This New Year - "Don't Try"
Why doing less is the key to success
The New Year typically brings resolutions to get fit, lose weight or just ‘be healthier’, which is the number one New Year’s resolution, by the way.
However, let’s start with some facts.
80% of New Year’s resolutions last less than 4 weeks.
90% of New Year’s resolutions don’t last the year.
If that’s the average success rate, then the odds are not in your favour.
But does that mean you should not do anything?
Instead, I would take the advice of Charles Buckowski, the world-famous American author whose epitaph reads:
Buckowski was a full-time US Postal Worker and a writer in his spare time.
At one point, he left his job with the US Postal Service to work on his writing full-time. Having failed to gain any real recognition for his work, he was forced to return to work with the Postal Service.
But he continued to write.
Before work. In the evenings. On his breaks.
Without success. Or acclaim. Or money.
But he still wrote.
It wasn’t until he was almost 50 that his writing caught wider attention, and he could leave his day job for good.
He had been writing. Practically every day. For 30 years.
So why is his best advice, ‘Don’t Try’?
Because Bukowski wasn’t writing for fame, money or prestige. Sure, those things were pleasant side effects of writing.
But they weren’t why Bukowski wrote.
This is how he described his impulse to write:
“It's not because you chose writing but because writing chose you. It's when you're mad with it; it's when it's stuffed in your ears, your nostrils, under your fingernails.”
Bukowski wrote because he didn’t have a choice.
He wrote because he had to.
Because it was in his veins, and he needed to get it out.
The one thing he never did, was ‘Try’.
Writing chose him.
Not the other way around.
What Do You Want For This New Year?
Deep down, you know what it is you want for yourself this year.
As evidenced by most people wanting ‘to be healthier’ as a New Year’s resolution, the desire to focus more on nutrition, exercise, sleep and emotional well-being is a deep-seated need for all of us.
Just like Bukowski, we all know what it is we want. What it is we want to do.
We all keep trying.
And yet, by February, 80% of us will have fallen back into our old ways.
Because as Charlie Munger says:
“Show me the incentive, and I will show the outcome”.
The reason we fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions is that we fail to change the environment that surrounds us to facilitate our goals.
Our modern environment is incentivised for us to make all the wrong decisions and not the right ones.
In order to compensate for this poorly incentivised environment, we try to ‘Do More’.
To fit more in.
To get up early.
To ‘be good’.
We see ‘getting healthy’ as something ‘extra’ on top go an already crazy busy life.
What we need to do is:
Do Less. Not more.
We know that our health is a top priority, yet we live our lives in such a way that we will not be able to hit the targets we set for ourselves.
We are setting ourselves up for failure.
We must structure our environment to give ourselves more space to do the things we know we should do.
Often this involves having a very serious look at how we are structuring our work lives.
In the history of the world, NO ONE has ever said about a ‘work-life balance’ that they need to dial back the ‘Life’ part of the equation.
A poor work-life balance was never about doing too much ‘Life’.
We should, at a minimum, be doing 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week.
And that’s in addition to two strength training sessions.
Most people, just don’t have the time.
But as I like to say:
“If you are too busy to exercise, then you are too busy.”
Before you set any New Years resolutions this year, ask yourself if your work is likely to allow you to achieve your goals.
If it is. Then great.
If not, then you need to start getting creative and focusing on your highest-order priorities.
If you don’t make them a priority, no one else will.
If you don’t set your goals, someone else will set them for you.
At this point, I can hear you say that it’s all well and good for me to say this, but I have no idea what you might have to sacrifice to facilitate hitting your goals.
You’re right. I don’t have any idea.
But I will say two things:
Whether you get this right or not will impact you a hell of a lot more than it will impact me.
I left a job that paid exceptionally well and took a large pay cut because I realised it was not aligned with me hitting my highest goals. I sacrificed a very large sum of money to design my life in such a way that I could sleep well, eat well, exercise regularly, meditate, write & spend time with those I love. You are reading this very newsletter because of that decision. That sacrifice was more than worth it. I would make it again in a heartbeat.
So rather than trying ‘extra hard’ this year, ask yourself if it’s your environment that needs to change so as to allow you to hit your health goals.
For most of us, our environment is mostly dictated by our work.
If you get your environment right, hitting your health goals will be far easier.
And just like Bukowski, you know what it is you want to do.
You know it.
And you know what is standing in your way.
So when it comes to eating better, losing weight, or exercising more, I would say:
But when it comes to how this next year will be structured, in a way that is more of an incentive to hit your goals rather than miss them, then I would say: