How To Build Momentum In 2019
So we’re 4 days into a new year, 2019 to be exact, and as someone who works in the fitness industry (mainly) I am inundated with posts, messages, and conversations about new goals for the new year. Generally when the topic of new year’s goals comes up I find there are two camps:
New Year, Same Goals. These are the people that for lack of a better word, like to shit on the concept, and the people for that matter, who see a new year as a perfectly good time to make new goals. Their fundamental argument is that a new year is no different than a new minute, and you don’t need the four numbers after the month and day to start making changes. They are not wrong.
New Year, New Goals. These are the people who are suddenly gung-ho about the calendar re-setting and therefore see this as a unique opportunity to become a new person, complete with a newly attached value structure. The notion that they have 365 new days to change something about themselves has them suddenly motivated them to do so. A new year is a perfectly reasonable time to to set some new goals as I would challenge 99% of us operate our lives on a calendar based structure. So, I would also say they are not wrong.
Attaching ourselves to either camp certainly does not mean we will meet any of our goals. It is completely reasonable to say that the person who has made no new goals is just as close to meeting those goals as the person who has just been inspired to set goals. I would offer that the new year provides new motivation to both parties. Camp 1 is re-inspired as they feel some need to defend their ongoing pursuit of currently pursued outcomes, and Camp 2 is of course inspired by the novelty of something new to work towards.
In both cases had 2018 been as productive as possible both parties would need to set new goals for 2019 as they would have accomplished their previous goals in the previous calendar year. That of course does not include the vast minority who have set macro based goals on a timeline of multiple years if not decades. In this case, they may have been successful in meeting micro goals (one year for example), that support their macro goal which for the sake of example we will say is a five year goal. It can also be argued that even that camp will need to set out towards new goals in 2019 because these micro level one year goals will change year to year in support of the five year goal.
Given that explanation there would be a third camp I suppose who set micro level goals (one year for example) at a random point in the past year and thus is operating on a timeline independent of the calendar year. For the sake of clarity - we will exclude this camp from today’s discussion.
In either case, if you accept my description of the landscape, it would suggest that when you set your goals is arbitrary, and instead how you set your goals, and what you set your goals to be is what is paramount. If you set goals for the new year - great, I did. If you didn’t, and instead choose to stay in pursuit of current goals that’s also great, I did that as well.
Setting goals is necessary. It is akin to taking aim, and the sharper your aim the more likely you are to hit your target. Furthermore the finer tuned your skill set is in conjunction with a clearer aim the likelihood of hitting your target increases further if not more than simply having a clear aim alone. Take this story for example:
Two men enter a shooting competition. One man has handled fire arms for most of his life. He is revered by his peers as a marksman and someone with fine tuned skills in marksmanship. The other man is fairly novice. Each are yielding high powered long range rifles. The novice, who is likely in a competition above his skill level places $100 on the outcome. The conditions are poor, including moderate winds, rain and low visibility. Each are asked to take identical shots under identical conditions, except for the fact that the marksman is using a manual sight, and the novice is using the advanced scope. The novice believes regardless of his skill set the advantage in hardware is superior. Each takes their shot and precede to walk 400m to their respective target to see the result. Who is more accurate? The marksman, even though he is at a technological disadvantage still comes out on top. Why? His skill set is far superior to the novice. He is able to account for the weather, he is able to use more past experience to draw from, his hand is more steady on the trigger squeeze, his breath is more in tune with the rhythm of the shot. Although the novice likely was able to take better aim - the result did not turn out in his favor.
Now if either of these men had both the skill set and the superior aim they would hit the target every time.
In order to build momentum is 2019 we need both a clear aim, and a well developed skill set to take the shot. So what can you do to get started?
In order to get where you WANT to be, you have to have a clear picture of where you DON’T WANT to be.
