Today is New
Year’s Eve. Like most people in the world, I’m taking
time to reflect on how the past year went, while also gazing ahead
to the new one that awaits. Every year, I set goals or “resolutions”
on how to be a better man. I succeed with some but fail in others.
Many people become jaded with New Year’s resolutions because
they often go un-achieved. Some people are just complacent with
themselves. I read today that one individual wasn’t planning
on setting New Year’s resolutions because, well, he likes the
way he is and doesn’t want to change.
I like myself
plenty, but I know there are areas where I can improve my life.
plenty of self-improvement books on how to set goals. I’m sure
you all have, too. They all pretty much say the same thing: Set
specific goals, make sure your goals are measurable, set goals that
stretch you, etc. That’s all fine, but setting goals is the
easy part. How do we actually achieve them? Most books will tell
us that we need to post our goals somewhere that we can see them
all the time, repeat them everyday, or make some lame “vision
board” so you can visualize your goal. Somehow that’s
going to help us achieve our dreams.
skipping the regurgitated fluff by self-help gurus and instead seeking
advice on how to be a better man and achieve my goals from history’s
greatest men. How did I get the advice of history’s great men?
I read their biographies. Here’s what I’ve learned from
them on how to succeed at your goals.
a system. As a young man, Benjamin Franklin set the audacious
goal of “achieving moral perfection.” Franklin set mini-goals
to live one of 13 virtues as perfectly as he could each week. In
order to achieve his goal of moral perfection, he established a
system that helped him keep track of how he was doing in his progress
to moral perfection. His system consisted of 13 small charts which
contained a column for each day of the week and 13 rows marked with
the first letter of his 13 virtues. Franklin evaluated himself at
the end of each day. He placed a dot next to each virtue he had
violated. The goal was to minimize the number of marks, thus indicating
a “clean” life free of vice. With just a glance, Franklin
could see how he was doing on his goals.
never achieved moral perfection, he didn’t think the project
was a waste because he was definitely a better man after he was
We can apply
the same principle Franklin utilized by establishing a system to
help us keep track of our progress. If your goal is to lose 40 lbs
this year, create daily mini-goals like Franklin did with his virtues,
and make a mark when you don’t achieve those daily goals. A
mini-g0al for losing 40 pounds could be exercising every day or
not eating junk food during the week. If you slip up on those goals,
make a mark for that day. The goal is to have fewer and fewer marks.
daily regimen and stick to it. How many of us get up each day
not knowing what in the heck we’re going to do with our time?
What usually happens? We get a few things done, but then we waste
the rest of our time surfing the web or watching TV. Great men from
history ALWAYS knew what they were going to do each day because
they had a daily routine and stuck to it like clockwork. Throughout
his life, Teddy Roosevelt maintained a rigid daily routine; a habit
he picked up from his father. He set aside specific time each day
for study, exercise, and work. Ben Franklin shared his daily
schedule with us in his biography.
In a letter
to his son, George Washington laid out a daily routine for the young
man to follow every day of the week, giving the exact time he should
spend with each activity. Washington ended his letter by saying:
of in this manner, makes ample provision for exercise and every
useful, or necessary recreation, and at the same time that the
hours allotted for study, if really applied to it, instead of
running up and down stairs, and wasted in conversation with any
one who will talk with you, will enable you to make considerable
progress in whatsoever line is marked out for you.
If we know
what we’re going to do and at what time we’re going to
do it, we’ll be less likely to waste time with trifles.