At the beginning of every January is the perennial debate as to whether New Year’s resolutions are good or bad, stupendous or stupid, beneficial or a complete, self-defeating waste of time. The simple question back should be: What’s wrong with wanting to improve yourself or your quality of life? That's what we homo sapiens on Earth do. Shouldn’t we all be doing that in some way? While you don't need a special day or month to do it–get in shape, lose weight, learn a foreign language, get another degree, become involved in a local charity, join a bible-study group, become a gourmet chef, change careers, start your own business, start saving twenty-five percent of every dollar you make, travel the world, write a novel; the list is endless–it does put the topic front-and-center.
I checked around for someone with a good list to share with us. I cleaned up the language, but kept his irreverence. Here's Part I of Bobba Fett's Top 12 New Year's Resolution Tips.
#1. “Don’t Be a Nerf Herder.” Have a Solid Plan First.
Simply jumping into your resolution may work if you're a ruthless, Mandalorian bounty hunter and warrior, but he's an expert. Eagerness is commendable, but before you start your new resolution, you should have a solid plan first to maximize success and it should be written. (Both broadcast to yourself that you're serious and you're not messing around.)
(1) Be specific in terms of action steps. What to do?
Think of what your main goal is, and then work backwards. Every major step has to move you one step forward towards that goal. To use a financial example, (which was very effective on me as a kid and allowed me to buy my first car oh so many years back) if you saved at least $20 a week, you’d have just over $1000 at the end of the year. It's all about incrementalism–step-by-step.
(2) Be specific in terms of goals. What should I achieve when I do it?
You don’t have to write an encyclopedia. It could be as simple as a one page bullet-point outline, if you like. The point is whether it's weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, you know exactly what you're supposed to accomplish at the end of each time period.
(3) Track your progress. What are my milestones and set-backs?
You don’t need to accomplish everything in a day. You acknowledge the milestones you reach. Another success! Pat yourself on the back to give yourself that positive reinforcement and keep pushing forward.
You also note the set-backs. But there’s no need to frustrate yourself at the start or burn yourself out at the end. Having the plan allows you to re-adjust as needed. You may need to start over, because you were too over-ambitious in your goals, or vice versa. All of that is fine. Soon you will know exactly what your capabilities are and be able to add accurate benchmarks to chart progress. Keep adjusting, move forward, keep tracking.
Last year, I decided that I was going to run a marathon. Though I was naturally a good runner as a child and teenager, and especially in my three years in the US Army (I remember myself “floating on the wind” as I ran). However, I came to the realization that I didn't like running at all. Twenty years later, after my own personal declaration that I “hated running,” this decision to run a marathon seemed to come out of the blue. It would be as if someone who was clinically afraid of heights woke up and then decided to go sky-diving. That was my view of running a marathon–or more precisely–me running one.
Then I added another seemingly insurmountable obstacle: I was going to run before work which meant getting up at 5:30 am. I am not a morning person.
Well… I did it. I wrote out my plan in broad strokes, since I had no idea what my capabilities were. I viewed my course not a one long stretch, but six different legs of the run. The only major goal was to make progress monthly toward my overall goal of being able to enroll, run, and finish my first marathon. I checked off being able to run, at least, from one end of the block to another, then being able to run two of the six legs without stopping, then three out of six, running my first mile straight, then two, and so on.
When I started running, it was a huge struggle. My internal voice buzzed in my brain to quit. Now, I don't even think about the run anymore; I just do it.
#2. “Fuzzball, the Planning is the Second Step.” The Pre-Plan is Just As Important As the Plan.
No need to start cold. Do a trial run. And depending on what it is, research everything about it.
In my case, it was looking at running schedules online of other marathoners. Learning about the foods they ate, drinking lots of water throughout the day, supplements they took, the kinds of running shoes they wore, etc. How long did it take to build up to the real marathon?
#3. “Forget the Force. Just Do It!”
The pre-planning and the planning is over. Don't overthink or get stuck in planning paralysis. You have to pull the trigger and get started!