What’s the worst case scenario? What are you AFRAID of being? It’s actually not that powerful to simply have a clear picture of where you want to be. It’s twice as powerful to know what you’re moving AWAY from AND what you’re moving TOWARDS. Take finances for example. This is something I have set out to work on in 2019, with the goal of becoming financially solvent in less than 12 months. It’s not that difficult for me to imagine my wife and I being completely debt free. It’s motivating, sure, but we’ve survived just fine to this point. With that in mind, I would be relying completely on the notion that somehow life will be vastly different without any debt. It would be different, but very little relies on it happening. Instead what I did was write in detail everything that my current financial standing causes me to feel. Anxious, pinned, etc. What does my life look like in five years if I don’t make any changes to my current situation. That is motivating. I don’t want to feel like this anymore, I don’t want to be in the same situation five years from now that I am in now. You run faster when you’re being chased, bottom line. Evaluate your 2019 goals. If you have written them down, which you should have, then elaborate a bit. Where will you be if you don’t meet these goals, what are you running away from?
2. Create Daily Anchors
The concept of daily anchors is something that has really improved by well being. Daily anchors are something that we do everyday to keep us on track. The idea is that, as the name implies, anchors will keep us attached to our mission for 2019 and beyond. Your anchors are something you need to do everyday - you don’t always need to do them well, but you need to do them. Will you miss one here and there, ya most likely you will. That’s also ok, just get back on track and do them daily. Here are some examples in my own life.
My first anchor is completing my journal daily. I use a product called “The 5 Second Journal”. You can check it out here:
Get your own copy here: 5 Second Journal
I like this journal because it asks me to reflect on my day, life and how I feel. It helps me set tasks, as well as plan my day. Admittedly I find the personal challenges a bit ridiculous so I skip that. However, its small, helpful, affordable and in my opinion (and I have tried many planners) the best one on the market. Here’s a snapshot of the lay out:
Making it a point to fill in my journal everyday has been a great way to relieve anxiety and feel more in control of each day. Furthermore, it helps me objectively look at how I feel and reflect on why that is the case. The mental relief I receive from using this journal makes it possible for me to take each day with a clear mind and execute on the small daily tasks I need to accomplish to meet my larger goals.
My next anchor is meditation. I plan to elaborate on this subject over the course of the year here, so I won’t get into the details. I meditate daily for 10min. That’s it. Meditating has been the best way for me to SLOW DOWN and remind myself that all the emotions I am feeling are temporary and behind it all I am the same great person capable of making an impact. I personally use Head Space as I like the ability to track my progress and see it as a source of accountability. That said, it’s not necessary to use an application to guide meditation. I would however do a little bit of reading on the subject of mindfulness. here is a great place to start:
Best Book On Mindfulness: Get It Here
My final anchor is education. Which for the sake of use as a daily anchor I do in the form of podcasts. I have roughly a 30 min drive to the gym and a 30 min drive home. That equals one hour of learning per day. This has been crucial for two main reasons. One, it helps me get better at my job, and my life. Two, it exercises my mind in a different way and causes me to critically think. I have two podcasts going at all times: training related on the way to work, and life related on the way home. As an example I listened to The Resilient Physical Therapy and Performance Podcast on the way to the gym yesterday, and Radical Personal Finance on the way home. You can find a link to everything I am reading and listening to at any given time by heading to the Navigation bar on this site and clicking the “Reading / Listening List”.
By making a point to hit my three anchors everyday, I am set up for success. My mind is clear, my aim is tight and my skills are continually sharpened.
3. Stack New Habits
The last thing I want to offer you to help build momentum in 2019 is to evaluate your habits. This is a real deal breaker. Given our first discussion on the arbitrary nature of goal setting, it’s what you do every day that will determine whether or not you succeed. In order to meet your 2019 goals you need to break them down into daily actionable items. Then you need to figure out how you are going to make those new daily actions routine. If they do not become routine you will not do them consistently. Why? Because each day we have a limited resource called energy - both physical and mental energy. What we do consciously takes a fair amount of our energy to make happen. Writing this blog post for example. I haven’t written a post in years…literally. It’s taking a lot out of me! However, think about all the things you do unconsciously. Driving for example, do you think about driving the car to work? How about driving to a new place? One takes a lot more energy than the other. Scary to think about really.
