I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I understand the mentality of them. If you go to a public gym, you are well aware that within a few weeks the new crowd will disappear along with the vast majority of every resolution embarked on. You may be in the 5% that accomplish a resolution and I support that but for most, I have different advice.
I gave up the cliche of a new year’s resolution years ago and began focusing on ways to be better each and every day. For me, the last day of the year is the most important because it is then you can look back and determine if you are better than you were a year ago.
That approach does come with a bit of caution. It is hard to get better.
I’ve lived long enough to understand that the natural default of most humans is “status quo.” Whether as a leader, police officer, father, mother or in relationships, it’s always easier to just get by. That inclination is exactly why Jocko Willink or David Goggins have become so popular. Their work ethic and attitude is fascinating to so many because we see them as an oddity in a world that seems to encourage the exact opposite.
I am no different. My default is absolute laziness.
Both my career and my personal life are going pretty well. I’m paying my bills, my kids still like me and my wife is still in the house. I’ve had the humble opportunity to teach and train others across the world for close to twenty years and the next year has always been busier than the last. There hasn’t been any major events that would trigger any need to change.
And that is a dangerous place to be if you want to be the best.
If you can commit to doing hard things, it will radically change your life for the better. Each person reading this will have different needs and goals but maybe it will help if I tell you how I do “hard things.”
If you try to do hard things in every aspect of your life, you will likely end up doing nothing. You only have 24 hours in a day and a significant amount of that is taken up with sleep and work so start off small, with realistic goals. Your first attempt could well be doing one thing hard and that’s ok. The beauty of doing hard things is that unless you are the absolute best in the world at what you want to improve on, you can tackle the issue. Even if you are the best, you must keep doing hard things to remain the best.
The key is figuring out what you want to get better at and while it’s natural to run away from things you are terrible at, that could be a great place to start. I’ve been involved in training for most of my career and I’ve noticed a trend that if people are not very good at something, they tend to stay away from that skill. Meanwhile, if they are above average, they are attracted to getting better at that skill. My agency offers various courses throughout the year and what I’ve noticed for close to thirty years is that those that show up at the firearm or driving range on a volunteer basis is typically those that need it the least. Whether it’s ego or not, as you assess what you need to get better at, evaluate yourself with honesty and reject that internal voice that tells you that it may be too difficult or too embarrassing to participate in something.
Indeed, if you are bad or good at something, your default will be to not get better but that just may be the area(s) for you to do hard things in.
Career & Personal
I always try to do hard things in both my career and my personal life. Once again, you will default to your comfort zone so fight through that and select an area in both places. It took me a long time to understand the importance of a proper balance of work and personal life.
If you have ever looked in the mirror and thought it was lying to you, then you will recognize our natural inclination to suck at self awareness. If you are going to do hard things, you can’t trust yourself to hold yourself accountable. Find someone that will tell you the truth, tell them your goals and ask them to hold your feet to the fire.
In 2017, I decided to write a book but writing a book was hard. A year later, I had barely touched it along with a wide array of thoughts that made little to no sense. I had every excuse you can think of. Work was busy, family was busy and life just happened. It wasn’t until I called a friend and told him what I wanted to do that it got done. I gave him permission to keep me on a schedule and if I failed, he needed to rip into me. When I started on my Doctoral Degree in 2018, I did the same thing with another friend. It worked and showed me once and for all the power of accountability.
Meeting The Goal
Before embarking on those hard things, you need to know what success is. Writing a book is easy to assess but other things may not be so easy. One of my hard things at the moment is learning to play the guitar. As I type this, it seems like an impossible task and my fingers are screaming at me for doing it. Don’t mistake doing hard things with becoming the best in the world overnight or ever. As much as I’d like to be the next Eric Clapton, I have to be realistic in my goal. The cool thing about doing hard things is once you get to your goal, it won’t be hard to simply continue forward and improve on that goal. By doing hard things, you build habits and those habits can become your new default s you embark on the next hard thing to accomplish.
I’m in the process of writing my second book and I don’t even consider it hard anymore. I learned the process, the time and the tasks involved a few years ago and rather than being a hard thing, it is now just something I do. I have the third and fourth book outlined and because I did something hard, that task has become a part of my everyday life and not very hard at all.
Everything around you is telling you to ignore doing hard things. You can sit in front of any digital device and watch anything you want at anytime. You can scroll on your phone for hours and wonder where the day went. You are told that when things don’t go your way, it’s always the fault of someone else. We have turned into society that gave everyone a participation trophy to telling everyone they are super important.
Doing hard things is your choice but one day will be your last day and when you think back on your journey, I can guarantee you that if you do hard things, you will have a view of your life that most can only dream of.
Travis Yates is a former ILEETA Trainer of the Year and the author of the best selling book, “The Courageous Police Leader.” His seminars on leadership, risk management and officer safety have been presented in 44 states and various countries over the last 20 years. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training and you can find out more about his leadership training and philosophy at www.stopcowards.com.