New Years Resolutions are Bullshit

Why You Should be Planning for 2020, Not 2019.

Before writing the first chapter of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling planned for seven years at Hogwarts. Harry Potter is one of the most read books of all-time.

Before creating the first Stars Wars movie in the 1970s, George Lucas planned for at least six films and started at episode four, rather than episode one. Almost 40 years later, the entire world continues to be excited with the release of a new Star Wars film. This would not be possible if Lucas hadn’t thoughtfully and largely planned ahead.

The principle is simple: Don’t just plant a tree, plant an orchard.

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How different might Harry Potter have been if Rowling started the book without any intentions or plans beyond the first book? It may have just been a book about a boy who went to school and killed a bad guy. Perhaps, at the conclusion of that story, Rowling might or might not have decided to write a sequel.

Yet, by “beginning with the end in mind,” Rowling was able to direct and position the first book much differently. The first book, although amazing in itself, was a means to an end, clearly leading the reader to the next book.

Not only that but by having a long-term objective, Rowling was able to create a much bigger story. She was able to foreshadow to things the reader wouldn’t learn about for sometimes several years!

But she planted those seeds early and thoughtfully, and as a result, each book was a continuation of the next, rather than several disconnected and random stories.

Similarly, consider how different Star Wars would have been had Lucas created one film, without planning what would come next, or before! Vader may have just been “the bad guy,” not Luke’s father.

Very Few People Live like This

You are the writer of your own narrative. Yet, how often do you plan each year based on what you intend to do during the next year or the one after that?

What if, like Rowling, you were living this year based on what you intend to do in 1, 3, and 5 years from now?

It’s all in the setup.

Goals are means, not ends.

Everything you do is positioning. Are you positioning yourself to do AMAZING things in 1, 3, or 5 years from now?

I can already hear your mental wheels spinning.

But you can’t plan for the future! The real world isn’t Hogwarts!

Obviously, the world is changing fast. You can’t plan for everything. Hence, Tony Robbins has said, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

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And that’s the difference. Most people don’t make committed decisions, which is why only 8% of people go on to accomplish their New Years Resolutions.

In an interview between John Assaraf and Lewis Howes, Assaraf shared what his first mentor taught him about goal setting.

After setting his goals in several areas of his life (e.g., health, spirituality, finances, relationships, service, etc.), and for 1, 3, 5, and 25 years out, Assaraf’s mentor asked him, “Are you interested in achieving these goals, or are you committed?” to which Assaraf responded, “What’s the difference?”

His mentor responded:

“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You just do whatever it takes.”

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Clearly, Assaraf’s life probably isn’t exactly how he planned it to be when he set those goals in 1982 at the age of 19. However, I’m confident those goals propelled him to where he is today.

He was playing and planning a much bigger game than most people and writing a much different story.

The Science Doesn’t Lie

If psychological science has found anything in the past 30 years, it’s that people with high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control radically outperform others.

Self-efficacy = your belief in your own ability to achieve your goals. Think “confidence.”

Internal locus of control = a belief that you, not external circumstances, determine the outcomes of your life.

External locus of control = a belief that factors outside of you determine the outcomes of your life.

The majority of the population have low self-efficacy and an external locus of control. According to several research studies, people with these two traits:

The list goes on. You get the point.

Reverse everything on that list for people with high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control.

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Living a Consciously Designed Life

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” — Abraham Lincoln

Pulling it all together, here’s how it works:

  1. You must believe YOU ARE IN CONTROL of what happens to you (i.e., internal locus of control)
  2. You must believe in YOUR OWN ABILITY to make things happen (i.e., self-efficacy/confidence)
  3. You must believe you, and only you, are RESPONSIBLE for the choices you make
  4. You must have HOPE that what you seek will come about.

According to psychology’s Hope Theory, hope reflects your perceptions regarding your capacity to:

  • clearly conceptualize goals
  • develop the specific strategies to reach those goals (i.e., pathways thinking)
  • initiate and sustain the motivation for using those strategies (i.e., agency thinking).

