I’ve got a bad feeling that there’s already thousands of books in the works rehashing the shitstorm that was 2020.
That’s the last thing the world needs right now.
Instead, I’ve decided to reflect on the hundreds of conversations – both personal and professional – I’ve had over the last 12 months, identify lessons learned, and come up with a short/simple list of areas of focus for 2021.
Because no one wants to read another list filled with dozens of “life hacks”, I’ve come with 3 simple changes in your behavior that will help you manage stress and thrive in the New Year. Unlike “life hacks” which promise instant results with little effort, these straightforward adjustments will be hard to make – but I promise the effort can change your life.
Manage Your Inputs (check out The Social Dilemma if you have any doubts)
At the core, our brains are big computers. The information we feed this amazing 3lb organ sitting atop our shoulders influences our thoughts, decisions, actions, and outcomes. So, instead of absorbing whatever comes into view, it’s critical that we carefully (and intentionally) select the sources of data that will shape our existence. Some general guidelines include:
- Stop “watching” your news – Every news program on the planet understands that we’ve all got super small attention spans and will look away unless their content quickly leads to one of 2 emotions – fear or anger. Unless you love being scared to death or pissed off all day long, I suggest you find 3-4 written news sources that you trust to get your daily update. (note – One of these sources must be opposite of your current viewpoint – a better future begins by us all working together.)
- Delete social media – The smartest people on the planet work in Silicon Valley and have one job – get people addicted to our platforms (check out the Social Dilemma if you have any doubts). That’s it. Unfortunately, one of their most effective tools is to focus on three powerful emotions – fear, anger, and envy. If giving up social media seems crazy, at least unfollow every angry person you know.
- Stay away from angry/super opinionated people – The last thing your brain needs is to have a cup of coffee with your crazy right/left wing friend who wants to “educate” you with the nonsense they’ve absorbed from their echo chamber. These people will NEVER change your opinion – all they do is make you mad.
The research is crystal clear; our bodies crave regular exercise. The proven benefits include lower stress, better sleep, improved mood, stronger relationships, etc. Here’s a few tactics to help make exercise part of your life in 2021.
- Ignore the lie – The #1 reason people don’t exercise on a regular basis is because they don’t believe they have the time. This isn’t true. It may be hard (almost impossible in some cases), but until you take this excuse off the table, you’ll never make any progress.
- Look for tiny improvements – If you want to lose 75 lbs. and run a marathon next year I think that’s great. But I don’t suggest that is your focus because if it is, you’ll fail 99% of the time. This will crush your spirit and lead to the phrase “I just can’t do this!”. Instead, redefine success into daily, achievable objectives. Eventually, you’ll begin to enjoy some momentum which can be hard to stop.
- Get some accountability – As you probably know, starting an exercise routine is crazy hard. It’s a lot easier if you’ve invited someone along on your journey who will hold you accountable. This can be a workout partner, personal trainer or even just a close friend.
About a decade ago, I read Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Dr. Stephen Post and it completely changed my outlook on life. Post makes a compelling case that one of the best ways to find more joy/happiness in your life to focus on helping others in need. It provides a healthy change in perspective, takes the focus off your own issues, and gives you a greater purpose to pursue. Keep these ideas in mind as you consider focusing on generosity in 2021.
- Realize that you can make a difference – Most people tell me that they can’t donate any of their resources (time/money) now, but they will in the future when they’ve got “more”. The truth is that it’s likely you’ve got plenty of disposable income/time to help someone in need right now.
- Focus – In a world with far too many non-profits bombarding us with pleas for help, it’s easy to feel donor fatigue and wonder if you’re small donation really makes a difference. Instead of giving a little to everyone, I’d challenge you to pick one or 2 charitable organizations and go deep. You’ll see your efforts changes lives.
- Commit – I really struggle with the person who’s furious about all the injustice in the world yet never gets in the game. Retweeting an article, putting a sign in your yard, or even attending a rally barely moves the needle. What your cause needs is your resources. Pick up the phone, offer to volunteer and get out your checkbook.
One of my all time favorite authors, M. Scott Peck, started off his bestseller The Road Less Traveled with this phrase – Life is hard.
He was right.
And it’s important to remember that it will continue to be difficult even if we don’t have a global pandemic, social unrest, and a crazy presidential election.
Once we recognize this truth, it frees us from obsessing over what’s going wrong in the world and focus on the only thing that matters… what we can do to make it better.