An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions — Finish Some Tasks First

Obviously, this is the time of year when people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions and goals for 2017. But I’ve been thinking more about the role of perseverance in our lives, and in the lives of those who accomplish meaningful accomplishments, than I am thinking about starting a list of new “to do’s”. (I’ve written previously on the topic, describing the key role perseverance has played in the life stories of dozens of financially successful individuals I have interviewed over the past 15 years, so it may be worthwhile to review that foundation.)

While resolving to start new habits or achieve new goals is obviously a worthy endeavor, I believe sticking to and finishing those tasks not yet completed (that we felt were of high importance last year) may be a better use of our time and energy. For, you see, our culture idolizes the “new” and really doesn’t think much of the boring, “steady as she goes”, day in / day out, plodding that characterizes much of life.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the mainstream media and our culture generally undermines the development of perseverance (or, ironically, the desire to continue to persevere, for some of us.) We are still enamored and enticed with the latest instant millionaire (or billionaire) who hit it big — either through a high tech start-up, a 16 year old megastar in music, or possibly an 18 -22 year old athlete who signs a multi-year, multimillion dollar contract. Their instant financial success is waved in front of us like the light of a bug zapper in front of a moth. We are drawn and mesmerized by the light, forgetting everything else we were doing prior to seeing it.

Why is this important? Because most of life is lived “daily”, one small step or accomplishment at a time. And the arbitrary date of January 1, 2017 on the Gregorian calendar really doesn’t separate what was important for our success last year from what is important for our success now (whatever that may be — finishing a degree, continuing to work your marketing plan, etc.)

I guess I am partly reacting to the numerous conversations I have had with young adults (as I get older, the age range broadens) who, on the one hand, are confused about “where they are going” and frustrated with their lack of progress in finding a meaningful, financially sustainable career, and on the other hand, think “success” could be instant if they just found the right opportunity. There is very little sense of taking a journey step by step.

But as John D. Rockefeller said: “I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” And perseverance is cited by Angela Duckworth in her best seller, Grit, as one of the two key components for life success.

So I would counsel: Keep doing what you were doing in November and December 2016 (assuming they are activities that lead you to the next step on the path) and forget about finding the new, “magic” solution to implement in January 2017.  That’s my plan.

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