The answer is… it depends. A new year’s resolution is a desire to develop. Development begins with a belief in a possibility, discovering the knowledge to make it happen, designing a strategy and tactics, then the choice to consistently invest time and effort in the possibility.
This article highlights knowledge, tactics, and other resources to help make your New Year's Resolutions a reality.
There are more than 200 success principles, and many books written on just one principle being the most important for success. This article briefly highlights the key principles in the three development levels, the discipline of self, the art of fulfillment, and the science of achievement.
I consider New Year's Resolutions like goals, and there are a lot of studies around why goals work and why they don't. There are one-time achievement goals and there are goals to set a new habit, which can take a few weeks of good effort.
Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. The book Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt mentions how studies show if we write goals down and review them every day, as part of our morning routine, we are more likely to achieve the goals.
Studies also show our mind has a reticular activating system (RAS) that works in the "background" or the subconscious. The RAS is constantly looking for ways to realize what our conscious mind deliberately focuses on. Studies also show if we spend time mentally visualizing or imagining doing the actions necessary (lead measures) to reach our goals, the more likely we are to succeed with the goal. Lastly, studies also show that a "vision board" helps our conscious mind train our subconscious mind (RAS) to be on the look out for ways to make the vision board real.
Below are some highlights of the more important principles including identity, character, positive growth mindset, emotional fitness, self-discipline, physical health, meaning, personal strengths, relationships, communication, goal setting, habits, routines, grit, and consistent investment.
The law of awareness shows us that we must know our self to grow our self (John Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth). Getting clear on our identity – and that alone – is what determines how well we will live (Brady Boyd, Sons and Daughters). Your circumstances do not define you, your identity does (Tim Tebow, Shaken).
The book Making Sense of Your World explores different worldviews. A worldview is the foundation of our identity because it is how we know what is true, either by our own five senses and experiences, through science, or through the spirit realm. How we know truth is obviously going to affect our success in life. As a Christian, the Bible is our best book.
Our identity forms our most important internal beliefs that have a ripple effect on our life and ultimately affects our circumstances. Our identity is the foundation for our faith and hope. One of the biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behaviors matter; that we have control over our future (ShawnAchor, The Happiness Advantage).
Our identity strongly affects our beliefs and values.
The ultimate end of life is the development of character (Aristotle). Most people, when they are genuinely honest with themselves, associate doing well in life with having moral character, which is still essential to most people’s conceptions of what makes a person successful (Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices). The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office (Dwight D. Eisenhower).
It seems to me that the golden rule is alive and well, and shared among most, if not all, religions. Treat others how you want to be treated. I submit this is based on shared or common virtues like courage, integrity, and compassion. Everyone wants to be treated fairly. If we work hard for something we expect to be fairly rewarded or compensated for that work. If we experience an unfortunate situation and know those around us are equipped to help out, we might expect a helping hand.
Then there is the silver rule, which is common to all people. Treat others how they want to be treated. I submit this is based on personality traits like introversion or extraversion.
Everyone is different and has different strengths and more dominant appreciation languages.
Each person has greater potential for success in their strengths (Tom Rath, Strengths Finder 2.0). Successful people change in ways that allow them to continue to take advantage of their strengths (Ray Dalio, Principles).
Studies show that people are more engaged and satisfied with their job or career if they are using their natural gifts or strengths. Unfortunately, many people are not provided such an opportunity. The good news is that the more we commit ourselves to doing good work the more we increase our desire and skills for the work, especially if we are helping others to become better in the same line of work.
Our mental perception or our daily activities, more than the activity itself, determines our reality (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage).
We can also use our strengths in volunteer work, which may lead to a paid job opportunity later.
When we develop a desire for, and skills in, our work it helps us to be more positive with life in general.
Positive Growth Mindset
Happiness is the center and success revolves around it (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage). Literally hundreds of studies show that pessimists give up more easily and get depressed more often (Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism). Optimists are more satisfied with their marriages (Angela Duckworth, Grit). A positive mindset enables a person to endure suffering and disappointment as well as enhance enjoyment and satisfaction (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning).