So how did I start my marathon training? Simple. By not running at all. Yep, I walked. For about a month, all I did was walk the course I mapped out. Why? I had to get into a routine. Just getting my butt out the bed, every morning at 5:30 am, was a major mission by itself. Once I had that down, then it was simply to walk my path. Ease into the plan. Incidentally, walking alone is great exercise and if you were to do just that for two miles a day, you’d be in good health.
The next obstacle was me. I couldn't run worth a damn. I remember my days in high school and in the US Army right afterwards of “floating on the air” running ahead of everyone. Now I couldn’t even run half the block. That’s when I was able to adjust my plan as I was starting to learn what my capabilities were. Then I could create realistic micro-goals or benchmarks.
And so it began. Step-by-step. When I started I only walked my course. Now, thirty pounds lighter, I run the entire course. At the beginning, when I finished (not even running the whole thing) I was a mass of sweat and collapsed on the floor out-of-breath. Now, I come back home and I look like I never went running at all. My body automatically gets up at 5:30 am even without the alarm clock. If I don't run, I feel like my day is out of alignment somehow.
They say it takes 30 days for a new task to become a habit. It is absolutely true. The longer you stick to it, the more it becomes part of your DNA.
#4. “Don’t Look At the Death Star. Keep Your Eyes on the Goal.” Sidestep the Distractions.
Distractions. They are more plentiful than Storm Troopers in the Empire. They're everywhere. In fact, many people sabotage themselves–consciously or subconsciously. Externally and internally, distractions have but one goal: to make you fail.
Notice I didn't say “avoid” distractions. That takes you out of your zone, disrupts your focus and off-mission. Don't try to prevent random distractions. Let them come. You can even acknowledge their existence. Accept them as a natural–and welcome–fact of life. But you sidestep them and stay on plan.
If you have to gawk at the Death Star or any other distraction, come back to it on your down time–after you do your resolution work.
#5. “You See With Your Mind. Not Your Eyes.” Adjust Your Perspective.
People always think to prepare themselves physically and mentally, but there are levels of our existence more fundamental than that. Success is also about changing your mental perspective on a thing. I’ve always been a Glass-Is-Half-Full person rather than a Glass-Is-Half-Empty person. Both facts are true and valid. It’s the reason why the Democratic Party and Republican Party can look at the same set of problems and come up with completely different solutions. It’s comes down to your worldview or your perspective—how you see yourself, your goals, the world. If you ultimately feel you're a failure or you will never accomplish something, no amount of planning or focus is going to change that. But the good thing is your mental view can be changed. You can Jedi mind-trick yourself to change that perspective.
The simple reason why I’m successfully moving forward to running my marathon is I changed my thinking. I changed “I can’t run,” “I can’t get up at 5:30 am,” and “there’s no way I can run a marathon,” to running everyday, early in the morning, and now planning which marathons I'll be running.
#6. “I Dream of Han Solo in Carbonite.” Visualize It!
Human beings are visual. A single frame of a movie can be more indelible and longer lasting than thousand pages of the greatest novel. If we know this about our basic psychology and physiology, then use it to your advantage. Visualize yourself fulfilling your resolution. Again, the resolution plan has to be solid and realistic.
#7. “I Admire the Cut of Your Jibb, Darth.” Look for Inspiration in Others!
How am I supposed to process that story headline? I was lollygagging about starting my marathon training and this man, at age 100, runs a marathon. It's like that car insurance commercial where the couple is sitting in a coffee shop and the woman asks him, “you believe men are better drivers than women?” and the man enthusiastically nods his head “yes.” She then proceeds to show him her Good Driving Discount Check. “Then how do you explain this?” The man doesn't know what to say. He tries mumbling something when she holds up her hand, and says, “Silence!” There's nothing to be said.
So Mr. Fauja Singh, a British Indian Sikh, became my inspiration for my marathon training. If he–more than half a century older than me–can stick to his plan, then I can surely stick to mine.
In next blog post: Part II of Bobba Fett's Top 12 New Year's Resolution Tips.
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