Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.
This new year, do something different: stop setting goals.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then making resolutions for another year is a sure-fire way to drive yourself crazy. I did it for years, and it got me nothing.
Resolutions are pipe dreams, and goals are a waste of time. They are designed to trick you into believing all you need to change your life is a plan.
But plans don’t work. Life is too chaotic and busy. For most of us, it’s impossible to stick to a list of goals for more than a few weeks, not to mention an entire year.
So how do you change your life? By controlling what you can: your daily habits.
The Pointlessness of Plans
Most good things happen without a plan: friendships, falling in love, finding a job, and so on. If you want to make your new year count, you’ll need to be intentional — not by setting goals, but by making space in your life for what really matters.
This was how I was able to get into shape, launch a blog, train for a half-marathon, get a book deal, and keep my day job this year — while loving every minute of it.
Most productivity systems focus on beginning with the “end in mind” and setting goals to get there. Many are based on the assumption that in order to get what you want later, you have to give up what you want now. You work the plan, endure pain, and win.
But this is not the only path you can take.
I just finished one of the best years of my life, and most of it was completely unplanned. How did I do it? By creating new disciplines I actually liked doing. I wasn’t only fixated on the end results; I also enjoyed the process.
This is the secret to a healthy, productive life and to making an impact on the world. Create good, sustainable habits that you enjoy, and you’ll end up with a life you can be proud of.
Instead of Goals
There is an alternative to setting goals that will bring you closer to the life you want. Focus on a few practices you can enjoy doing on a regular basis. The trick here is consistency. These four helped me:
- Get up early. When the world wakes up, distractions abound. If you are going to focus on creating a new life for yourself, you’ll need to find the time. The best way to do this is to work while others are sleeping. At first, I didn’t like waking up before the sun, but eventually my body adjusted and I began looking forward to the solitude.
- Over-commit. The adage “under-promise and over-deliver” is a farce. It only propagates the status quo. Real difference-makers push boundaries. They test, prod, and poke until something gives. You can do this, too, by saying “yes” to more things than you’re comfortable with. Learn to stretch yourself. You might be surprised by what you’re actually capable of. Your confidence will grow, too.
- Talk to strangers. Relationships are what make the world go round. This is true for your career, personal well-being, and inner life. When you meet new people, you make connections that can lead to all kinds of future breakthroughs. Even when it’s uncomfortable, reach out and introduce yourself to new people. The worst they can say is “no.” Fortunately, many won’t.
- Practice generosity. Give away your time, money, services, and ideas. When you do this, you will get a lot more than you give. People will learn to trust you, and if you really help them, they will tell others about you. This will build your reputation, and you will have more friends than you know what to do with. And as the saying goes, what goes around really does come around.
After a year of doing these things, I ended up with a life I couldn’t have imagined or planned for. And I had a blast doing it. So I’m going to do it all over again, without setting a single goal.
The best year of your life is within reach — if you are willing to give up on the craziness of plans and instead focus on creating new habits. The first step is to begin.