Facing the Right Direction

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

It would appear to be that time of year again. The time everyone makes their new year's resolutions. Woo hoo!

I'm not immune to this phenomenon by any means. I make at least one resolution most years, but I don't typically share them in any public setting. I get the idea of wanting to share everything (I have a blog, so of course I understand over-sharing), but I don't know who has ever been really inspired or entertained by someone else's resolutions. I feel like it's the equivalent of posting a picture of your dinner; who's really benefiting from this?

Now, we all know, at least in the back of our minds, that most resolutions and up totally abandoned after a few days or weeks. There are a million reasons why our resolutions fail, but I think that one big reason is that we are too specific. We're usually so occupied with the exact number of pounds we want to lose, or the total miles we want to run, that we lose motivation very quickly when we come up against any roadblock.

Yeah, I wanted to run today, but it's too cold! I'll go tomorrow...

Productivity experts will give you some great (and some not so great) advice on why this happens and how you can succeed. Maybe it's a task management or reward system you need to implement to achieve your goals. Maybe you need the support of those around you to cheer you on or even work on it with you. There are definitely specific things you can do to improve your chances of achieving your goals. My suggestion is far less specific, and much more abstract, but stick with me here.

I don't go to church anymore, but I did quite a bit as a child and young adult. I've heard many hundreds of sermons in my life, and most of them have disappeared from my memory with time. There was one that really stuck out to me, and is something I still think about to this day.

I forget exactly what our pastor was talking about, but he set up an imaginary line across the front of the church at the start of the sermon. One side of the line represented "sinner" and the other side represented "saint". He then proceeded to walk up and down the line for the duration of the sermon. Again, I'm fuzzy on the details at this point, but he had a line that still stands out to me today:

It doesn't necessarily matter where you are on this line, as long as you're facing the right direction.

I think this idea is incredibly powerful and is an idea that I still kick around my head when I'm making decisions. My new year's resolution shouldn't be to lose weight, but to be healthy. One end of my line would be "health", the other end would be "couch potato". If I decide what I'm going to eat and how I'm going to spend my free time while looking towards health, I'm going to make better decisions and I'll see more long-term results.

Also, since a typical resolution has a specific goal in mind, you spend all of your time in a state of failure. You wake up every morning in some state of failure. If you're simply making decisions that in the interest of your goal, then each day is full of opportunities for little victories. They say you catch more bees with honey, and you also achieve more of your goals with positive motivation. It's not as catchy, but it's true.

So ponder this idea while you are working on your new year's resolutions. It's not a magical strategy that will work for everyone, but I can say with confidence that it has helped me quite a bit.