Our brain is an organ of experiences, that leads our life, and it can be trained (Dan Harris, 10% Happier).
I submit that a positive mindset or attitude is actually fueled by positive beliefs based on our identity, faith, hope, and purpose.
A positive mindset enables a growth mindset.
Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions (Carol Dweck, Growth Mindset). Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right (Henry Ford).
The growth mindset is basically a belief that we can deliberately develop ourselves. While the fixed mindset is the belief we are who we are, that we are just who our genetics and our environment made us to be.
The way we communicate with ourselves and others has a tremendous effect, we basically have two ways we communicate with ourselves and others. You have permanent traits and I’m judging them. Or, you are a developing person and I am committed to your development (Carol Dweck, Growth Mindset).
A great application of the growth mindset is to believe we can develop our emotional intelligence or emotional fitness.
What you link pain to and what you link pleasure to shapes your destiny (Tony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within). Scientists realized there must be another variable that explained success above and beyond one’s IQ, and years of research pointed to emotional intelligence as the critical factor (Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0).
Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It’s not logical; it’s psychological (Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). To get good results we need to be analytical rather than emotional (Ray Dalio, Principles).
Emotional intelligence has four basic areas, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0).
Arguably, emotional fitness, like physical fitness, depend on self-discipline.
Considering all success principles, without self-discipline, none of them work. With self-discipline, they all work (Brian Tracy, No Excuses). It’s not free will or determinism. It’s not choice or environment. Instead, it is choice and environment… Choosing and shaping your environment is at the center of what ‘free will’ really means, because your choice of environment and external influences will directly reflect in the person you become (Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work).
One of the areas people have the most challenges with self-discipline is health. According to an article on Statista.com by Katharina Buchholz, on December 16, 2019, America’s Top New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 were manage finances better, eat healthier, be more active, and lose weight.
Health is our first wealth (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Seven pillars of health include water, sleep, food, exercise, detoxification, supplements, and coping with stress (Don Colbert, The Seven Pillars of Health). Our habits and emotions can impact our biology so deeply that it causes changes in the genetics transmitted to the next several generations (Daniel Amen, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life).
Exercise increases energy, boosts memory, elevates mood, increases attention, and helps you feel more alert (Brendon Burchard, High Performance Habits). So, we see once again that the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress (Kelly McGonigal, How to Make Stress Your Friend, TED talk).
Our breathing is an important part of our physical health. Breathing, sweating, and digestion/excretion are the three main ways our bodies detoxify (Carmona, 30 Days to a Better Brain).
Meditation has now fully entered the scientific mainstream. Being subjected to thousands of studies, suggesting an almost laughably long list of health benefits (Dan Harris, 10% Happier). You can engage in mindfulness meditation without any religious aspect, which is basically a breathing and thoughtlessness exercise.
National Geographic studied longevity and concluded the core principles of a long life are found in lifestyle, spirituality, and community (Dan Buettner, The Blue Zones).
One thing we know is that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort (Kelly McGonigal).
“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How” (Nietzsche) (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).
Meaning in life can be developed through our identity, work, and relationships, and is influenced by our basic human needs and motivations.
We either deliberately develop meaning around our human needs and motivations, or our needs and motivations will shape our meaning in life. According to Maslow our human needs are physiological (physical), safety, belonging or love, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Human motivations include the will to power (Friedrich Nietzsche), the will to pleasure (Sigmund Freud), and the will to purpose (Viktor Frankl).
The more we understand which of these needs and motivations we are drawn to most, and what others around us are drawn to most, the more we can understand how to be “successful.”
Viktor Frankl studied Sigmund Freud’s work and Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. He also studied human nature in one of the worst of conditions, the concentration camp of Auschwitz. He later wrote the book Man’s Search For Meaning which has a compelling conclusion where he submits that we only pursue power or pleasure when we have a lack of purpose, and purpose can be developed with new knowledge or perspective.
