“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” – My mum used to say that to me when I was a kid, and now as an adult it resonates more than ever. Wise words indeed.
If you’re anything like me, each year you’ll look back at opportunities you have missed, or areas where you could have improved in health, business, relationships or lifestyle. It’s frustrating to think about what could have been, but we have to own that regret, and use it positively.
What we don’t need, and many of us are guilty of, is yet another epiphany. A self declared ‘promise’ that we’re going to fix this aspect of our life. “This time it’s for real”. You’ve been telling yourself “this year” you’re gonna lose those extra pounds, learn that sexy foreign language, or finally backpack around Asia. You know you promised yourself the same thing last year, and the year before that, but this year, this year it’s different. Right?
The problem with this repetitive sequence of: epiphany, lack of action, regret, feeling of worthlessness – is that it doesn’t only render our action unachieved, but it actually makes us feel worse than had we not had our false epiphany at all. This is a sequence that we need to recognise as it’s occurring, and take action to counter it. If we’re brave enough to set ourselves a goal, and we should all do that frequently, then we have to be brave enough to allow ourselves to achieve it. But how?
To have an “epiphany” in the Western World has almost become synonymous with ridicule and false intentions. Another dreamer promising something that will never actually happen. But that’s not the way it should be at all. To have a revelation that we want to improve something in our life is a beautiful thing, now we just have to make sure we stick to it. So let’s look at three ways to make sure we actually stick to these beautiful promises to ourselves:
Ego isn’t always a dirty word. We all carry it, admittedly some more than most (with me unfortunately included on the wrong end of the scale), but we can use it to your advantage. Don’t keep your resolution to your self. Shout it loud and proud, social media declarations are great, but even better is to complement that by sharing your news with your loved ones – friends, partners, families. Tell them what you plan to do, over what period of time. BUT define what it is you’re actually trying to do. None of this ambigious “I’m gonna lose weight” or “I’m gonna travel” bullsh*t”. That gets us nowhere.
“I’m going to lose 5kgs/11lbs in the next one hundred days” or “I’m going to visit three new countries for at least five days each this year”. Defined, set targets that you’re loved ones can quantify and track. You can’t escape your goal this way. You can’t rationalize your way out of it. You set your target, not let your ego do the rest. You don’t want to let yourself, or your loved ones, down.
With your new trackable goals, you should have benchmarks you want to reach each week/month/quarter. Certain amounts of money saved every thirty days, a set amount of visits to the gym per week – whatever it is, you know what you need to do.
Now, commit (publically – see above) to donate a set amount of money to a charity chosen by someone else each time you miss the benchmark, preferably a charity you don’t support. It has to be someone else’s charity, you don’t want to kid yourself that you’re eating pizza, and breaking your rule on purpose, because “you want to donate money to the charity you support”. That’s bullsh*t and you know it. Be strong.
The money can’t be negligible either. It has to sting a little. I suggest $5 to $10 each time you miss a daily goal at least, but it depends on your financial situation of course. But remember, it’s gotta hurt. It has to be a disincentive.
Enough stick, time for some carrot. Your goal shouldn’t be achievable within a week or two. It takes time until you can converse in this new language your learning, or get an article publish on the Huffington post like you dreamt of. Sure you have your benchmarks to reach each week/month, but that’s progress. The reward there is knowing you’re moving forward towards your goal.
Once you reach the goal though, you need to reward yourself accordingly and be generous. This new target that you set should be difficult to attain, and once you’ve done it, you deserve something special. Whether that’s a brand new macbook air, a flight to a bucket list destination or a week of eating what you want, it has to be beautiful to you. Think about it, and if it’s pricey, set money aside each week for it so you’re ready to treat yourself when the time comes.
Personally, I’ll be doing all three of these things as soon as I get back to my base in Thailand in two weeks. I’m taking a three month break in Bangkok to further improve my Thai, hit the gym, work on an e-book and really launch my new Hong Kong start-up. In terms of my accountability, I find the most effective method is to amalgamate all three of the above systems and round it off with one strong accountability buddy, a reciprocal friendship where you hold each other accountable for your goals. I’ll be doing it with one of my best buddies who you might have seen me travel with a lot over the years on photos on my facebook fan page or my Instagram – Anthony from Man Vs Clock.
I’d love to know what your goals are, if any, so please please please let me know in the comments below, or on the facebook post on my fan page. That’ll be step one of accountability underway. Good luck to us all, and happy travels.