New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work – Try This Alternative

It seems like a good idea – set a giant, ambitious goal for your next year of life. But it has a lousy 10% success rate. And that’s because 90% of resolutions are poorly thought out and bigger than the person can handle (right now). Expectations are placed too high, resulting in dwindling motivation as you fall short. Worse than that problem is the time frame – one year is way too large a time frame unless you break the goal down into bite-size bits on focus on those. Most don’t do that. They say they’ll lose 100 pounds next year and wing it. Last year, I wrote about why that form of motivation doesn’t work.

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.
~ Henry Moore

If resolutions haven’t worked for you in the past, I have an alternative option for you.

Who this will work for: people looking to change or do something specific.

Who this will not work for: people looking for motivation to change.

Why: Only people who want to change are able to. If you’re looking for motivation to change, you aren’t ready yet. Do more research and continue to weigh the pros and cons of changing vs. the pros and cons of staying the same. You’re ready when you value the benefits of changing more than your current situation and believe the discomfort required to change is worth it. Otherwise, you’re not interested yet. The method presented in this article will serve to further motivate already motivated people (i.e. people who have a resolution in mind and are serious about doing it). This article isn’t written to convince someone to change who isn’t ready or interested in changing.

So if you think you’re ready to make a change, and you really want a better way to do it than setting a ridiculous resolution, read on!

Somebody Stop The Saboteur!

If you’ve had an opportunity to do something positive in the past, but haven’t done it, you’ve been sabotaged! It’s time to confront the saboteur, but where is it? It’s not hiding in the usual places you look – your lack of time, unfortunate circumstances, other people, or lady luck. It’s in YOU! Only you can stop yourself if you live in a free country, and unfortunately, we humans can get really good at stifling our potential.

Self-sabotage is tricky to escape. I mean…what are you gonna do, punch yourself in the face? Don’t do it. When you are your own saboteur, there is no clear enemy to attack. Where should you aim your arrow of hope?

The enemy is your lack of confidence. Aim there and fire!

Every decision you make is based on your confidence level. If you want to do something and haven’t been able to get yourself to do it, you need more confidence to find success.

Things Most People Have Very High Confidence In

  • Talking to friends
  • Walking a dog
  • Singing in the shower
  • Watching TV
  • Microwaving leftovers
  • Opening a can of soda

Things Most People Have Very Low Confidence In

  • Starting a successful business
  • Climbing Mount Everest
  • Talking to an audience of more than 437 people
  • Changing the world
  • Doing a backflip
  • Living their wildest dreams
  • Looking good while doing yoga

Countless people have done all of the things on the latter list, proving they are all possible.

We’re going to build confidence in the same way we’d build a fire. You won’t start off with a blazing inferno (i.e. the confidence of 007). In the following fire-building steps, imagine your targeted area of change. In what area do you want to break free? What do you want to improve?

Step 1: The Spark Is Easy

Tremendous forest fires have started from a flame this small, just as tremendous accomplishments have begun from one small decision to take one small initial step.
Tremendous forest fires have started from a flame this small. Confidence is similar to fire in the way it builds upon itself. Great accomplishments begin from one small decision to take one small initial step.

Start the fire with a small spark on a bed of tinder – this would be something EASY you know you can accomplish (related to your goal). Once you do it, take it in – you just decided to do that and had success. You’re one step closer. Your fire is barely visible at this point, but it is burning, and that’s important. Fires need a spark to start, and so does confidence.

Keep doing more of these easy “sparks.” When you feel noticably more comfortable doing something, your confidence has elevated and it’s time to take the next step. Confidence, experience, and comfort are very closely related – inexperienced people feel unconfident and uncomfortable. When you gain experience doing something, it becomes more comfortable and your confidence will rise. Keeping a close eye on the tiny flame and avoiding the wind of discouragement, proceed to build your fiery confidence.

[box style=”info”]Comfort zones play a big role in confidence. If you can manage to widen your tolerance for new, uncomfortable experiences, your overall confidence will increase.[/box]

Step 2: The Twigs, The Sticks, And The Realization Of Possibility

Now that you have a tiny fire to work with, you start adding sticks and twigs to it. If you throw a log on it now, you’ll smother it (exactly what those lame resolutions do). The sticks and twigs will be actions that are a natural step up from what you did for the spark. If your spark was running one mile, maybe your twigs and sticks will be running two miles or running a mile in a faster time. If your spark was to write down ten business ideas, maybe in this step you’ll make a few phone calls to research your ideas and get useful information.

