Everyone wakes up on January 1 with a gut full of ambition and good intentions. The idea of a clean slate is invigorating! By the middle of the month, however, most people have already started the slide back to their regular existence, overcome by trying to reach lofty, unclear goals with the same mindset from the previous year. I struggled with this for many years myself before finally figuring out 3 unconventional ways to avoid the January slump:
● Lowering my standards
● Pretending I’m someone else
This sounds like the start of a really bad movie about a down-and-out mob informant in Vegas, doesn’t it? Stick with me here and it will all make sense very soon.
Using these exact strategies below, my husband and I were able to sell everything we owned and save enough money to travel the world for five years. In fact, I’m writing this post to you from sunny Thailand, where we’ve been living for 3 months as we write our second book. Not bad for two people who could barely find the time for a 1-week vacation just a few short years ago, wouldn’t you say?
There is a reason the daydream scenes in movies are always in a slight blur – they aren’t real. The main character longs for love, riches and happiness. She goes on daydreaming until her knight in shining armor shows up with a bucket full of money to solve all of her problems and carry her off to happily ever after. In the movie, the character doesn’t have to do anything to make this dream come true.
In real life it doesn’t work that way, and you need something far more explicit and raw to motivate you to action. Let me suggest a little Dream Porn in 3-D, IMAX quality so you can visualize every single detail. You need the money shot, the close-up, the vocals, and the cheesy soundtrack.
You want to know exactly what it looks, smells, feels, sounds, and tastes like to live your dream so you can make it happen:
● See: Pictures, paintings, vision boards, maps – whatever image evokes your dream best
● Smell: Candles, flowers, soaps, incense, food – the scents that put you inside your dream life
● Hear: Music that transports you to your dream, recorded sounds of applause for your band or birds chirping from your version of paradise
● Taste: Food from your dream location, meals you would cook in your restaurant, wines that make you think of your own vineyard or travels in wine-producing countries
● Touch: A sari from India, a mock cover of your dream book propped up on your desk, fabrics you’ll use to design clothes or furniture in your dream business
Dream Porn is powerful stuff, and unlike the other kind, you don’t have to feel guilty about using it to fan the flames of your desire.
Lower your standards
You’ve probably seen those motivational posters they hang up in office buildings: soar like a guy on a glider over the Grand Canyon, challenge yourself like a rock climber, believe in yourself like a marathon runner. Man, I hate those posters. You want to stick me in a cubicle for 8 hours a day and ask me to excel by showing me the fabulous adventures of people who don’t have to stay inside a cubicle for 8 hours?
The reason these kinds of posters are just feel-good material from Human Resources and not actual stepping-stones to your personal success with goals is because they aim way too high in a non-relatable way. Seriously, how can you relate to the guy scaling Mt. Everest when you’re tapping away at an expense report with a space heater at your feet?
The key to long-term success with your goals is actually the opposite of these posters: lower the bar. Not just a little, a lot. In fact, lower the bar from Olympic pole-vaulter height and start with something you can step over without breaking a sweat.
Don’t think about quitting smoking altogether; instead, think of getting to lunch every day with only one cigarette. As that becomes easier, you can work toward no cigarettes until lunch, and so on and so on until you are smoke-free. Every day is a mini challenge you can actually envision doing, not some pie-in-the-sky long-term dream that is completely un-relatable to your current reality.
The momentum you build from these small successes keeps you going and is far more effective than mustering all your strength at the beginning and sustaining it long-term. As you and I both know, that doesn’t usually work.
Pretend you’re someone else
The same person you are today is not the same person you’ll be when you reach your goal. That’s part of the reason your goal is so challenging to you: you’re still the old you trying to fit into a new version of you. There is fear, uncertainty and inexperience clouding your vision.
One way to bypass a lot of the angst and struggle in becoming the more evolved version of you is to pretend you’re already someone new. Assume the identity of the person you want to be in the New Year: health nut, college student, business owner, writer, artist, inventor, elected official, activist – whatever your heart desires.
You may not be able to drag your chubby buns off the couch to walk around the block, but a healthy, fit person would do it with no problem. When you begin changing your mental identity from couch potato to fit person, even when you’re still straining the seams on your sweat pants and huffing and puffing just to tie your shoes, you are going to be more successful than the person who thinks of exercise as something other people do.
A writer writes every day, an artist paints, and an inventor creates things. You get the idea. When you mentally become the thing you want to be, the actions required to be that thing will come much easier. Over time the two will meld and you will actually become the thing you want to be.
What can you expect this time next year?
Going into the resolution game with the right mindset will give you the best odds for achieving your goals. We’re walking proof of that, writing this article from exotic Thailand, 15 months into our worldwide tour.
We dreamed big with a giant world map as our Dream Porn, lowered our standards by getting rid of just a few things every week instead of wondering how we would get rid of 20 years’ worth of possessions, and envisioning ourselves as long-term travelers to develop the minimalist, flexible mindset we would need to walk away from everything we knew. It worked for us, and it can work for you.
Just think of what you could be doing this time next year.
About the author: Betsy Talbot writes about carving the lifestyle you want out of the life you already have at Married With Luggage. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the globe with her husband Warren and wondering where they will end up next. You can find out how they reached their dream of world travel in their latest book, Dream Save Do, now available on Kindle.