It’s hard to believe the first month of the year has already gone. Most people who made New Year resolutions have already blown them. I know this sounds depressing. It’s true. The statistics really aren’t great for the percentage of people who are still sticking to their resolutions 4 weeks into a new year. Now that you’ve faced the stark reality, let’s look at the bright side. You have still got eleven months of the year to make this your best year ever. How? Keep reading.
The human brain is the most amazing computer that ever existed. It is made up of 80-100 million neurones or nerve cells that are constantly receiving and sending information to other parts of the body. It is capable of processing more information than the most sophisticated computer, and has a way of filtering information so that it doesn’t become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that comes its way every second. Especially in the age of information technology we live in, this is a real threat.
For all this wonderful ability of the brain to handle an enormous amount of information, we need to be wise about how we use this incredible organ. The brain for all its efficiency does have its limits. This brings me to the first thing you need if 2019 is going to be all you would like it to be. Focus. Laser focus.
You need to be brutal about keeping your focus on what’s really important. Yes there are a myriad of things you could get involved with, goals you could pursue – some of then great goals - but you are going to have to know exactly what direction you should be headed in and aim for that direction with laser precision. This will involve you applying the Pareto principle – focusing 80 % of your time on the top producing 20% aspects of your work, business or relationships. It could also mean cutting back on things that take your time, without commensurate results. I know, those box sets you indulge in every evening for hours on end may need to go. Focussing your attention on one thing generally means something else has to be ignored.
Take the professional athlete, who focuses on the finish line and refuses to be distracted by anything or anyone. Winning is on their mind, nothing else. Its something called focussed attention and you have to work at it, as it doesn’t always come naturally. It is the brain's ability to concentrate its attention on a target stimulus for any period of time, without allowing distractions. The more you focus your attention and therefore your energies on that thing, the more likely you are to succeed at it. That’s how laser machines work – all the energy in the machine is focused on one point and eventually leads to that area being broken down. It works every time. Ask yourself, what will my focus be this year? Make sure its something worthwhile that will stretch you and that the achievement of that goal or purpose will bring fulfilment. Then give it all you’ve got until you see it happen. Then pick another focus and do the same thing.
The second thing you need in order to make 2019 your best year ever is flexibility. ‘Blessed are the flexible for they will bend and not break’ is a mantra I try to live by. We make great plans, but sometimes even the best-laid plans fail. We need to be able to find another way of achieving the same end result. When you are travelling somewhere and you run into a roadblock, you don’t turn around and drive home (well not of your destination was really important to you). Instead you try and find another way. You might check your satellite navigation system, ask a friend’s advise or do some other research to find out how else you can get to your destination. It might take longer than you envisaged, but you’ll eventually get to your intended destination. Build flexibility into your day; into your life. You’ll be less frustrated that way. And you’ll achieve more too.
The final thing that you need to make this year better than you ever imagined is to finish well. I am a great starter. I love the thrill of starting new things, but I am not such a great finisher. I recognise that about myself and I am doing my best to change that. Sometimes I win, and other times I just have to partner with someone who is better at finishing than I am. That way, I start and they finish and everyone is happy. How good are you at finishing what you started? Another way of finding out how good you are at finishing is to look at your life and count how many unfinished projects you have lying on dusty shelves. It’s great to start well, but unless you learn to finish well, you’ll never have the satisfaction of looking back at your year and letting out a Tarzan or Jane sounding ‘I did it!’
Nobody ever won a race they never finished. You have to be ‘in it to win it’ might sound like an old cliché but it is one that could change your life. Finishing well calls for perseverance and steadfastness long after the thrill of starting has worn off. It’s easier for some than for others, but every single one of us has the ability to finish – well. Yes it is tempting to put one thing down and pick up another, especially when that initial thing doesn’t seem to be turning out like you thought it would, or is taking too long, or it’s just too hard. Don’t be tempted to stop until it’s done. Otherwise quitting becomes a habit. It’s always easier to quit than it is to hang in there. Especially if you’ve quit other things before. Just like quitting can become habit, finishing can as well. Choose the latter.
So you’ve got eleven more months left of the year. What will you do with those months? My advice – focus on what matters, one thing at a time, practice flexibility and finish well. Then you’ll look back in December and be able to say – ‘this really was my best year ever!”