And kaboom! In this phase, magical floaty things start appearing around you (like the ones in Avatar). Do you realize you just went from a lazy bum to a two mile runner? Or you just went from a lazy bum to a person with ten business ideas who makes business calls to research them. The important part is that you were a lazy bum are now realizing possibilities. If you felt stuck before, your problem was not seeing the possibilities before you. But now you’re in the game (whichever game you have chosen) and the world is opening up, looking like a sandbox instead of a jail cell.

Again, keep working at this stage until you’re comfortable. Is two miles a cakewalk now? Are you comfortable calling people about your business? Whatever it is, you should have a clear metric that lets you know it’s time to take the next step.

Look down at your fire. It’s strong enough for smores! Mmm… but you don’t want smores, you want a bigger fire because you love your growing confidence, and are getting excited about where you’re headed. You can see now that the more confidence you have, the more you can do, and the more you can do, the freer you are to get in or out of any life situation. Now that is freedom!

Step 3: Split Logs Are Serious Business


Now that your fire is decent, it can handle a few split logs. You know you can run two miles, and if you can run two, I bet you can run four with a little bit of work. Or you’ve got your ten business ideas to work with and you feel confident and comfortable making calls to collect information and network. So you throw a few logs on the fire. The logs might be signing up for a 5K or deciding to train for your first marathon. Maybe you’ll draft your first simple business plan with the idea of getting a bank loan (or in these days, submitting it to kickstarter).

Now things are serious. You’re not only in the game, you’re playing it well and making plans to win it. The hapless version of you who thought (s)he was doomed to a lame situation is now confident and ambitious with great potential. And look how it happened… It wasn’t a grand plan to change the world. It wasn’t an emotionally-charged, couch-to-marathon declaration. It was a small decision to run a mile, or write some ideas down. And then you made the decision to build that into something a little bigger, and bigger, and bigger…until now when you look at your fire…

and it’s capable of roasting several hot dogs at once. Hot diggity dogs!

Step 4: Honey, Please Call The Fire Department – The Breakthrough

Here’s the bad news. You stay with the split logs for a long time. The fire is still going, but that’s it. The steady flame doesn’t grow much, even as you work hard. Your knees are having trouble with long distance running. Your business ideas seem to have fizzled out, and the new ones are uncertain as well. You wonder if it was all for nothing.

But then you get lucky. You find the right mix of nutrition, physical therapy, and a knee brace to help you run a marathon. You get that call you’ve been waiting for from the person who wants to fund your business. You break through! You are so so lucky!

Hold on just a second. Are you sure it was luck?

“By the time I was fourteen … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

~ Stephen King, World Renowned Author (300+ million books sold)

  • Harry Potter, the best-selling book series of all time, was rejected by twelve major publishers. That seems quite unlucky for such a blockbuster. No book series has come close to it, and it still had a lot of trouble getting traction.
  • Michael Jordan, the best basketball player ever, didn’t make his high school basketball team.
  • Abraham Lincoln was defeated in four bids for different positions before becoming president.
  • Sylvestor Stallone was broke and had months of rejection papers for his Rocky script. He read the rejection letters out loud at the Academy Awards ceremony.
  • Personally speaking, I felt this blog was under-appreciated for a long time… but Deep Existence was just named the #1 personal development blog for 2012!

Step 4b: Keep The Fire Burning

In every one of these stories, including yours, the path is the same. In order to break free, you have to have the confidence to do it. Sustainable confidence is built slowly and steadily. If you’re low on confidence, start as small as you need to. As your confidence grows, do a little more than previously. It’s a simple step-by-step solution that works.

As for New Year’s Resolutions, do you think they are responsible for the creation of Harry Potter, MJ’s basketball skills, or Abraham Lincoln’s presidential election? Absolutely not. Don’t depend on them to improve your life, or you’ll be disappointed.

If you methodically build your fire, you’ll reach the point where your flame is burning bright. Stay patient, because the results are rarely instant. Like a shipwrecked sailor, you might need to keep the fire burning until the right person sees it or until you can do something more with it.

One small step forward beats one huge leap sideways.

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