“Choosing to remain on The Shore of Status Quo consistently yields a life of quiet misery. It represents those areas you find unsatisfying, unfulfilling, and yet you’ve chosen to settle there. In the shadow of the trees near the shore lies a private cemetery—a place dreams are buried and hope is laid to rest. You don’t want to visit it often, but you know it’s there.”
The Reality of Change by Fred Johnson and Paul Metler
Two people wake up on January 1. To Liz, it’s not just another day. It’s the crisp dawn of New Year’s Day. She makes her way through the kitchen humming Auld Lang Syne and heats some water for a cup of tea.
It’s the moment of truth. Liz sips her tea and gazes out the window as the sun breaches the horizon. It’s the dawn of new day, the beginning of a new year. The symbolism of the sunrise punctuates her mood and she gathers herself and sits down at the kitchen table. Liz grips her pen, crouches over the moleskin journal she purchased last week and begins with a strong affirmation, “This year I will.”
Liz is not alone. Millions of people will join her quest for improvement. Resolutions will spill out onto paper, appear on digital plans or simply float around in a sea of thoughts and good intentions.
On the other side of town, Jerry is humming a different tune. It’s New Year’s Day for him too, but he does not focus on the dawn. Jerry greets the morning with a dull resignation. This year will be like the last. It’s not as though Jerry has never made a list of resolutions. Of course he has. In fact, he has several journals just like the one Liz purchased in the nightstand beside his bed. He tries to ignore them because they are painful reminders of failed attempts to change.
What if the odds makers in Las Vegas took an interest in Liz’s resolutions and offered you the opportunity to wager on her success? What kind of cash are you willing to put up? Would you bet on her success or is she destined to become more like Jerry?
Forget Liz for a moment and keep your money. Take a look in the mirror and prepare to bet on yourself. What are the positive changes you will embrace this year?
You can and should look toward the future with hope and optimism. Assuming you have already invested some evaluation time in prayer, contemplation and soul searching and made some notes as to where you want to improve, it’s time to improve your odds for success. When it comes to execution, there is no magic pill. However, there is one step that will increase your winning percentage. You need to make a second list.
After you write down a short list of specific goals, turn the page and make a second list. Instead of listing more resolutions, take some time to identify the obstacles that will pose the greatest threat to each victory. Your list of obstacles is only the beginning of your second list. Once you have identified the obstacles, develop a concise action plan to overcome those obstacles. Now you’re much more prepared for success. It’s a mistake to limit your focus to a list of promising resolutions without investing some time preparing to clear a few hurdles between you and the finish line.
Why is the second list so valuable?
First, it’s a good way to prove to yourself that you are serious about change. It’s a clear declaration to yourself that you are willing to count the costs before you launch. A vision of a preferred future is inspiring. However, inspiration tends to fade as January turns into February. Preparing for obstacles is your first investment in sweat equity.
Second, change can feel like a dive into the unknown. When you take some initiative and prepare to overcome some of the known challenges, it will bolster you confidence. It’s unproductive to worry about what you don’t know. Focus your energy on those obstacles you can identify because overcoming a few known obstacles will provide significant momentum as you begin your journey toward successful change. Your second list is empowering.
If you skip your second list, those early hindrances may provide just enough frustration to stall your efforts. Change is hard. In the beginning stages, the undertow is pretty strong. It’s easy to get pulled back to the way things were. Your second list will keep you facing forward. If your will for change begins to wane, stick with your second list plan. The results will be remarkable.
Prepare for victory. Place your wager for success and celebrate every win along the way.