If it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. If everything we are comes from the spiritual, emotional, and cognitive center. If the real you is not what you look like, dress like, or pretend to be. If all this is true, my next question is…
“ARE WE FUELING OURSELVES WITH THE RIGHT FUEL TO ACCOMPLISH OUR GOALS AND ASPIRATIONS BOTH IN THIS NEW YEAR AND EVERY YEAR HEREAFTER?”
Okay, so maybe that was a little heavy to start with, so let’s see if we can explore this a little further and land on a few practical questions to ask yourself as we get ready to launch into a new year about your goals and who you want to be.
In my experience, many (actually most) people are on a quest to not be the person they currently are. IN GENERAL, THE PEOPLE I MEET WANT TO BE BETTER. THEY WANT TO BE HEALTHIER. THEY WANT TO LOVE MORE FULLY AND LAUGH MORE OFTEN. I can relate because I also want to be a better man tomorrow than I was today. I imagine that’s not an uncommon goal. But as I mentioned, there is a problem.
You see, the problem is whether or not we are willing to curate the proper input for us to become who we want to be. What does that mean? It means asking myself questions like:
- “Am I willing to give up eating junk food to be a healthier me?”
- “Will I start learning about Topic X in order to one day write that book or start that business?”
- “Could I spend my drive time listening to a book about self-improvement rather than sports talk radio?”
- “Will I spend 15 minutes in silent reflection and prayer in order to be focused for each new day?”
- “Am I allowing friends and family to speak into my life or am I simply doing my own thing?”
- “Would reading a book on Subject Y help me arrive at a more informed decision or understanding?”
NOTICE ANYTHING ABOUT THESE QUESTIONS? THEY’RE ALL ABOUT CONSUMPTION. THEY’RE ABOUT WHAT YOU LET IN.
Of course, there are behaviors attached that need to be learned, but this conversation is more about what is entering our lives than how we process it.
So as we look forward into the new year, here are three questions I think we should ask about what we are going to consume.
Is what I’m consuming entertaining or educating?
There is a place for entertainment. Those who know me know that I enjoy sports, TV shows, and movies as much as the next guy. Those who know me really well, also know that I have talked a lot (especially recently) about the need to evaluate the amount of time we spend on devices, watching televisions, and otherwise letting screens or hobbies of any kind dictate the way we spend what little available time we have.
I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO ASK YOURSELF HOW MUCH TIME YOU SPEND CONSUMING CONTENT FOR ENTERTAINMENT (fiction books, sporting events, the latest iPhone game app, Netflix, etc.) VERSUS CONSUMING CONTENT FOR GROWTH (non-fiction, podcasts, courses, sermons, etc.) because what you consume is probably more important than any goals you set.
This isn’t a one or the other discussion. It’s a measurement. It’s asking the question to evaluate the percentage of time spent on feeding our inner self versus our inner child. Both need nourishment, but it has been my observation, unfortunately, that I am susceptible to the cake diet of entertainment versus the protein diet of knowledge and understanding. What about you?
Does what I’m consuming lead to my desired end goals?
Once you determine how much time and energy you are dedicating to entertainment versus education, the next logical step is to acknowledge where that is leading you?
Think of your goals. What do you want to accomplish next year? In the next five years? Your lifetime? Will what you are consuming now lead you to where you want to be? Here are four specific areas to help you think about intake versus results.
Thankfully, some good friends of mine encouraged me to be more intentional about my personal fitness last year. The result: I’ve returned to my college weight and feel the healthiest I’ve felt in over a decade. A big part of that journey has been deciding to manage what I eat. You can decide to work out eight days a week but if you’re taking in food that is terrible for you, you will not see the results you’re looking for. So what will you replace this year? Soda with water? Candy w/ nuts? Bread with fruits/veggies?
This one is probably the easiest area to identify desired growth, but it doesn’t make it any easier to implement desired change. Think about how we measure progress when we are young. We got bigger and we learned more. The need for learning doesn’t change just because we’ve stopped physically maturing, however, and the only way to do that is to find ways to intake more (or better) information. This can take many forms, but the question is how will you intentionally consume information that will help you develop some part of your career, your business, or yourself?
When it comes to family, it may seem like it is more about what you give than what you take, but I submit that we shouldn’t neglect collecting information about and memories with the ones we love. Of course, this applies to the idea of how much time we are spending on things other than our family, but it also includes the idea of learning about each one of them by becoming a student of their interests, habits, and dreams. Not only can we be more intentional to learn about them, but we learn about how to care for them by reading books, following blogs, and otherwise taking in information about how to be more intentional with building meaningful relationships with members of our family.
I’ve left this one for last, but it is surely not because it is less important than any other area of life. In fact, our quality of life is greatly impacted by our spiritual health. As a Christian, my goal is to grow spiritually each year, but how does that happen? Part of it is with prayer and reflection, but in some ways, it’s the same as anything else: Read. Learn. Grow. Growing closer to God means that I have to spend more time reading His Word and listening to others who help me grow as well. It starts with intake.
Perhaps your areas for growth for next year don’t look exactly like mine, but regardless, the underlying question is whether what you take in will lead you toward those goals or away from them?
How can I align (or re-align) my habits to become a better consumer?
So let’s get practical. Hopefully, you’ve decided by now that your input strategy for next year is going to improve. Hopefully, you’re ready to match your desired goals with the input required to make them happen. If that’s the case, think about what kinds of things you’ll need to consume and what habits you’ll need to cultivate to move toward that end.
I know there are a lot of good goal setting programs and worksheets available this time of year. I’ve sampled Dan Miller’s Goal Setting Workbook, Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever, Jon Acuff’s 30 Days of Hustle Challenge, and more. They each have the elements of important habit-building and goal-setting strategies, and I encourage you to check them out. Because there are so many good options there, though, I thought I would keep my suggestions simple. Feel free to apply the following strategy to whatever goal setting framework you choose for the coming year.
Decide the 3-5 areas of your life where you would like to experience significant growth? Examples: (Fitness, Spiritual, Academic, Marriage, Family, Personal Growth, Business, etc.)
Choose 1-2 goals in each area. I suggest you use the S.M.A.R.T. goals approach to ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Here are a few examples:
- Read 1 non-fiction book every month.
- Reduce credit card debt by $2,000 in the next six months.
- Spend 30 minutes every day in prayer/meditation.
- Create a business plan for new business by January 31.
- Write manuscript for new book by June 30.
- Run in 2 half marathons in 2016
Once you have these goals written down, determine what you need to read, listen to, research, or consume in some way in order to accomplish each one and get started! S.M.A.R.T. goals aren’t very smart if you never actually take the time to work on them. Check out the book. Listen to that podcast. Determine if there are intake habits you need to change. But more than anything, just decide this will be the year you start accomplishing goals not failing at resolutions.
FOR ME, ALL THIS PRODUCTIVITY AND GOAL-SETTING CONVERSATION STARTED RATHER INCONSPICUOUSLY.
A podcast called Beyond the To-do List, a few well-timed keynote speeches, and a couple of conversations caused me to question my habits. I became increasingly aware of the time I was wasting and wanted to change.
I hope this article does that for one of you. I hope it’s just the nudge you need to move from complacency to action.
So here are the questions:
- Where do you need to trade entertainment for education?
- Is what you’re consuming now leading to the future you want to enjoy?
- What habits can you create or destroy to help you become a better consumer in the coming year?
I’d love to hear in the comments about some of the goals you have for 2016. Let’s consume the right things and make stuff happen!
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
– Jim Rohn