New Year’s Eve is 5 weeks away. That’s another 5 weeks of people postponing their dreams and waiting to make New Year’s resolutions. The big glittery ball will drop. Fireworks will explode across the sky. Loved ones will kiss and cuddle and shake hands. And 45% of people will pledge that 2017 is the year they finally lose weight/quit smoking/start a business/spend more time with family/live life to the fullest.
January will be a great time for gym-chains all over the world and a terrible time for dedicated gym rats as hordes of people flood the gyms with starry-eyed ambitions to get chiseled abs, firm thighs, and granite buttocks. The sales of Nicorette gums, patches, inhalers, and magic wands will shoot up and people with tar-coated lungs will slice through their cigarette packets in triumph. Thousands of brand new LLCs will be registered and many will vow it’s time to get serious, nix their Netflix subscription, and spend their evenings working to finally flee the 9-5 nightmare and clean the corporate come from their throats and anal cavities.
By February, the once-packed gyms will once again be empty. The sales of Nicorette will drop and those of Benson & Hedges, Marlboro, and Lucky Strike will once again soar. And the Netflix fat cats will laugh as people come crawling back, leaving a pile of pointless paperwork and half-coherent business “ideas” behind them. Only 8% will be successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. A small fraction of people will make a difference in their lives while the majority will remain foggy-headed, pot-bellied, empty shells of human beings who will lose 50+ years of their life in the blink of an eye (if they’re lucky).
So we’re agreed? New Year’s resolutions suck. They suck harder than that desperate last drag of a cigarette at midnight. They suck harder than a depressed, loveless loser with a Slurpee straw between their lips and a look of stupor on their face as they scroll down their Facebook feed. They suck harder than that corporate cock your currently choking on.
But what can you do instead?
New Year’s Resolutions Suck. Do This Instead
New Year’s resolutions suck because they’re events. They ignore the process, dedication, time and character commitment that true self-improvement requires.
Everyone likes to make a big show of accomplishing something but they don’t want to put in the hard, thankless graft required to actually effect a change. M J Demarco writes about events vs length with great precision in The Millionaire Fastlane:
“All events of wealth are precluded by process, a backstory of trial, risk, hard work, and sacrifice. If you try to skip process, you’ll never experience events.”
Inhaling your last cigarette at midnight and then throwing it in the gutter with a flourish is an event. Woo! I’m gonna quit smoking! Making the conscious choice every day of your life to avoid smokers and improve your self-talk so you think about smoking in a different light is a process.
Signing up to a gym, talking to a trainer, and printing a diet plan off the internet is an event. Woo! I’m gonna get fit! Making the conscious choice every day to constantly improve in the gym (one more rep, one more mile, one more minute), ridding your house of junk food and keeping it like that, and setting your alarm 30 minutes early so you can stretch or jog or do sit-ups before work is a process.
Follow events and you’ll stay with the masses. You’ll stay fat, sick, and depressed.
Follow the process and you’ll carve the life you desire out of blood, sweat, and tears.
New Year’s Eve isn’t here yet. Don’t wait one minute longer if there’s something you want to do. Take your New Year’s resolution and make the pledge now. But don’t just make the pledge. That’s an event. It’s phoney. It means nothing. It takes no effort.
Take the pledge, then immediately move into action. Do something, anything, towards your goal. Once you’ve made the decision to do something, thinking about it is just mental masturbation. And you know what us Brits call people who masturbate too much, right? Don’t let that be you. Stop thinking. Start doing. Don’t be another hopeless, depressing statistic. Take your own life by the balls (or vagina if we’re being gender inclusive) and own it with power, passion, and pride.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common New Year’s resolutions and how you can take action on them now. Not in a month. Not in a week. Not tomorrow. Not later today. Now.
Screw New Year’s resolutions. We’re calling these New You Resolutions. We’re keeping the checklist on each of them short so we can focus on actually taking action. And we’re starting now.
