“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”
I don’t care much for new year’s resolutions because they tend to be framed around the idea that change is binary: either you win or lose at making something happen.
That’s zero-sum thinking.
And since the research on behavioural change tells us that most of us don’t stick to our resolutions, it’s an approach that sets most of us up for disappointment.
Here’s what worked for me instead. I take stock each year of what I have learned and keep applying what’s already been working well and figuring out ways that I can create repeatable habits.
Then, based on a really smart idea started years ago by my friend Chris Brogan, I pick three words that align best with where I am going.
It’s all part of the performance stacks approach that has served me so well for many years now.
So here are my three words for 2019.
Behavioural experts tell us we are the average of the five people we are closest to. Go take a look at your own circle. What do you see?
Whether there’s a lot of conflict or calm in your life, there are two sources: your choices and your environment. Paying careful attention to that inner circle has been one of the most transformative, positive changes in my life. Not just in terms of who to allow into my life: that’s only half of the equation. As I’ve pointed out before, it is the undiminished self that holds each of us back from doing fruitful work.
So instead, I look at what I can contribute to that circle. That’s something I intend to keep practicing and re-examining on a regular basis. In particular, to ask: “what am I contributing to others in that circle? How can I be of better service?”
Every belief we have about ourselves and about others is a story. Sometimes it’s one that’s been told to us, but far more often it’s a story we have told ourselves.
Stories have facts but how they are assembled has a significant bearing on where we go with our narrative. That’s what perspective is all about. It was Socrates (by way of Plato) who first cautioned us to beware of the unexamined life.
So whether it’s a self limiting belief you have that holds you back from doing something bold, or a self-insulating one that keeps you rooted in suffering, don’t be so sure of the stories you tell.
I make a habit of regularly checking my assumptions about myself and about the work that I do. To be clear: that’s not doubt. Rather, it’s about refining what author and thinker Robert Greene calls the “third eye.” To see the self from a more objective and less ego-focused point of view. Compassionately.
We forget what we learn if we don’t apply it. As wise old Epictetus reminds me (and I’m paraphrasing just a little): “don’t be satisfied with just learning things: you have to practice and train. Because if you don’t, you’ll forget the lessons and wind up doing the exact opposite of what you should.”
Applying what you learn and codifying it into repeatable steps: that’s what craft is all about. You don’t just do this once. It’s a perpetual process of adding new knowledge and letting go of that which no longer serves you and your work. The more I teach others—through my workshops and speaking engagements—the more I discover what I don’t know. And find ways to address that through craft.