As a photographer I have the privilege of meeting and photographing a lot of different people, some of them athletes, but also business, entrepreneurs, politicians, and many other inspiring individuals. I enjoy talking with people as I photograph them and learning what inspires them, motivates them and where they've come from in life. For me, I take each session as an opportunity to learn something with the theory that each person I meet can teach me something of value.
This time of year most people are making promises (otherwise known as resolutions) about life changes they plan to make in the year forward. These promises are unique as they tend to be promises to ourselves not others. Self improvement goals are meant to add to the quality of our lives. It's a time of internal reflection, identifying what we want to be different and creating a plan of action.
I believe that the most successful people in life aren't necessarily special or different than the rest of us. I've learned from meeting hundreds of amazing individuals that there are key traits about them that tend to separate them from those that just wander through life never attempting to achieve their dreams. When it comes to a New Years Resolution there are ways to increase your odds of success.
- Realize you're going to have days where you don't want to do what you've promised. My approach when that happens is to tell myself that all I need to do is focus on today, get today's workout or food choice done and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. When you look ahead to having to follow through on a plan for the next month/year/lifetime it can be daunting. Focus on now. This very moment.
- Write down your plan. When we just say to ourselves "I'm going to lose 10 pounds, not eat sweets, run every day, write every day" without writing the plan down in a concrete way it's like making a half commitment. When I start a new marathon training plan I put it in writing. Even if that plan evolves I go back and write it again like I have with my current training for Boston. Also I like to track my progress in writing. There are several apps out there for tracking and reminding yourself of plans. I use Strava for tracking fitness goals. You don't have to actually write it in pen and paper, electronically is fine.
- Make your plan public, at least to one person. When we declare our goals people tend to ask how it is going. My wife just completed a goal of running every day for a month (her last day is today) and she told me about it when she started. I found myself curious about how she was doing and if we are going to bed at the end of the day and I hadn't noticed her running I'd ask her if she got her workout in (she had, just when I was at work). Having someone to keep you accountable is great. I know for myself I've been considering having an official accountability partner to check in with once per week on our goals.
- Make sure your big change is actually something you want. I have met some athletes, photographers and business people that are incredibly successful and one thing is consistent between them, they are all in love with what they are doing. If you are creating a resolution born out of reluctant change you're much more likely to fail. I believe that the pain of change has to be less than the pain of staying the same for our motivation to really blossom. We should be doing something we are truly passionate about, not floundering within other peoples dreams. If you're trying to lose weight just because you think you should, not because you want too then you're going to have a tough time. I really enjoy writing so my writing goal is more about habit forming than convincing myself to do something I like.
- Surround yourself with like minded people. This is different than declaring your goal publicly. I have a group of running friends that share my passion for the sport. I have photographer friends that are equally passionate artists. It's much easier to progress as a tribe than as a solo task master. I'm not suggesting you have to do everything as a group, you really don't. I often run alone and work alone, but having a group around me on occasion is much better than progressing in isolation.