The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. These are the immortal words Scottish poet Robert Burns.
As we stand on the cusp of another year’s end, a canvas of dreams and aspirations unfurls before us, waiting to be painted with the vivid strokes of New Year’s resolutions.
Reflect, if you will, on the resolutions you’ve penned into the ledger of your life. How many dreams have you dared to chase, and what portion of them have you captured and brought to life?
But if, my friend, your best laid plans for past year find themselves caught in the turbulent currents of life’s river, do not falter.
The best laid plans of aspirations and intentions—how often have they been thwarted?
Should the best laid plans of the past year elude your grasp, do not hang your head in despair. You are not alone.
For, as any seasoned traveler on this temporal journey will attest, it is far simpler to conjure these resolutions than to shepherd them into existence.
Enter the astute psychologist John Norcross, a scholar who sought to untangle the intricate web of human resolve. His findings cast a shadow on our annual rituals.
In Norcross’s intriguing study, an illuminating revelation arises. A staggering 23% of resolute souls abandon their aspirations after a mere seven days, as if the bloom of January has withered prematurely.
Only a scant 19% persevere and hang on to their resolution for two years.
Now, let us ponder this conundrum. What might be the key to surmounting this formidable obstacle that stands between our aspirations and achievements?
Why do New Year’s resolutions so often wither away before February’s frost can fully thaw? Before you start making your best laid plans for the new year, let’s examine why resolutions tend to crumble like sandcastles before the tide.
Here are 6 reasons why you might still fall flat on your face:
If you’ve ever wondered why your best laid plans tend to crumble, it often comes down to one crucial factor: habits.
Success isn’t a fluke; it’s a result of habits meticulously crafted and consistently executed.
Now, New Year’s resolutions? Well, at their core, resolutions are all about forging new habits or refurbishing old ones.
So, if you’re trying to quash the habit of devouring a doughnut for breakfast, swap it out for a nutritious morning meal that caters to the same appetite.
This isn’t mere wishful thinking; it’s a practical way to redirect your routine and ensure your best laid plans become a reality.
Your best laid plans need more than just dreams. They require the right mindset to thrive.
Mindset is a belief system that influences how you perceive the world and, perhaps more importantly, how you perceive yourself. Your mindset shapes your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in any given situation.
Change the way you think, and behold the ripple effect—it ignites shifts in your behavior and actions. This is not mere theory; this is practical alchemy.
Imagine this as you map out your best laid plans. Your new way of thinking acts as a trailblazer, creating fresh neural pathways in your brain.
These neural highways become the superhighways of habit, paving the road towards the very changes you desire. So, rewire your brain and watch your best laid plans come to life with newfound vigor.
Prepare yourself, for embarking on the path of transformation, where your best laid plans take root, demands readiness of heart and mind. Without this readiness, vowing to shed a few pounds won’t magically sculpt your physique.
Let’s not sugarcoat it—change, especially for the better, is no leisurely stroll. Changing for the better is rarely an easy task. It takes a significant investment of time, effort, and emotion.
To truly experience change, you must master the three fundamental elements of behavioral change:
i) The Readiness to Change
Are you genuinely prepared for a long-term shift in your life? Your best laid plans will only materialize if your commitment is unwavering.
ii) The Factors Resisting Change
Explore the Landscape of Your Resistance What obstacles are lurking in the shadows, holding you back from embracing change? Identify and confront them head-on.
iii) The Probability of Setback
Be realistic about the potential setbacks on your journey. Acknowledge the triggers that could lead you astray and prepare strategies to stay on course.
Let’s dissect the art of resolution-keeping with a practical lens. Psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman, arned with insights into why our best laid plans often crumble, introduce the concept of “false hope syndrome.”
In their research, aptly titled The False-Hope Syndrome: Unfulfilled Expectations of Self-Change, they stated that:
“When unreasonable expectations for self-change are not met, people are likely to feel frustrated and despondent, and to give up trying to change…”
Unrealistic expectations can crush any lofty goals you may have. As a result, despair, disillusionment, and a sense of failure set in.