Creating new habits can be challenging, but there is a great strategy to make them routine faster. Stack the new habits with already well established ones. Let’s look at all my previous examples of the daily anchors. Each of those three things were entirely new for me in 2018. I didn’t do any of those consistently. However, I was able to establish those as daily anchors in a matter of a month. I wasn’t perfect, meditation actually took some work, which I’ll talk about in a second.
Let’s start with the journal. When I first started with my journal, I very quickly found the value in the exercise. It was overwhelmingly positive for me. However, I did it at different time every day. Like a new goal, because it was new and novel I was motivated to do it. I didn’t go a day without doing it, even if I had to squeeze it in to random times. Over the course of a few weeks I found myself neglecting the journal more and more. The novelty had worn off, and it became more of a chore. I sat down and thought about it, and decided that chore or not, it was worth it because it made my life better. I had to find a way to make it a routine. What was something I did daily? Specifically what was something I did every morning. For me, it was coffee. I made coffee. So…I put my journal near the coffee, or near where I drank the coffee. Now my habit of drinking coffee was anchoring my journaling. I see the journal, I make the coffee I do the journal while I make and drink my coffee.
How about podcasts? Well funny you ask. I actually didn’t choose podcasts. I located through self evaluation (another topic for another time) that in order to be less anxious, stressed, etc. I needed to exercise my mind more often. I am WICKED introverted and my mind is going and hungry all the time. I needed something to feed it, every day. I thought reading was the answer - but here’s the problem. I own a small business, take my training seriously and want to spend time with my wife. Reading is important to me but as far as habits go, it was hard for me to figure out where I could stack it. What’s something I do unconsciously every day? Drive to work. When I located something I do routinely, without thinking, like making coffee I knew I had an opportunity to insert a more conscious habit. I developed my habit of podcasts. Training related on the way to work, and life related on the way home. I even write that in my daily schedule every day to make sure it happens.
Lastly, was meditation. Meditation was something I was drawn to again because of my struggles with anxiety and depression. I often felt like I was far from present, and would be swept away in racing thoughts, busyness, and negativity. My first attempt at meditation worked for awhile. Again I thought, what do I do daily where this could easily fit into? I decided that training would be a good option. I train almost everyday, and at the very least I have the same block of free time starting at 10a daily that I can meditate before hitting the weights or the next activity. It worked for a bit, but it illustrated to me that in order to stack a habit successfully it needs to be done with something that you do CONSISTENTLY and UNCONSCIOUSLY. So after a falling out with my meditation anchor, I did some more self evaluating. What did I do every day without even thinking about it? It took me awhile to find it, because the thing was actually something I resented. I use my phone as an alarm, and without thinking, every day I would turn off my alarm and in a matter of seconds I would be on social media or email. A nasty habit. If you do that - stop that - immediately. Anyway, I turn off my alarm daily, on my phone, where the Headspace application lives. So…I used the “Screen Time” feature and set all applications to be unavailable to me until 20min after waking except for Headspace. Now when I wake up I get out of bed, turn off my alarm go into the next room and meditate 10min. Done.
The process will always be imperfect, but if the intent is there you will make it happen. If you know what you want and what you don’t want, CLEARLY, then you will find a way to do it. 2019 has just begun, and whether you have new goals, old goals, are in the middle of goals, it doesn’t matter.
Figure out what you want, that’s akin to looking through the manual sight. Figure out what you don’t want, and turn that sight into a scope. Develop your skills by stacking new habits and creating anchors. A skilled marksman with a scope is dangerous cat. That’s you in 2019 - now get started.