Personal Development

Big Mistakes To Avoid Today

It’s New Year’s Day. And if you haven’t already set some New Year’s Resolutions while staying up too late last night, you’ll probably find yourself thinking about the next twelve months sometime today. And if you’re not careful, you’re bound to fall into one of these common traps.

Trap 1: Letting Shame Chart Your Course

It’s easy to let shame write the story of the last year. You think back on the last twelve months of meals (and the sheer amount of sugar you consumed in December) and decide: This year, I’ll eat healthy. You think about your lack of productivity during the workday and resolve: This year, I’ll use my phone less. You reflect on the important moments you’ve missed with your family and tell yourself: This year, I’ll work fewer hours.

They’re all great aspirations. In fact, they’re all great examples of learning from the past. But living to avoid shame or regret stops short of pursuing a flourishing life.

Regret and shame often arise because we have acted in way out of step with who we aspire to be. As a result, shame and regret can simultaneously reveal what we desire and who we desire to be.

“I’ll eat healthy.” A little digging reveals you want to steward your health well and want to be someone who chooses what’s better instead of what’s easy. “I’ll use my phone less.” Really, you want to make your highest contribution and become a person who has the grit to stick it out when it’s hard. “I’ll work fewer hours.” You want to spend more time fully present with your family and become someone who lives an integrated life.

The distinctions might seem insignificant, but they’re not. Desire is the great mover of the human heart. Fear, regret, and shame might get us started, but they don’t nurture the sustained effort, flexibility, and transformation we need to stay the course. They drive us to operate from a place of scarcity instead of abundance.

Spend enough time with the past to let it teach you. But let your desire shape what you decide to dare for the coming year.

Trap 2: Dreaming Instead of Strategizing

We begin by noticing what we want. But dreaming without acting can cripple us. Not simply because we fail to make progress but because we set ourselves up to fall prey to the limiting belief, “I’ll never really change.” When we dream without acting, we’re more likely to stop dreaming in the future.

Your dreams need to push you to act. But there’s a bridge between dreaming and acting.

Simply put, you need to turn your dreams into goals. Good goals follow the SMARTER framework: They are specific, measurable, actionable, risky, timebound, exciting, and relevant. Goals drive us to act. They move us to change. As we progress, our confidence grows. And when we achieve our goals, we become more likely to believe change is possible.

Do you see the positive feedback loop? Setting good goals empowers achievement. Achievement changes you. As a result, you become convinced you can achieve bigger goals, trusting yourself to rise to the challenge.

Trap 3: Doing Too Much

Reinvention is alluring, isn’t it? “New year, new me.” Who doesn’t want to leave their bad habits and painful experiences behind, accumulate all their favorite qualities, and wake up the person they’ve always wanted to be?

We can change. We do change all the time. But change in the right direction almost always takes effort and time. Both are finite resources. We need to guard against too much.

We don’t want to live in our comfort zone. But we also don’t want to cross from our discomfort zone into our delusional zone. We don’t want to create a plan out of step with reality. We need to consider the real constraints of our time and energy.

That’s why we recommend you set eight goals for the entire year, focusing on just two to three goals per quarter. This limitation focuses your energy and prevents you from becoming overwhelmed. A handful of changes that stick will better serve you than a dozen simultaneous changes you give up after one week.

Constraints can feel confining. But constraints are your friend. When you give up reinvention, you enable true growth. And this growth will linger with you lifelong.

As you think about your future, take note of your desire. Set goals that point the way. And pursue growth rather than reinvention.

Welcome to a new year. It’s full of possibility. What will you make of it?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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