The top of the year is near. Optimism and confidence permeate the air. People open themselves to change and allow their minds to imagine better life. Our media feeds will flood with positive thoughts challenges, get fit challenges, save money challenges and beyond. We might start a challenge, go hard for two weeks, fall off for a few days, pick back up for a week and eventually fall off again, right back into our old ways. Some might say we set goals that are too lofty so we fall off. Others might say we don’t really want it, and that’s the reason we fall off.

I say we fall off because our focus is displaced. We should focus our attention on the qualities we want to cultivate and then choose a challenge.

Review the major events from the past year to identify what attributes you want to develop. Revisit your triumphs, trials and heartbreaks. Decide what lessons you were supposed to learn from each event. Sum up each lesson in one word if you can. Choose or create challenges that emphasize these words. It doesn’t have to be extreme. The challenge can consist of minor changes and still be effective.

For instance, maybe you ran your credit card bill up thousands of dollars in 2018. You’re looking back thinking: if only I had paid off the card each month or if only I hadn’t spent more than I had available. In theory, a debt pay off challenge would encourage you decrease the amount owed. But if you didn’t have the discipline to pay off the card each month, will you have the discipline to stick to the challenge?

Focus your attention on discipline, rather than the credit card bill. What changes can you implement in your life that encourage discipline? Try making your bed every morning or flossing your teeth every night no matter what. In less than five minutes each day, you can convince yourself that you’re capable of committing. Of course, flossing your teeth won’t pay the bill. But you’re cultivating the discipline necessary to complete any large or small scale task.

Another big one is patience. If 2018 showed you that you’re lacking patience, try reading for 20 minutes a day with no distractions: no scrolling, no tv, just reading. Or eat at least one meal a day in silence with no phone or tv. Focus on the flavors and chewing your food adequately.

Start your challenge today if you’re feeling inspired. When the new year comes, you’ll already have some momentum and the excitement of the season will accelerate you.

We don’t fail because we suck at what we’re doing. We fail because in some way, we are lacking the building blocks for success. The building blocks are mostly consistent, but everybody learns differently. What you do to cultivate patience is different from what I do. Curate a plan that’s specific to how you learn best and you won’t lose.

Happy new moon.

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