Now, let’s dive deeper into a common pitfall: regarding your resolutions as mere short-term goals. New Year’s resolutions often fall into this trap, designed to be specific and time-bound.
But here’s the rub: if you don’t hit those targets within the allocated timeframe, discouragement creeps in and your resolve crumbles.
But what if you shifted the paradigm? Instead of fixating solely on the end goal, ponder this question:
“What process can lead me to this goal?”
James Clear reminds us that:
“New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results.”
So, redirect your energy. Focus not on chasing outcomes but on constructing the habits and processes that will sculpt the life you desire.
Make your best laid plans a reality by building the foundation of sustainable change.
Trying to make too many major changes in your life is usually a formula for disaster.
If you are always in your den all day watching TV, the mere thought of running a marathon may seem daunting. The objectives appear to be too lofty, and you won’t have a clue where to begin.
Ground your objectives by breaking them into bite-sized, manageable pieces.
I’m talking about micro goals—these are the secret sauce to making your best laid plans not just achievable but effective.
Here’s where those small goals work their magic. If you’re eyeing a marathon but the mere thought feels overwhelming, take the first step—literally. Commit to a brisk 20-minute walk every morning.
By doing so, you’re not just priming your body for the marathon; you’re priming your mind for success. The daunting becomes doable, and the impossible starts to seem within reach.
Now that you understand why New Year’s resolutions often falter under the weight of their own ambition, here’s the practical solution:
Ground your goals, break them into micro-goals, and kickstart your journey with manageable steps. Your best laid plans, once burdened by the weight of enormity, will now have the wings to soar.
Why would anyone invest their precious time crafting plans if those plans were destined to crumble like a house of cards? What if the secret to monumental life changes lies beyond the confines of a typical New Year’s resolution?
Perhaps you have been looking at this the wrong way. Your best laid plans may stretch far beyond the boundaries of a mere New Year’s resolution. It’s time to shift gears and understand that this is not a race to the finish line.
So, how do you craft a plan that doesn’t just inspire but propels you toward the life you envision? Here are two battle-tested strategies to elevate your best laid plans:
New Year’s resolutions are about setting goals and working toward them so that you get better in life. Having goals is like climbing a mountain with the dream of reaching the peak.
With a system, you’re a diligent climber who enjoys the process of ascending the mountain one step at a time.
But what distinguishes a system from a goal?
Let’s turn to the wisdom of Scott Adams, the brilliant mind behind the Dilbert comic and the author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. He offers a simple explanation:
“If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”
Goals are like signposts pointing you toward a future destination, keeping your eyes firmly fixed on the horizon.
Systems, on the other hand, tether you to the present moment. They are the practical methods and techniques you employ to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
Adams cautions us about the pitfalls of goals:
“… losing ten pounds is a goal (that most people can’t maintain), whereas learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.”
When you have a system in place, you’ll find that you can reduce your reliance on fleeting bursts of self-motivation. Your best laid plans will naturally fall into place.
So, what’s the secret to crafting a successful system?
Adams subtly dropped a gem of wisdom in his insight about creating an effective system. When he emphasized the “regular basis,” he handed us the key to unlocking success: consistency.
Consistency is the linchpin of achievement. When you repeat an action consistently, you’re essentially laying the foundation for habit formation.
And it’s through these habits that your system takes shape.
So, what exactly is a system? Think of it as a sequence of habits expertly strung together, leading you step by step toward your coveted goal.
For instance, if your aspiration is to shed 50 pounds and sculpt a healthier physique, your system might be a meticulously crafted meal plan designed to help you shed those extra pounds.
The beauty of a system lies in its simplicity and repeatability. It’s a set of actions you can easily replicate day in and day out.
Whether you’re striving to learn a new language or aiming to build better eating habits, a well-structured system boils down to small, manageable actions.