From a spiritual perspective, hope is far more than wishful thinking. It’s a sense of confidence, even assurance, that what you seek is a foregone conclusion — what Tony Robbins calls, “Resolve.”

“Resolve means it’s done,” said Robbins. “It’s done inside your heart, therefore it’s done in the real world.” Hence, Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

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Few people make committed decisions. Instead, they state preferences such as, “I’d like to be healthier and happier.”

To quote Assaraf’s mentor, “Are you interested or committed?

5. You are MOTIVATED, even when life is difficult.

According to one of the core theories of motivation, motivation involves three components:

  • the value you place on your goal
  • your belief that specific behaviors will actually facilitate the outcomes you desire
  • your belief in your own ability to successfully execute the behaviors requisite to achieving your goals

If you don’t truly value the goal, you won’t be motivated. If you don’t believe you have an effective means of achieving your goal, you won’t be motivated. If you don’t expect yourself to do what it takes, you won’t be motivated.

This theory is known as “Expectancy Theory,” and it highlights that what you expect to happen often does. Hence the term, “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Interestingly, there is a related concept known as “The Pygmalion Effect,”which shows that what other people expect of you in large measure determines how well you do.

The principles are simple: Expect amazing things to happen and they generally will. Surround yourself with people who have high expectations for you and you’ll generally live up to those expectations.

Be → Do → Have

You have to ‘Be’ the right kind of person first, then you must ‘Do’ the right thingsbefore you can expect to ‘Have.’” — Zig Ziglar

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Living a consciously designed life is completely possible.

Perhaps the most fundamental decision any person can ever make is this one:

  • You can choose to believe that the people who succeed, like Michael Jordan, for example, were born to become what they did
  • Or, you can choose to believe that at some point, they chose to become what they did

That is the most fundamental decision you can make about life as a human being. It is what some would call a “watershed issue” — whichever side of the equation you pick will put you down a course that will influence all of your other decisions, mindsets, and beliefs.

Do you believe you can choose what you become?

Or do you believe your course is set for you at birth?

Do you “discover” yourself or do you “create” yourself?

Whichever perspective you choose, your brain will go about finding any and all information it can to support that bias. As Dan Sullivan has said, “Your eyes can only see and your ears can only hear what your brain is looking for.”Psychologists call this “selective attention.”

What you focus on expands.

You see what you believe is real — and then it becomes real for you in a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Dr. Stephen Covey said, “You see the world, not as it is, but as you’ve been conditioned to see it.”

Making this shift starts by recognizing that for quite a while, you’ve been going through the motions. Your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and even desires are the product of your environment.

Thanks to a global world that makes information abundant, it isn’t hard to become exposed to other ways of life. However, you must realize quickly that most of the information online is complete trash. Which is why Basecamp Founder, Jason Fried, has said, “I’m pretty oblivious to a lot of things intentionally. I don’t want to be influenced that much.”

Once you begin upgrading your mindset and environment, and once your priorities and goals are clear — then you don’t want to be swayed or distracted by most of the low-level information out there.

A key strategy for making any jump is to, “Assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled,” meaning, you assume the posture, attitude, and emotions of the people operating at the higher level.

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You affirm to yourself who you are and then operate from that affirmation. This may sound like “acting as if,” and it actually is.

But it’s important to realize that we are always “acting” in a role. All of life is acting. In every situation, you are assuming a character. You’re playing a role based on the other people around you. In some situations, your role may be an employee, while in others it may be a parent, or child, or friend.

In all cases, you are acting a part.

You can change your role.

You can change the stage.

You can choose to be different. But it must start in your state of being. Rather than operating subconsciously as the majority of people do, you must make a conscious decision about who you intend to be and where you intend to go. You must then BEHAVE from that decision. When you act from that decision, then you create the outcomes you are seeking. You will become the person you intend to be, rather than the person your circumstances led you to be.

Conclusion: Humility and Awe

“My dreams are my dress rehearsals for my future.” — David Copperfield

Does everything in life go exactly how you plan it? Of course not.

