What You Should Focus On Before Making New Year’s Resolutions

Incoming!! 2020 New Year’s Resolutions

Today is December 23rd meaning you have exactly 8 days until 2020 arrives and you set out to do something that will likely fail if statistics are any indication.

Reports suggest that over 75% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned within a couple of months. Speaking for myself, that is just about right.

Goal Setting?

I’ve set goals. I am a goals type of guy. BHAG. SMART. Etc. They are all useful frameworks for goal-setting.

If you are anything like me, then the problem is not with your goal setting. It is with your goal achieving.

Maybe you nodded in agreement with that statement.

Unfortunately, I would argue against the statement entirely. If you believe it, then maybe I can change your mind.

Goal Problems

There are some serious problems with focusing on goals. I discovered this myself a few years ago when I struggled to achieve my goals year after year trying many different approaches. Beyond that, I found the whole goal setting process to drain the joy from the actual achievement of stated goals. In the end, it felt like just checking a box.

I recently started reading a book by James Clear titled Atomic Habits. He hits the nail on the head identifying some key problems with goals:

  1. Winners and losers have the same goals.
  2. Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
  3. Goals restrict your happiness.
  4. Goals are at odds with long-term progress.

(For more on this, follow this link: https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems)

What To Focus On

If not goals then what should you focus on?

Habits.

My interest in understanding habits was ignited a few years ago after reading Charles Duhigg’s book titled The Power of Habit.  Duhigg defines a habit as “a choice that we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing, often every day.”

The good thing about habits is they are malleable, however they require consistent effort and a strategy… until they don’t. The beauty of habits is you can make them work for you. You can automatically make a decision that is working for you.

Pretty neat right?

Habits and Identity

If I am honest with myself, my past goals came from the identity that I wanted for myself. They are tied to a definition of success in various areas of my life that all come back to WHO I want to be. Hear me say this, this is not a bad thing. Many of my goals were faith and family oriented. Good, meaningful, and enduring goals.

However the results of this approach to change and/or achievement were mixed at best if not downright failure.

The better way forward is based on a relationship between your identity, the person you WANT to become and your habits, what you actually DO.

 

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Habits have an interesting relationship with identity. They are mutually reinforcing.

What you do determines who you are and the cycle continues as who you are impacts what you do. The only way to experience lasting behavioral change is for your identity to change resulting in becoming something different.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

How?

Where do I even begin? How do I this?

Some of this you will have to figure out for yourself. I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits or at least watching some videos of James Clear discussing this material on YouTube or various podcasts he has appeared on.

The thing for me that has helped is asking myself identity related questions.

Is ________ decision a vote for this ________ person I want to become?

Is the decision to exercise a vote for the healthy person I wish to become?

Is the decision to mentor someone a vote for the type of impactful relationships I wish to have?

Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no.  These questions generate awareness and personal accountability and for me that is sometimes enough to change my behavior in that moment.

Cast enough votes for the person you wish to become, and eventually you will!

Leadership: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

Leadership is a topic I am passionate about and the practice of Leadership has been an integral part of a majority of my life at this point. I was reflecting on my journey recently and realized that some of the most valuable lessons learned came from my struggles and mistakes versus my triumphs and successes. Often times the former precedes the latter.

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My journey began when I was 15 years old as a Boy Scout. I imagine you have a familiarity with the Scouts given their long term existence in the States (most boys spend some time as Cub Scouts before transitioning to Boy Scouts to some degree. I was actually the opposite. I never did Cub Scouts but just rolled into Boy Scouts. Anyway…)

The elections for the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL, highest official Scout leadership position)  were approaching and my Dad suggested I should run. Initially, I wasn’t interested in running because I was working toward my Eagle Scout and if anything wanted to be less involved in Scouts upon completion of my final project. Being SPL would be an increase in time and responsibility week to week. I’d rather play golf every day after school and on the weekends (more on that later). Anyway, I ran for SPL and was selected to be the SPL for the next year.

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: Fortunately, this season in Leadership was marked by lessons learned more than mistakes made. Of course I made some mistakes. I was a bit timid at first. I was so soft spoken our first few meetings that one of the adult leaders stood in the back of the fellowship hall we met in and would raise his hands when I needed to raise the volume of my voice. Good times.

I learned a lot from this first foray into leadership, but the main lesson was this:

A Leader is always being watched. There is nothing more important than their example.

