1, 2018. My first action of 2018 was literally to write down for goals for the year. These goals dealt with family, finances, and my own wellbeing. Last year, I set a goal to write my wife a letter once a week and grew a ton as a result. Just the day before, my wife and I sat down together to make our family goals, and she already talked to the kids on making their personal goals.
The plan for 2018 is for our family to grow (nope, we’re done at 2 kids – we’ll grow in other ways, thank you). It is for me to grow as well.
Setting my goals is an intentional act to commit to growth. Resolutions sound great and are the traditional thing to do, but they’re generally poorly quantifiable at best and mostly neglected or forgotten at worst.
Be intentional in 2018 and write down your goals. Spend the time with your significant other to come up with family goals. If you’re single, find a trusted friend who will help hold you accountable.
What will happen will surprise you. Sign up for our FREE! ebook if you want to read more.