In the case of language learning, perhaps it’s committing to mastering just two new foreign phrases daily.
Remember, the key to success isn’t always found in grandiose endeavors; it often lies in the daily grind of consistent, intentional actions. Your best laid plans become a reality when they’re woven into the fabric of a well-crafted system.
What makes systems so effective is its consistency. It helps you create habitual behaviors that get ingrained in you. You can building a system in 3 easy steps:
The first cornerstone of any successful system is clarity of purpose. What do you truly want to achieve?
This sounds simple. But it isn’t.
One way to figure out what you want to accomplish is to think about what ignites your passion. Passion is when you pursue something you love while also contributing to a greater cause.
When pondering “what do I want to accomplish,” you can also think about what gives you a sense of purpose.
Put it in writing. This helps you to clarify your thoughts and gives you a stronger ability to focus on your wants.
Some habits can start chain reactions and have the power to transform your life. These are keystone habits.
“Small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”
One good example of a keystone habit, as described in Duhigg’s book, is exercise:
“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work.”
Your system is not a static entity; it’s a dynamic force of change. To keep it effective, you must be willing to adjust and evolve continuously.
Regular self-assessment is your ally. Periodically evaluate your progress to ensure your system remains efficient and aligned with your goals.
This ensures that your system is efficient. And that you remain focused.
Have a buddy who will hold you accountable and who you will need to report your progress to. Knowing that you are accountable provides you with the desire to keep on track.
When you are being monitored by others, you’re more likely to follow through on a commitment.
Ever wondered why most plans fizzle out into thin air? The culprit often lies in the misalignment with your core values and self-image.
Most people are too immersed in the busy-ness of life chasing larger wages, greater social status and material possessions. This ceaseless “chase” often blinds you to the stuff that genuinely matters.
One way to make your best laid plans effective is to build it around a personal mission statement. This is your ticket to realigning yourself with what truly matters to you.
A personal mission statement is a proclamation of who you are. It is a sign of what you believe in, what you stand for and what you intend to do in the world.
Think of it as a compass that keeps you focused on achieving your objectives.
A personal mission statement may take days (or weeks) to complete, depending on how determined you are to come up with one.
A New Year’s resolution provides you a myopic picture of your actions over the next 12 months. It might work for two weeks before they vanish into obscurity.
But your personal mission statement is a deliberate call to action. It encourages you to think about your purpose.
Instead of succumbing to the tired tradition of scribbling down fleeting resolutions, craft a personal mission statement. It is your roadmap to personal transformation.
If you can’t envision what you truly want in life, you’ll be caught in the undertow of existence. And live a life by default where you simply drift along, mirroring the crowd, leading a life less extraordinary.
This habit is your gateway to shaping your reality, and it all begins within your mind. You see, every creation, every achievement, follows a dual birth.
The first inception occurs within your thoughts—the mental blueprint, if you will. The second stage brings forth the physical manifestation, the tangible result you yearn for.
Habit 2 begins with a personal mission statement. Covey suggests that you visualize attending a funeral (your own).
Stand there and listen to what your family, friends, colleagues, other attendees have to say about you.
You might wonder why this morbid scenario holds value. It’s simple; it prompts you to begin with the end in mind. Beginning at the end helps you to gain a better understanding of where you are now.
In the grand scheme of life, resolutions often crumble like old paper. So, instead of crafting New Year’s resolutions, employ these two strategies to bring you closer to the fulfilment of your best laid plans:
1. Habitual Behaviors
Picture these as your daily rituals, the small actions that compound over time to drive you forward. Unlike fleeting resolutions, they are the evergreen companions on your journey.
2. Your Personal Mission
This is your guiding star, unwavering and timeless. Unlike discarded resolutions, it endures, directing your thoughts and actions each day.
Merge these forces, and you’ll watch your best laid plans materialize with graceful ease, year after year.
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