As with every new year, January comes with lofty goals, unrealistic expectations, and resolutions that likely can’t be met within the first few weeks of putting them into motion. Instead, dedicate your efforts to the achievable and not the society-influenced perceptions of what you should be doing (i.e. losing weight, pivoting careers in weeks, saving thousands of dollars in months, etc.). If you’re searching for tips for success in the new year, remember deeper reflection rather than imposing goals is key.
Setting ourselves up for inevitable failure may be a favorite American pastime. However, this approach is outdated, unhealthy, and prevents you from achieving even the slightest bit of success. Just ask motivational speaker, explorer, and author of Making It Happen, Mark Pollock. Despite facing seemingly life-halting obstacles of blindness and paralysis, Mark has found a way to challenge himself and only get better with time.
“As someone who used to spend the beginning of each year detailing a grand, unachievable vision for the next 12 months, I think it’s worth reflecting on a quote that has been attributed to loads of different people over the years, but nobody really knows who said it first,” says Pollock. “It’s that: ‘Most people overestimate what they can get done in one year and underestimate what they can get done in 10 years.’”
“So now I spend this time of year gently refining my longer-term plans while ruthlessly cutting short-term distractions that are getting in the way of progress,” he adds.
What's your most profitable course idea?
We’ll help you figure that out.
So, how does one begin to rewire this approach? Pollock credits his success to three simple rules. He keeps them at forefront of his mind, no matter what curveballs life may throw his way. Check out his tips for success below.
1. Find your why
Finding your “purpose” feels a bit cliche. But, it’s important to at least find your why. What makes you get out of bed in the morning, not because it’s a requirement, but because it motivates you? How can you take this passion and turn it into something that’s even more motivating a decade from now? A true measure of success is how to integrate your why so that it becomes a constant in your everyday life.
“I’ve leaned heavily on Friedrich Nietzsche’s words: ‘He who has a why to live for, can bear with almost any how’,” reveals Pollock. “It’s the idea that when we know why we are doing what we are doing, we can put up with the tough stuff.”
Accept the journey
Create a list of what excites you. Are there long-term goals you can set to ensure these activities will become more significant in your life? Can you carve out time in your schedule to explore this on a weekly basis? Can creating your mini course eventually help you meet your goal of working for yourself?
If you set aside hours to uncover your why, the grind of the “how” will feel less like a burden and more like a necessity. It will take hard work, trials, and hiccups before you can truly embrace doing what you love more consistently. But, the journey will and should always be worth it.
“Start with why and remember that sometimes we choose our challenges and sometimes our challenges choose us,” says Pollock. “What we decide to do about them is what counts. So, focus on the decisions that you are in control of.”
2. Always seek clarity
No matter how annoying changes towards success may initially seem, the struggles are necessary to provide clarity on whether or not these efforts are worth it.
Let’s say your why is to sing and your goal is to book a professional show. Waking up with vocal warm-ups, accepting random dive bar gigs, and investing in voice lessons may feel like a drag in the moment, but if you haven’t given up and you see these hows as re-affirmations to your why, then you’re on a positive path towards success.
Another example: But, if your goal is teach singing online, you may have different actions. Continue booking shows to build up your authority, spend time starting a newsletter or building a community for singers, even consider sharing your tips and free information on social media. It may require a bit of work, but when the time comes to build your course and start selling, the ground work will be done and the goal becomes that much more achievable.
The doing mode
“Clarity is a critical component for reaching our performance potential,” says Pollock. “It is important because, without clarity, a highly sophisticated part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex—responsible for our self-awareness and logical reasoning—becomes overactive.”
“When that happens, our brains become busier trying to determine what direction to go in, as opposed to getting on with doing it. We get stuck in ‘analysis mode’ as opposed to ‘doing mode’,” he adds.
Find comfort in pressing pause
Should you find yourself stuck in the aforementioned “analysis mode” and haven’t made concrete adjustments to your routine, then it may be necessary to pause, go back to the drawing board, and really hone in on whether or not you’ve figured out that why.
That said, it’s important to note that clarity doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. Don’t rush to eliminate a why because the process or how is difficult at first.
“Gaining that all-important clarity doesn’t happen by chance. It is a job in and of itself,” says Pollock. “Start with your why, use it to rule projects in and out, and set aside regular strategy sessions with yourself to make sure your calendar reflects the daily, weekly, and monthly actions that will move you towards your annual and longer term goals.”
If this still doesn’t feel right after some time, then you know to re-evaluate.
3. Be realistic
Prioritize realism over optimism, at least according to Pollock, who claims that, “When you rely on hope alone, you run the risk of being disappointed and demoralized if the best-case scenario doesn’t play out.”
“In contrast, realists have as much hope as optimists, but they do something subtly different,” he continues. “They start by accepting the brutal facts of their current reality and, at the same time, chart a path forward fueled by hope. They resolve any tension between acceptance and hope by running both in parallel.”
On this road to self-improvement and personal success, it’s important to embrace inevitable failure and setbacks. Sometimes we can be so optimistic that we fail to acknowledge bumps in the road as learning experiences and, instead, dismiss them as unnecessary moments that slow us from getting from point A to point B.
Value the unexpected
Nothing is perfect in life, so it’s critical to mark your progress with small, realistic wins so that you’re not constantly setting yourself up for big disappointments. Keep your eye on the prize, but put just as much value on the hurdles you must also overcome when things don’t go according to plan.
“Our aim must be to pursue success in the knowledge that we may fail along the way,” suggests Pollock. “For that, we must define ourselves by our willingness to try. If we’re trying our best, then success or failure will look after themselves.”