I participated in as many events as I could. I even went deep sea fishing (which for me is just deep sea sickness). Our fundraiser was selling firewood and I was out there every Saturday morning stacking, loading, selling, and unloading firewood. We sold more firewood than ever before. I wish I could say all of these decisions were my own, but the truth is my Dad was the one who reminded me of the importance of my participation and setting this example for all of the Scouts.

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Fast forward a couple of years. My Senior year of High School golf as the Co-Captain of a team that just won the District and Regional titles the previous season. We were a bit younger but still had plenty of talent mixed with some experience from the previous season. This was my 4th year on Varsity and my Junior year was my best individual season as well. Needless to say, expectations were high.

 

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: This season in leadership was marked by disappointment and failure. I struggled mightily throughout the season and was not one of the top 6 players by the end of the year meaning I missed the postseason.

My mistake was not simply playing poorly. That happens sometimes (especially in golf). No, my mistake was focusing on myself. I started out as the Co-Captain of the team but ended up shirking my responsibilities to the team. It was a missed opportunity to be a positive influence on the younger athletes on the team.

The lesson here is pretty clear to me now, Leadership is not about you.

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A few years later I joined the US military as a soldier in the Florida Army National Guard. Shortly after joining, I met a ROTC recruiter on campus and found myself joining the Fightin’ Gator Battalion at the University of Florida. ROTC was military leadership on steroids and I came in 2 years behind many of my peers in the principles of military leadership.

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: I made many mistakes and learned numerous lessons during this season. I do want to take a moment to highlight how valuable it was to have an environment where I could make mistakes without significant consequences. Looking back on it now, that is a lesson I have carried with me as I seek to develop other leaders. You have to create an environment where leaders can make decisions and have space to fail.

As for my mistakes, I would say my biggest mistake was leading in a way that was inauthentic. Not everyone in the Army is the archetype you see in the movies. In fact (as I discovered later on), many officers in the military possess a very similar disposition to my own. I had to make the mistake to learn this lesson: Leadership must be authentic (be yourself!)

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I completed ROTC and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Florida Army National Guard. My first official leadership opportunity as a commissioned officer came as a Platoon Leader. My responsibilities varied over the course of 8+ years as an officer and slowly increased over time to where I am today.

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: I’ve made my share of mistakes as an Army officer but my experience as an officer has been marked more by the lessons I have learned as a follower. I have served with and for very gifted leaders. In some cases, very different leaders. Different styles, backgrounds, and approaches but similar positive results. Although they were different, they shared one critical similarity: they truly cared for their soldiers.

Leadership requires you to care.

This lesson seems obvious, but in my experience it is sorely lacking in many organizations.

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For the last several years I have been an entry level operations manager in the hospitality industry and most recently transitioned to the food and beverage industry with a new organization. The organization I was in previously did a great job of defining their culture and giving young managers opportunities to be leaders. There IS certainly a difference between managing and leading. At times, I have been just a manager. Other times, I have truly been a leader.

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: In these organizations, and the military, there is a tendency to fall into a particular trap. If you are a leader, then you run the risk of falling into this trap. Heck, if you are a human you run the risk of falling into this trap.

The trap I am referring to is the comparison trap.

You’ve seen soldiers in their dress uniforms right? Well, all the stuff they are wearing was earned over time and through various acts of service and in some cases heroism. They earned the right to wear the items signifying their accomplishments. It has been easy to look to my left or to my right and compare myself to someone I perceive to be better because of their accomplishments.

Beware of the comparison trap!

This leads me to my final point and one of the leadership lessons I have learned over the years.

It is a mistake to define yourself by your successes OR your failures. 

Neither your successes or failures have any bearing on what you are capable of doing right now. Sure, people may define you by those things until you prove otherwise but it is foolish for you to do so.

John Wooden captured it best:

“Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

Thanks for reading!

– BA

My Word for 2019

 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 5:16

The practice of choosing a word for my year has served me well over the last several years. The challenge is finding it. Last year was transform and previous words include fully, new, and sacrifice.

My word for 2019 comes from the verse above.

Often.

adverb – frequently; many times.

This verse jumped out at me and I initially thought my word for 2019 was going to be pray however the more I thought about the more I came back to the word Often.

What we do often IS our life. I have written so much about time because I believe so strongly in the value of time, but I find myself misplacing my time. Ultimately wasting my time.

Jesus prayed Often. Jesus was in relationship with His Father often. One of my goals is to pray more Often… Not so I can count the frequency, but so I can be in relationship with my Heavenly Father.

There are more things I want to do MORE often. Exercise, read, write, and most importantly be intentional in my marriage.

On the flip side, there are things I need to do LESS often. Worry, get angry, be distracted.

