In the Scheme of Things: About Those Resolutions

Some of us started 2019 with a fresh-start mindset. We made New Year’s resolutions with well-intentioned, often passionate, decisions to change or improve something in ourselves or our lives. At this point, 25% of us are still working on our New Year goals, and by year’s end, only 8% will achieve what they set out to accomplish with their resolutions.

I won’t be one of them. I gave up New Year’s resolutions a decade or two ago, not because I don’t want to improve or change, but because I’ve learned making my goals, dreams, and aspirations happen isn’t a once-a-year thing. For me, a fresh start can be any time of year. There’s power in that.

You can start anew toward life dreams, aspirational goals, unsolved problems, or relationship building anytime. The reality is we don’t need a new year to regroup, start fresh, or begin again. We can ignite these resolutions and aspirations any day we choose.

It was Walt Disney who influenced my life early on in that regard. Maybe because when I was five, my favorite uncle took me to a wondrous new place called Disneyland. Maybe because I grew up in Southern California, visiting it every few years, watching a man’s vision come to life and grow. Or maybe because I learned that “when you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are.” Growing up on the Wonderful World of Disney, I learned how to dream.

Yet as I got older, I realized it wasn’t just the dreaming and wishing that made the dreams possible. It was the doing. Wishing and hoping are poor strategies for making resolutions, goals, or dreams come true. Still many approach them that way. They wish they had time to do the things they want to do. They hope someone notices how hard they work and rewards them for it. They wish to be happier, healthier, or thinner. They hope the world changes, the environment improves, a significant other comes to her senses, the problem goes away, or someone else solves it.

While it’s not true ostriches hide their heads in the sand, many of us appear to, wondering why we never land our dreams, achieve our resolutions, or accomplish our goals. Top athletes don’t get that way by wishing and hoping; nor do great musicians, actors, chefs, teachers, parents, or artisans. And my next book won’t get written by wishing it so.

In the scheme of things, the reality is that goals are achieved, lives are transformed, and dreams do come true, but there is a secret often missed about how. They happen through the magic of persistence, determination, commitment, passion, practice, focus, and hard work. Significant change and lasting improvement happens a step at a time, over years, not weeks.

What I’ve learned for my life is this: choices determine results, and our tomorrows tend to be housed in what we do today. While wishing and hoping makes you a dreamer, acting and doing makes you someone who can turn your dreams into reality. Still want your resolutions to happen? Restart them. Own them. Persistent at them. And keep working on them.

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