It is the spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).
Meaning in life always has something to do with relationships.
We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly). The more people you know, and who know you in a positive way, the more successful you will be at anything you attempt (Brian Tracy, Goals!).
Our relationships can be complicated and messy, and they can also be simple and amazing. Love yourself and be grateful for all you are and all that you’re becoming (Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass). One of the more important ingredients of a balanced life is having someone to love and love you (Jim Rohn, 7 Strategies for Wealth and Happiness).
There are many great books to help us with relationships in general (Real Relationships), dating (Boundaries in Dating), preparing for marriage (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk), and improving marriage (Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus, The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, and The Five Love Languages).
Pretty much every good relationship book agrees that trust and empathy are critical for a healthy lasting relationship. Relationships are solidified by trust (Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz, Never Eat Alone). Trust can be created by understanding their perspective and validating their emotions (Chris Voss with Tahl Raz, Never Split the Difference). Trust can also be created by suspending your ego, not judging them, being reasonable, and being generous (Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth, Sizing People Up).
With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds (Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address).
One of the most powerful empathy skills is affirming to people that you are listening to them by summarizing the thoughts and feelings they share.
Empathy depends on how we communicate.
Communication is the most important skill in life (Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). It has been well established by research that people who are more effective at interpreting nonverbal communication and manage how others perceive them, will enjoy greater success in life than individuals who do not develop this skill (Goleman, 1995) (Joe Navarro with Marvin Karlins, What Every BODY is Saying).
The quality of your life is fundamentally a function of how you handle crucial conversations that include opposing opinions, high stakes, and strong emotions (Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, Crucial Conversations).
More good communication books for having tough talks are Never Split the Difference, Verbal Judo, and Nonviolent Communication. Each of these provide very practical tactics. Nonviolent Communication has a process that can help inject empathy, on your behalf, into the other person’s reasoning.
A great TED Talk that can also help inject empathy on your behalf is Decidedly Because Changes What Was, by Janine Driver.
Almost everyone you meet feels that they are superior to you in some way. A sure way to their heart is to let them realize that you recognize their importance, sincerely (Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends & Influence People).
How we communicate with ourselves determines what we can accomplish.
In order to be successful we must have long-term focus and anticipate the future (Tony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within). A fifty-year study of upward socioeconomic mobility in America concluded the most important factor was long time perspective (Brian Tracy, Goals!). People who have direction in their lives go farther faster (Zig Ziglar, Over the Top). Goals should be “SMART,” specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Setting challenging goals and writing them down increases performance and achievement (Michael Hyatt, Your Best Year Ever). Visualizing the process of reaching your goals increases the probability of achieving them (Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, The One Thing).
It is easier to reach goals and make important decisions if we have clarity. Often times we become so comfortable with ourselves we don’t even notice when bad habits start to show up. This is where a clarity collaborator can help. Clarity collaborators are counselors (therapists), coaches, or consultants.
Counselors and coaches focus on asking impactful questions to help us think our way to improvement. Counselors seem to be more focused on learning about how past events created issues with our present self, and how to overcome the issue.
Coaches seem to be more focused on helping us stay accountable to activities that support our future goals and help us think our way over or around obstacles to those goals. Coaches do not necessarily need experience in an area, they partner with us, as an outside perspective to help us think through the best ways to accomplish our goals.
Consultants basically give advice on how to achieve a future result that they have experience in.
If we can get into a habit of goal setting each year, and breaking down our yearly goal(s) into quarterly, monthly, and even weekly goals, then make a habit of doing the key activities (lead measures) that drive those goals, the more likely we are to achieve them.
There are many experts who believe we should set big, uncomfortable, and scary goals because it challenges us to increase our performance. This can work in the opposite way for some people. If big goals are intimidating and demotivating there is nothing wrong with setting goals you know you can reach, at least you are setting goals. Small changes often appear to make no difference unless you look at them over a period of time (James Clear, Atomic Habits).
