It’s the ninth day of January, the beginning of a New Year—and the start of a new decade. Right about this time, the will and discipline of a week ago has dissipated, and if you are like most people, you have reverted to the comfort of old, well-ingrained habits. If you allow yourself to lose a contest with your habits, your year is going to be a repeat of last year—or maybe the last seven or eight years. The prerequisite for a better year is a better you, making you both the obstacle to better results, as well as the only force capable of changing your results.
What Are You Doing Differently?
Imagine that last year your every move was captured on video. Everything you did—or didn’t do—was visible to a neutral, third party who could assess what you did from day-to-day, your daily habits. That same objective observer has now fast-forwarded through the last seven days to look for what we might call “inconsistencies,” the things that you are doing differently this year. What would be the one, two, or three things that would cause your watcher to believe that you are going to have a very different year than the last?
Most humans, without regard to their promises or intentions, would not have much to report. Each day this year would look a lot like any random day chosen from the past year. Without your taking new actions, there will be no new results, which is how you can recycle your resolutions each year.
If you want to understand better how to change your habits, listen to my conversation with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, a book well worth your time and energy. In our discussion, we talk about the power of identity.
The Power of Identity
I am on a ketogenic diet. If you are Paleo, Vegan, Carnivore, or Keto, you are obligated to tell everyone you know, and almost everyone you meet about your restrictions and the many health benefits, regardless of how much the scientific research conflicts from one to the next. Because you identify as something, you try to act consistently with whom you tell others you are. If you want to understand this part of human psychology, pick up Influence: The Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.
There is a certain power in selecting an identity for yourself. You have to decide to become something other than what you are now. Because you are here reading a blog about sales, leadership, personal leadership, mindset, and productivity, we can discuss what you might choose as an identity, limiting the ideas to these topics:
- You might want to be one of the top salespeople in your company, and a lock for every President’s Club. If that is who you are going to become, it is going to require that you make substantial changes to what you do each day.
- If you are a leader, you might want to be the number one sales leader in the company, or maybe the most engaged leader, the one whom every person in their charge will credit with helping them reach their full potential (two goals that are not in any way mutually exclusive).
- The topic of personal leadership, for me, is a way to describe the pursuit and attainment of a life well-lived. It’s more than success in business alone, as it includes all the areas of your life. Maybe you want to design and build an exceptional life, the one of your dreams.
- Because of the time of year, you might decide to be sober, quit vaping, exercise or meditate daily, or spend more time with your family. These things would make you sober, a non-smoker, a gym rat, or a meditator.
Identity is an excellent place to start. But staying the course long enough to change your identity is going to require disciplines.
If you want to transform, changing your results and your life for the better, you need to select the disciplines that you will keep after you lose your motivation (which you may have already lost). Disciplines are the opposite of intentions, and they are what deliver your intentions.
The disciplines required in sales are well-known, even though most will not keep them. You have to prospect and have productive sales meetings. There is no connection between email and sales results, but you might think there is since so many salespeople spend all their time there. You must trade the habit of living in your inbox for the discipline of calling prospects and meeting with them. If you want to ensure you repeat last year, avoid the disciplines that better sales results require of you.
Becoming the kind of leader capable of helping everyone on your team reach their full potential requires the discipline of spending time with your team, getting to know them personally, and understanding their motivations. It also requires the ability to see something in them they don’t yet see in themselves, helping them become what you see, something we might call the discipline of high expectations. If you want them to remember you as something less, the natural habit to keep is to live behind your keyboard, avoiding spending time with your team.
There are far too many disciplines to list when it comes to personal leadership, i.e., living a successful life. The shortlist here would include the discipline of becoming the best version of yourself, living the life you want for yourself and those you love, and making the contribution you are here to make.
The legendary artist Billy Joel was just asked which of the many decades he has been writing and playing was his best, to which he responded, “This one.” If you want every year to be better than the prior, you have to change and grow. If you want this decade to exceed the last, you must string together better years, including the disciplines of deciding what you want and ceaselessly working towards making it so.
If you want to call for a do-over, do it. The right time to start isn’t the start of a new year or decade. The right time to start is now. Whatever you do, make sure this new year isn’t a repeat.
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