The other day I was not surprisingly browsing through Instagram when I saw a note from Instagram itself pop up. Every weekend they have a photography challenge and last weekend’s was fittingly enough Resolutions. I like to join in the challenges when I can and so I thought about it and quickly came to the conclusion that I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. At first I thought that was a problem and so I started to think of ones I could quickly adopt and came to the second realization that everything I want to accomplish, whether it be personally or professionally, I’m already trying to do. As I sat there in my pondering chair (not a real thing) I arrived at a final conclusion – that resolutions aren’t helpful, they’re instead harmful and I can’t believe that any successful person waits until January 1 to start changing their lives. So with that in mind I decided to write this post about living a life of resolutions, of living a happier life and ultimately how to be successful in whatever it is you want to do or accomplish.
No, this isn’t an Al Gore style lament about the state of the planet; instead the title of this section refers to basic human behavior. I don’t know if it’s cultural, a sign of the times or what, but from my experience most people have fundamental problems with thinking in the long term. We all like to say that we plan, we budget, we make changes in order to get things done, but the truth is that 99% of the time we give up too fast and we never see things through. I get a lot of emails from folks asking how to transition from a 9-5 life to a location independent career like the one I currently have. The fact that they’re reaching out and asking that question is, I think, part of the problem. They made a resolution to change their life, but they don’t want to take the time to actually consider how to do that, how to plan for that. It’s a question I can’t answer for them either – I don’t know who they are or what their expertise may be, so I have no way of knowing how they can make such a transition. But the specifics aren’t important, what is important is how they approach the challenge.
We are all given a lot of challenges in life, things we want to change or improve. Whether it’s lose weight, meet someone special, travel the world or find that one dream job. They’re challenges that speak to the fundamentals of who we are as people and we usually blame them for a lot of the angst in our life. That’s probably not a fair thing to do. It’s been my experience that it’s not usually one’s weight or job that dictates how happy they may be or not. I’ve known plenty of unattractive people who are happy in their lives and I’ve meet many other people with what I consider to be blah jobs who, if given the choice, wouldn’t change a thing. So what makes them different from those who are so desperate for change that they would do anything?
Attitude is Everything
It’s corny and it’s a little too hippy dippy even for me, but I think at the crux of this problem is one’s attitude. I know people who have everything in the world. They live better than 99.9% of the rest of the world and yet they aren’t happy. Millions of people would give limbs to change positions with them, and yet they are cranky and unhappy. Why is that? It’s because their attitude sucks. They never see or even look for the positive, instead it’s all negativity all of the time. Heretofore I wouldn’t normally consider myself an optimistic person, but for whatever reason I have changed over time. I think it’s my own unique life experiences that have contributed to it, but nowadays I almost always look for that sometimes-elusive silver lining. And I’ve noticed something not just from my own experience, but in watching others as well – positive people see more success than do the Eeyores of the world. Maybe the universe is rewarding positive intent but, more likely, I think it’s because those with a rosier outlook see opportunities where the negative people do not. Positive people are willing to take chances because they don’t see the inherent pitfalls, they only see potential success. That makes a huge difference and is fundamentally, I think, what lays the groundwork for living a life of positive change instead of one that is reactionary and negative.
Live A Life Of Resolutions
I think that most highly successful people also have strong elements of positivity or, at the very least, they retain their ability to see the glass half full instead of empty. That leads then to a life of possibilities, a yearlong effort of identifying, tackling and fulfilling their own personal resolutions. Case in point, a couple of years ago I wasn’t happy with how much weight I had gained. I looked good in college and for several years that followed, but at some point that changed and I suddenly wasn’t happy about it. So, in the summer of 2013, I made a resolution to get back into shape. It’s taken a year and a half, but I’m happy again with my health and how I look. It’s not the most important part of life, but it did have a tremendous effect on me and so it was important. But I didn’t wait until January 1 to hit the gym, I didn’t wait for someone else to tell me that now was the time to start making important life decisions. I realized that there is no time like the present and immediately changed aspects of my life for the better.
This can be said for any aspect of our lives, anything we don’t like. We can’t wait for New Year’s to start doing something positive, especially since it’s likely we won’t keep up with it. No, instead throughout the year you need to consider what is it about yourself or your life that you want to change and then methodically identify ways to make those changes. It isn’t rocket science, it’s a fundamental truth that I think most of us want to ignore, but it really and truly is the only way to achieve a more permanent form of success.
And so to those folks looking for someone to hand them the answers to their life’s problems on a silver platter, this cannot be done. It took me several years to transition from a 9-5 job to one of my own devising and along the way I made plenty of mistakes and nearly gave up on more than one occasion. But I kept moving forward, always forward, with dogged determination because I had (and have) the belief that as long as I worked hard enough, everything would be ok. That’s a positive outlook on life, and it’s this combination of self-realization, hard work and positivity that hasn’t just made all the difference in my life, but which I believe will make all the difference in your life as well.
3 thoughts on “Why Successful People Don’t Have New Year’s Resolutions”
Good stuff, Matt. Happy New Year. Starting with the title, success means different things to different people, too. I learned that when voting for “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school. A teacher offered that success is not necessarily fame or financial; it depends on the individual.
Great post Matt. It may sound trite, but indeed it is all about attitude. Everything that we do starts with a choice. Keep up the great work, your site is very well done.
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