New You Resolution #1: Lose Weight
The first time I got six-pack abs was due to me making a simple decision. No more Coca-Cola. No more Milka. No more Walkers (or Lays). Basically I cut out junk food. Revolutionary, right? I was so accustomed to stuffing my face at the end of each day that this was literally the only step I needed to take to shed around 15 pounds of fat within a couple of months. Forget counting calories, drinking protein shakes, or cycling carbohydrates. I just dropped junk food and the pounds dropped too.
The second time I got a six-pack was after a week-long skiing trip in Austria. That time I did eat junk food. A lot of it. I shoved slab after slab of delicious European chocolate down my gob and I still revealed my abdominal muscles. Why? Skiing is very physically demanding, both cardiovascularly and on your abdominals (and legs), and rushing up and down the cold slopes for 8-10 hours each day will make you shed the pounds like crazy. I know. That’s not revolutionary either. Exercise makes you lose weight.
You don’t need a six-pack to be in great shape. In fact, I personally would not bother trying to maintain sub 10% body fat year round ever again. I feel healthy and happy with a bit of fat. But if you can’t squeeze into those cool jeans or walking up a set of stairs winds you, losing weight should be on your top priority list.
Forget complicated work out routines. Forget protein powders, creatine, and fat burners. Forget all that and just taking a concrete step towards building a fitness routine, a process that will lead to your success.
Action Step for a New You: Pack your gym bag every single evening and leave it by the door for the next day. Do it now if you can.
You need to make the gym a habit. It needs to be a permanent part of your life. Make it easy for yourself not to skip the gym by leaving a reminder and having everything ready to go.
Even better… If you drive to work, keep your gym bag in the car in the front seat. Then just go straight to the gym after work. If you go home, you risk sinking into a comfy chair, turning on the TV, and forgetting all about it.
Just turn up at the gym and make sure you walk through the door every single day. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to go. It doesn’t matter if you have a headache. Just walk through the door.
I guarantee you’ll do something.
That’s better than having a super complicated “plan” that you will ditch within a week or two.
Consistency trumps everything else.
Get that habit down (because it’s the hardest), then you can work on refining.
New You Resolution #2: Quit Smoking
I smoked for almost a decade of my life. Around half of that was a 20-a-day habit I just couldn’t seem to shake. I tried to quit every week. People used to laugh at me when I said I was quitting smoking. “Sure, Ben. I’ve heard that before!” They were right to laugh. Within a couple of days (sometimes a couple of hours) I’d be hunched over in the rain puffing away again. I was pathetic.
I tried everything. Patches. Gums. Lozenges. Electronic cigarettes. Hypnotism. Willpower. Nothing seemed to work.
Then I read Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking. This might sound absurd for someone who’s favourite books include Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl but Allen Carr’s book is one of my favourites of all time. And I’ve only read it once.
Allen Carr saved my life. I’m now almost five years smoke-free. He got me to quit smoking overnight, painlessly, and without withdrawal. I wish I had read it sooner. I wish someone had forced me to read it. Like literally pressed a gun against my head and shoved the book in my hands.
If you are a smoker, you’re desperate to quit, and you feel like you’ve tried everything, consider this me shoving Allen Carr’s book into your hands and pressing a gun against your head.
Action Step for a New You: Buy Allen Carr’s book and read the first chapter immediately.
New You Resolution #3: Get Organized
They key principle to remember when you want to get organized is to try to take as much away from your schedule as possible. Getting organized is not about stuffing every second of the day with superfluous crap. You don’t need super sophisticated schedule systems that bleep and buzz and blow up. You just need to know where your priorities are. Focusing on 1-3 truly important things is always more valuable that scattering your focus across 1-3 truly important things + 15-20 meaningless things.