Habits are more important than goals because a goal has an end, habits go on (James Clear, Atomic Habits).
The fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits (Tom Ziglar, Choose to Win). The most effective way to change your habits is to focus on who you wish to become, not what you want to achieve (James Clear, Atomic Habits). We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit (Aristotle).
Habit is probably the most powerful tool in your brain’s toolbox (Ray Dalio, Principles). A habit is a trigger, a routine, and a reward… We can create new habits by creating a new craving, and changing the routine of an old habit (Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit).
Some good universal habits include… be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win/win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw (Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage (Brendon Burchard, High Performance Habits).
The most positive and impactful habits are when they are grouped together to create a morning routine to start your day well.
Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days – which inevitably create a successful life (Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning). The Pareto Principle or 80/20 principle, declares 20 percent of our actions create 80 percent of our results. It is not just a theory, it’s a provable, predictable, certainty of nature and one of the greatest productivity truths ever discovered… A small amount of causes creates most of the results (Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, The One Thing).
If we struggle getting up in time for a good morning routine, and we constantly hit the “snooze” button on our opportunity clock, we should consider an evening routine to get to bed earlier.
If we develop a routine that keeps our identity and purpose in mind, it will help us increase our grit.
In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that was a combination of passion and perseverance. In a word, they had grit (Angela Duckworth, Grit). Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time (Seth Godin, Dip).
Identity influences every aspect of our character, but it has special relevance to grit (Angela Duckworth, Grit). Grit isn’t inborn, it’s developed like a muscle, and it starts with awareness (Daniel Coyle, The Little Book of Talent). Studies show that simply believing we can bring about positive change in our lives increases motivation and performance (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage).
Grit can be strengthened when we consistently invest in our knowledge, health, relationships, and finances.
Success is about positive incremental change over time (Michael Hyatt, Your Best Year Ever). Almost four decades of studying success, it’s clear the most successful people in any field are not just lucky. They have a different set of beliefs and a different strategy. They do things differently (Tony Robbins, Unshakeable). The closer psychologists looked at the careers of the gifted, the more it seemed that preparation and practice had a bigger role than natural talent (Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers).
Personal finance is 80 percent behavior and only 20 percent head knowledge (Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover). My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest (Warren Buffett). Compound interest isn’t just for money, it also applies to our knowledge, health, and relationships, but it requires action.
Take time out of your busy life to invest in yourself, because when you do, you are investing in your future (Joe Dispenza, Becoming Supernatural). The best investment you can make is in yourself, by far (Robert Herjavec). “Contrary to popular wisdom knowledge is not power – it’s potential power”… “Execution will trump knowledge every day of the week”(Tony Robbins, MONEY Master the Game).
A person can be highly educated, professionally successful, and financially illiterate (Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad). Act your wage, try your best to stay out of debt, and don’t buy stuff if you can’t afford it (Dave Ramsey, Entreleadership). Your income can only grow to the extent you do (T. Harv Eker, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind).
With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts (Eleanor Roosevelt). When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully (Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free). If you live like no one else now, you can live like no one else later in life (Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover). Wealth is more often the result of a lifestyle of hard work, perseverance, planning, and, most of all, self-discipline (Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, The Millionaire Next Door).
There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance (Socrates). Now, you know more than 50 of the best books in the areas of the discipline of self, the art of fulfillment, and the science of achievement, to help you take action and follow through on your New Year’s Resolutions.
Knowledge pays the best interest (Ben Franklin).
You can find much more about each of these areas in the book Opportunity Truth.
If you choose to create some New Year’s Resolutions, set goals and follow through with habits and routines, and consistently invest, you will either come closer to getting where you want to be, you will get to where you want to be, or you will go farther than you wanted to.
If you want a one-page pdf development plan visit the Opportunity Truth home page.
To your new year.
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