This is going to be a longer blog than usual, so strap in…

As 2024 begins, it’s a good time to think about the past year and begin looking ahead to the challenges this new year might bring.  None of us is a fortune-teller.  We don’t know what “tomorrow” will look like and we can’t control it even if we did.  But that doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands and just wait for life to happen.  The start of a new year is a time of hope, renewal, and new beginnings.  It’s a time to think about how we’re going to live in the year ahead.

I’m not someone who enjoys making resolutions…especially when there is no plan to back them up, which I have discovered over the years is usually the case.  In fact, research shows that most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the end of February and 92% fail to accomplish their goals by the end of the year.  And there’s one simple reason…they set the goal, but don’t develop a strategy for reaching that goal.

So, here’s what I do…and you can do with it what you want.  Begin by reflecting on the past year.  What were the highlights and lowlights?  What did you learn, and how did you grow as a person?  Reflecting on the past year can help us gain perspective and appreciate how far we’ve come.

Once the reflection is done, think about your priorities, hopes, and dreams for the new year.  What do you want to achieve?  And lose weight, be nicer, pray more, etc…are not goals, they’re intentions.  And the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  So, be specific and be SMART – specific, measurable, relevant, and time-bound.

Examples might look something like this: I’m going to lose 10 pounds by the end of February by going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and by reducing the amount of junk food I eat.  I will offer 5 compliments to people before lunch each day (including at least 1 self-affirmation).  Before I finish my first cup of coffee each day (or the beverage of your choice) I’m going to pray for something specific (my family, my nation, my church, etc).

Instead of goals and best intentions, now you’ve made strategies.  But there’s still one thing missing: commitment.  The best goals are not easily achieved.  They used to say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit.  I prefer how Dr. Jason Selk talks about it.

Dr. Selk is one of the top performance coaches in the US.  He’s worked with professional and Olympic athletes as well as Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives and organizations.  He talks about 3 phases of habit forming.

Phase 1 is “the honeymoon phase.”  Everything is easy in the honeymoon phase…but it doesn’t last.  Just ask any couple that’s been married for a long time.  Phase 2 is “the fight-thru phase.”  Inspiration fades and reality sets in.  It’s easier to give up than keep going.  You have to win 2 or 3 of these “fight-thrus” for positive habits to form.  You do this by recognizing the challenge and fighting thru it.  The final phase, Phase 3, is “the second nature phase.”  You’re in the groove, but there will still be challenges to deal with.  Discouragement (I’m not seeing results), disruptions (vacations, illness, holidays, etc), and even success (I’ve reached that goal so I don’t have to worry about it anymore) can all send you back to phase 2.  If that happens, go back to phase 2 and begin the process again.  Sometimes you have to win 2 or 3 “fight-thrus” before something becomes second nature.

We all want to be successful.  We all want to be winners.  We all want to be great.  But greatness requires sacrifice and hard work.  Good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people learn to develop good habits by committing to fight thru the challenges, no matter how many times you have to go back.

Whew!  I told you this was going to be long.  If you kept reading to the end, my encouragement to you is to make strategies not goals, fight through the challenges, and keep going until you get to where you want to be.  I know it’s harder than it sounds, but in the end, you’re worth it!