Here are a few of my main takeaways from The ONE Thing:
Equality and multitasking are lies. Remember the 80/20 rule and focus on the 20 percent. Here is what most people’s to-do list looks like:
1. Should do
2. Would like to do
3. Should do
4. Would like to do
5. Feel you have to do
6. Do out of habit and routine
7. Should do
And here is what a success to-do list looks like:
1. Should do
2. Should do
3. Should do
The big question you should ask yourself is: “What’s the ONE THING I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Once you’ve established your ONE THING, you then need to time block periods (~3 hours) to focus on it without distraction.
In order to be a highly productive person, you also need to take steps to manage your daily energy. The highly productive person’s daily energy plan looks like this:
1. Meditate and pray for spiritual energy.
2. Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy.
3. Hug, kiss, and laugh with loved ones for emotional energy.
4. Set goals, plan, and calendar for mental energy.
5. Time block your ONE THING for business energy.
You can also check out my takeaways from Deep Work:
Action Step: Meditate. Wake up 20 minutes earlier and meditate.
I know that sounds stupid. How will sitting and doing nothing for 20 minutes help me be more organized? Trust me. When you build up a habit of meditation, you gain supreme clarity of thought. You know what’s important, how to compartmentalise, and where your time is best spent.
It doesn’t matter how you do it. Transcendental Meditation, the Wim Hof Method, looking at a candle flame, Headspace, or praying. Just commit to meditating at least 10 minutes each day and matters of organization will start to fall into place.
New You Resolution #5:
Learn Something New & Exciting
Learning new stuff is THE reason to be alive. Art, love, nature, and learning. Those are the Holy Quaternity. But when are you ever going to have the time to learn something new? And how are you going to do it?
Even people who are the most pressed for time are able to spare 20-40 minutes a day. Wait. Let me rephrase that. Not spare. Sacrifice. Time doesn’t just open up. You’ve got to schedule time in to do specific things or else they won’t happen. And the easiest, most pain-free way to schedule time to make a new habit (like learning) is to anchor it to another already established time (e.g. meal time, morning time, toilet time). Either you get up 20 minutes earlier or you cut out 20 minutes of TV or you eat your lunch with a book in front of you.
Over the past 3-4 years, I’ve managed to learn a lot of exciting stuff by just sparing 20-40 minutes each day. That time adds up. That small time each day, consistently adhered to, allowed me to learn Japanese, computer coding, copywriting, and yoga.
As for how to learn stuff. Come on, man. You’re reading this on the internet. Just use that. It’s awesome. A few things that I have recently learned thanks to the power of the internet include:
- The Wim Hof Method (life-changing and better value for money than my Oxford degree)
- Japanese (NHK news podcasts, anime on Netflix, manga on Amazon Kindle)
- Screenwriting (with Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame)
- Filmmaking (with Werner Herzog, filmmaking legend)
- Yoga (Erin Motz is a great place to start)
Action Step: Have a “Study Sandwich” today.
I learned this wonderful phrase from George Trombley.
This is a Study Sandwich:
- 20 minutes of study first thing in the morning.
- 20 minutes of study last thing at night.
Literally the first thing you do when you wake up (after the bathroom and a glass of water maybe) and the last thing you do before you go to sleep.
Set the timer and make sure you ONLY study for these 20 minutes. You want focused intensity.
This means for those 20-minute sessions….
- No texting.
- No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
- No scrolling through news sites or clickbait websites.
By doing this, you will take advantage of your brain soaking up the information when it’s most absorbent and rested (i.e. when you wake up).
You will also give your brain the information right before you sleep so your brain can process it and store it throughout the night. This is the quickest way to get info into your head.
20-40 minutes per day, upheld consistently, is powerful stuff and will help you learn whatever you want. As for what to learn? I can’t help you there. Birdwatching, building classic cars, singing, sign-language, break dancing, chess… The options are limitless.
New You Resolution #6: Fall In Love
The movies lied to you. Fairytale romances don’t just happen. Okay, maybe they happen to some people. But most people have to work at love. You have to put yourself out there because love rarely falls in your lap. You have to have an open-mind but also guard yourself and vet who you let into your life.