I encourage you to take a look at your life and just answer a few questions:

  • What am I DOING most often?
  • What am I THINKING most often?
  • Who am I investing in most often?

If the answers to these questions are not what you want your life to be about, then hopefully the word OFTEN can be something that helps you refocus your life this year.

Now go choose your word and Happy New Year!

– Brian

How Gratitude Made Me a Better Runner, Leader

I am not a fast runner, never have been. For a long time, the only reason I ran is because the Army said I had to. In some cases, quite a bit… but mostly just the 2 miles required for our fitness test. Now, as a leader of soldiers I have to get my soldiers to run enough to pass their fitness test. This has proven difficult given my current ability to run is not exactly inspirational.

For most of my military career, I would consider myself (at best) a willing runner. However, I recently stumbled into a thought that has transformed my approach to running. It has made me a better runner. Beyond a willing runner, I actually look forward to getting out and running (even in the stifling Florida heat sometimes). It is the thought that one day I may not be able to run. One day my body will not allow it. My bones, muscles, joints will not allow me to run. To experience the freedom of running. There is a sense of freedom when you run. I mean think about it, running is one of the most natural things we do as humans and we do it so early in life.

You crawl. Then you walk. Then you move your feet faster.. and Boom! You’re running. You are free to move like you have never moved before.

The thought of losing this freedom was very surreal. It brought great clarity. More than that, it made me grateful for the ability I have now. More grateful than I had ever been to just run. I experienced a renewed perspective and even a sense of joy. It felt like finding something I had lost.

The Tarahumara and Running for the Joy of It

There is an indigenous people group in Mexico known for their ability to run tremendous distances. The Tarahumara. I had never heard of them prior to reading the book Born to Run.

Apparently they can run hundreds of miles over the course of days with very little rest. Sounds crazy right? I mean, I thought a marathon was pretty tough but imagine doing 10… sometimes barefoot!

Anyway, the thing that struck me about the Tarahumara people is why they do it. In the past it served a purpose; mainly evading invaders and pursuing wild animals. But now? They run for fun. Because they enjoy it. When running they are often described as having smiles on their faces. They run with a contagious joy.

Living and Leading

There is a lesson to be learned here.

We should live with a contagious joy. We should lead with a contagious joy. It has been my experience that this joy comes from being grateful.

For me it all comes back to the thought that one day, I will not be able to ________. It could be something as small as run or as large as spending time with my Wife.

This is a sobering thought. Everything in your life can be taken away in an instant. It could be something as minor as your ability to run or as major as your most valued loved one.

Perhaps you have experienced this and it is a tragic reality for you.

However, this truth crystallizes the value of today. Living and leading with a purpose. Living and leading with a sense of joy and gratitude.

I stood in front of my soldiers recently and shared this insight with them (it happened to be before a run). The day is coming where I will not stand before them as their leader.

At least this transition is predictable but the lesson remains the same and I want them to embrace it. Who knows, maybe they will run a little faster in the process.

More importantly, perhaps they will live with a contagious joy.

Happy Anniversary: Celebrating One Year of Marriage

A year ago today I married a “Why Not?” person and I didn’t even know it. I knew Sarah pretty well and loved so much about her on that day (and today of course!)

But one thing I didn’t know is that she is a “Why Not?” person. I suppose I should have known, she hasn’t changed so much in a year. I guess just being around her and engaging life together has revealed it.

This aspect of Sarah is something that I have grown to value as much as any other quality she possesses.

You see, I am a “Why?” person.. Which means I want to understand before doing. A “Why  Not?” person is the opposite, they often DO to understand. They are your classic action oriented individuals but the reason I call her a “Why Not?” person is because the muscle it forces me to exercise.

The vision muscle. Why not us? Why not now?

One of my gifts is the ability to see the big picture quickly. The big, current, picture. This has its value of course. You want someone like me on your team. However, I have a serious limitation. That of a limited perspective. Its why ships used to have a crow’s nest, the guy up there could see beyond the horizon. Sarah sees beyond the horizon. And that is where she casts vision. Where she dreams. And now, it’s where we dream.

At first this frustrated me because I wanted her to see the big picture NOW, but lately I have grown to love it. This is the beauty of marriage. The beauty of the one-ness of marriage. Its like having a whole new brain (which as a thinker, I really enjoy).

One year is nothing other than a measurement of time but the milestone is worth celebrating because the Lord has blessed us so much. So often He exhorts His people to look back and remember all He has done and look forward to all He is going to do. Today we are going to do that!

Time to enjoy this day with my Bride!