The beginning of the year is when most people make grand promises of change and set goals for what they hope to achieve.
- I promise to workout 5 days a week and get fit
- This is the year where I will finally start my business
- I’m going to lose 20 pounds
But we all know what ends up happening. While our intentions are good and we start out strong, our intensity tends to fizzle out over time.
Those with willpower can last for several months, but most of us are weak and we can’t maintain our promises for more than a couple of weeks.
Looking back, I remember one year when I vowed to go running for 2 miles a day. And I did great for about a week until the temperatures started dipping below 40 degrees and I just didn’t feel like running anymore (40 degrees is cold in California).
In the beginning, I’d skip a day and promise to make up for it later. Then that day would turn into a week. And pretty soon I’d just watch sports on tv and exercise via visual osmosis:)
You Will Is Not The Way
Here’s the thing. When it comes to making positive changes in your life, you can’t rely on your willpower. Relying on your willpower essentially means that you are fighting against your desires.
And if you continuously have to force yourself time after time, you will eventually break down and give up. This has happened to me so many times in my life that I don’t even bother making silly promises anymore.
Now I’m no psychology expert. In fact, I’m just a regular guy with 2 kids who sells hankies and writes for a living.
But I would like to share with you some of the ways that I’ve gotten my lazy ass off the couch to actually accomplish a few things without forcing myself to rely on my strength of will.
Too Much Intensity Is Bad
First off when it comes to making major changes to your life, excessive intensity can often backfire.
- When you’re excited and full of energy, you’re more inclined to expect fast results which almost never happens.
- When you are intense, you’re more inclined to waste energy doing things that are not sustainable in the long run.
- When the intensity finally fades, the withdrawal symptoms may cause you to give up altogether.
For example when I was on my quest for six pack abs early last year, my intensity almost ruined it for me.
I took drastic measures and tried to lose weight by drinking “miracle weight loss shakes”, cutting out all carbs, and doing more situps than any Chinese man has done before.
And here’s what happened. The miracle shakes tasted disgusting. Not eating carbs made me extremely irritable and doing situps just built muscle under my layers of blubber and made me look fatter.
I hated every minute of it and when I didn’t see any results, I wanted to give up after just 2 weeks.
Instead of channeling your intensity towards activities you can’t sustain and forcing yourself to do something unpleasant, there’s a better way.
Think In Terms Of Systems Not Goals
If you want to make progress with your resolutions this year, start creating systems and stop setting meaningless goals. If you can create a maintainable routine, you don’t need goals. Good things will happen gradually on their own.
In my experience, the most successful people I know rarely have to force themselves to accomplish anything. Instead they have a methodology set in place so that their achievements are a forgone conclusion. They set their minds on auto-pilot and success is just a matter a time.
On my podcast, I’ve interviewed over 50 successful entrepreneurs and guess what? They all share one common trait. They establish a set of habits to ensure forward progress without having to think about it.
So how can you create your own system? The first step is to obtain the necessary knowledge.
For example if you want to lose weight, then you should learn more about the foods that you eat. You should consult fitness experts to learn how they manage to sustain a healthy diet without cheating.
If you want to start a profitable business, then you should learn from someone who has been there before. Find out what successful entrepreneurs are doing to constantly improve their businesses. Stop flailing about and wasting your energy on activities that are diverting you from your end destination.
As you start gaining knowledge, you will soon discover that all successful people do not rely on their strength of will alone. Instead, they take consistent action and let nature take its course.
Here are some of my own systems and routines in the realm of weight loss and starting businesses.
My System For Losing Weight
I developed my own weight loss system shortly after consulting a few of my fitness friends. First off, I cut out all of the nasty shakes. Drinking anything where you have to hold your breath and think happy thoughts to prevent yourself from gagging is generally not going to be maintainable.
I also realized that completely removing carbs out of my diet was not going to be sustainable in the long run either.
So I started looking for foods low in carbs that I could snack on to relieve my urges of stuffing my face with pizza, ice cream and pasta.
It turns out that peanuts became my saving grace. Instead of starving myself and relying on my willpower to stop me from eating fat inducing foods, I told myself that I could eat as many peanuts as I wanted to whenever I was hungry.
For those of you who are unaware, peanuts not only taste great but they are low in carbs and they tend to suppress your appetite. So today, I always carry around a pack of peanuts wherever I go.
Anyway to sum it all up, my system for 6 pack abs is very simple. I avoid simple carbohydrates as much as possible from every meal. And whenever I have a craving or if I’m hungry, I simply start pounding the peanuts.
And if I break down and “accidentally” stuff my face with ice cream or pizza, I simply go out and exercise for an hour or so to make up for it.
Now the success of my routine is highly dependent on avoiding excessive hunger. After all, avoiding foods that go against your fitness goals is much easier when you are not hungry. Willpower always breaks down during periods of duress so you have to avoid these situations as often as you can.
Since I achieved my goal over a year ago, I have stuck with this system to maintain my weight. As a result, I’m at roughly the same weight +-5 pounds from the time of my 6 pack post and rarely do I indulge myself with binge eating.
My Routine For Starting A Business
The first thing I do when I start any business is I set a 3-5 year time frame in my mind. If I’m not willing to stick with a business for 3-5 years, then I don’t even bother.
When it comes to starting a business, the intensity rule is especially important.
You can’t just sit down, work a few 100 hour weeks and call it a day. You have to pace yourself, accomplish a little bit everyday and choose a routine that you can maintain indefinitely.
When I first started this blog, I was writing 5 days a week in addition to helping my wife run our ecommerce store and working my full time job.
And those of you who have followed me for a while also know that I strongly dislike writing:) Long story short, I was so excited about the prospect of building a huge audience and making money from my blog that I maintained this torrid pace for over a month.
And by the end of that month, nothing had really changed. People still weren’t reading, I was expecting better results, and once the intensity wore off, I was reluctant to ever write again.
Anyway after a brief period of rest, I did a complete 180 and decided to post just once a week. By publishing at a much lower frequency, I actually started to enjoy writing more and I had no problems maintaining a consistent schedule.
And the results? While I made very little money for the first 2 years, slow and steady progress allowed my blog to make significant money during year 3 and beyond.
Here’s the truth about blogging. Most people give up after just 6 months but little do they realize that blogging is like a stock that constantly rises. If you stick with it long enough, the rewards will come.
The same philosophy holds true for our online store. For my wife and I, we’re always more concerned about making consistent forward progress than we are about making rapid changes to our business.
Even though I still work a full time job, I’ve established a routine where I always set aside some amount of time every week to make improvements to our online store. Sometimes progress is slow and change is gradual, but our little shop continues to grow at a slow and steady pace.
If you actually want to fulfill your resolutions this year, stop setting goals and start developing routines. As a victim of human nature, I’ve given up on many things that weren’t automated or didn’t feel right.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that I’ve never accomplished anything meaningful in my life that didn’t involve a lasting and permanent change to my lifestyle.
What are some of your resolutions for this year? I’d love to hear about them and how you plan maintaining them for the long haul.
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