If I had to choose one super easy actionable step you can take right now to immediately improve your love life, it would have to be setting up a dating profile. Forget getting a new wardrobe for now. Forget agonising about the right “pick-up lines”. Just simply grab a couple of your best pictures and see who bites.
There is no longer a societal stigma against online dating in the West. Quite the opposite. Over the last few years, the online dating scene has blown up and has quickly become the norm for many 16-30 year olds. In addition to no stigma, online dating has also been shown as more likely to result in a happy and compatible relationship. Why? Because you’re not taking your chances on the random stranger you met in a bar at 2 in the morning. You are actually being selective and have a wider pool of candidates to choose from.
If you’re serious about your love or sex life, forget reading advice columns, scrolling game forums, or moaning to your friends. Just fill out an online profile. I probably wouldn’t advise Tinder though. Unless you’re looking for a one night thing. And stuff you have to pay for (like Match) is probably best if you’ve already got your mind on something serious rather than just dipping your toes in. OKCupid seems to be the happy medium.
Action Step: Sign up to a site right now.
Even if you’re currently sitting in the office and your coworkers are around you. Who cares what those loveless losers think anyway?
The Rules For A New You
You don’t need some condescending berk like myself telling you stuff you already know. Wanna lose weight? Don’t eat junk food. Wanna learn something new? Get up 20 minutes earlier and cut out TV. Um…. yeah, thanks, Captain Obvious.
Although the actual specifics of certain goals might seem obvious, the mechanics that govern success (in anything) still remain unclear for many people. Even though writing them down makes them seem super obvious too.
So here are the rules for changing your life:
1. Know what you want.
Duh, right? But seriously. Most people have wishy-washy goals that don’t mean anything. A New Year’s resolution to “start following my dreams” is not helpful. Neither is “losing weight”. But having a goal to write everyday and have a book by the end of the year is better. Having a goal to be able to see four abs by next autumn is awesome.
Know what you want. Know why you want it. Then repeat it to yourself every day. I talk to myself about my yearly/monthly/weekly/daily goals while I’m in the shower. That might work for you too.
2. Figure out a simple step you can take right NOW.
Once you know what you want, stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. Do it.
Find a simple step because most people procrastinate on their goals due to nerves. If you make the next step as simple as possible, you’ll cut down the nerves and be more likely to get yourself in motion.
- Get married before I’m 30 = Difficult.
- Fill out a dating profile = Easy.
- Write a super awesome vampire trilogy that gets optioned for a Hollywood film directed by Werner Herzog = Difficult.
- Write 250 words before work this morning = Easy.
- Stop a 10-year nicotine habit overnight = Difficult.
- Read 10 pages of Allen Carr’s book before bed = Easy.
Make it simple. Keep it simple. And actually do something.
3. Do something everyday.
This is called process. Do something every day and you’ll be a new person this time next year. Do something whenever you “feel like it” and you’ll be the same old you.
Wanna get in shape? Get on the treadmill even if you’re tired. Do a 5-minute walk. Forget doing an hour-long workout. Just 5 minutes. You might keep going after 5 minutes. If not, no worries. You’ve built the habit and next time it will be easier.
Wanna learn French? Revise 10 words even if you can’t be bothered. Forget slogging through a textbook. Just do something.
Rant Over (for now).
That’s it. Know what you want, do something simple right now, and do something every day. Those 3 steps are magic and they will separate you from the masses of people paying lip service to the resolution god at midnight next month.
Oh, and Happy Holidays
Over to you. I’ve got a few questions and I’d love to hear your answers.
- What do you want?
- What are you gonna do right now?
- How are you gonna make sure you do something every day?
Let me know your answers or keep them to yourself. Although remember that telling someone will keep you accountable. But do make sure you give these questions some thought.