Here’s the principle: Expect great things to happen, be happy even when they don’t.

“Expect everything and attach to nothing!” — Carrie Campbell

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However, just because things don’t go exactly according to plan doesn’t mean you aren’t in control. It is your decisions, not your conditions, which determine your destiny.

When you take up the responsibility to live your life according to design rather than the default, you will constantly be humbled and in awe. You’ll be blown away as you watch life unfold as you saw it in your head — as your physical world conforms itself to your thoughts.

You absolutely can live your life how Rowling wrote Harry Potter and how Lucas wrote Star Wars.

You can dream and live BIG.

You can live by design.

Your world can continue to expand.

But you must think further ahead. 2019 shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. It’s an obvious continuation of 2018.

So what will your life be like in 2020?

Creativity, Wanderlust, and the Mind

 

Let me know what you think.

There are plenty of things to be gained from going abroad: new friends, new experiences, new stories.But living in another country may come with a less noticeable benefit, too: Some scientists say it can also make you more creative.

Writers and thinkers have long felt the creative benefits of international travel. Ernest Hemingway, for example, drew inspiration for much of his work from his time in Spain and France. Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in his 40s to branch out into screenwriting. Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote in his travelogue Innocents Abroad that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.

In Galinsky’s latest study, published last month in the Academy of Management Journal, he and three other researchers examined the experiences of the creative directors of 270 high-end fashion houses. Combing through 11 years’ worth of fashion lines, Galinsky and his team searched for links between the creative directors’ experience working abroad and the fashion houses’ “creative innovations,” or the degree “to which final, implemented products or services are novel and useful from the standpoint of external audiences.” The level of creativity of a given product was rated by a pool of trade journalists and independent buyers. Sure enough, the researchers found a clear correlation between time spent abroad and creative output: The brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more consistently creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not.

The researchers also found that the more countries the executives had lived in, the more creative the lines tended to be—but only up to a point. Those who had lived and worked in more than three countries, the study found, still tended to show higher levels of creativity that those who hadn’t worked abroad at all, but less creativity that their peers who had worked in a smaller number of foreign countries. The authors hypothesized that those who had lived in too many countries hadn’t been able to properly immerse themselves culturally; they were bouncing around too much. “It gets back to this idea of a deeper level of learning that’s necessary for these effects to occur,” Galinsky says.

Cultural distance, or how different a foreign culture is from one’s own, may also play a role: Surprisingly, Galinsky and his colleagues found that living someplace with a larger cultural distance was often associated with lower creativity than living in a more familiar culture. The reason for that, they hypothesized, was that an especially different culture might come with a bigger intimidation factor, which may discourage people from immersing themselves in it—and no immersion, they explained, could mean none of the cognitive changes associated with living in another country.

Traveling may have other brain benefits, too. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an associate professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California, says that cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self. “What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self,” she says. “Our ability to differentiate our own beliefs and values … is tied up in the richness of the cultural experiences that we have had.”

Cross-cultural experiences have the potential to pull people out of their cultural bubbles, and in doing so, can increase their sense of connection with people from backgrounds different than their own. “We found that when people had experiences traveling to other countries it increased what’s called generalized trust, or their general faith in humanity,” Galinsky says. “When we engage in other cultures, we start to have experience with different people and recognize that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.”

This trust may play an important role in enhancing creative function. In a 2012 study out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found that people who “believe that racial groups have fixed underlying essences”—beliefs the authors termed “essentialist views”—performed significantly worse in creative tests than those who saw cultural and racial divisions as arbitrary and malleable. “This categorical mindset induces a habitual closed-mindedness that transcends the social domain and hampers creativity,” the study authors wrote. In other words, those who put people in boxes had trouble thinking outside the box.

Of course, although a new country is an easy way to leave a “social comfort zone,” the cultural engagement associated with cognitive change doesn’t have to happen abroad. If a plane ticket isn’t an option, maybe try taking the subway to a new neighborhood. Sometimes, the research suggests, all that’s needed for a creative boost is a fresh cultural scene.

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