Benjamin Hardy, PhD
Most people set New Years Resolutions each year. But they aren't strategic about the bigger picture. So they live much smaller lives than they need to.
Before writing the first chapter of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling planned for seven years at Hogwarts. Harry Potter is one of the most read books of all-time.
Before creating the first Stars Wars movie in the 1970’s, George Lucas planned for at least six films and started at episode four, rather than episode one. Almost 40 years later, the entire world continues to be excited with the release of a new Star Wars film. This would not be possible if Lucas hadn’t thoughtfully and largely planned ahead.
The principle is simple: Don’t just plant a tree, plant an orchard.
How different might Harry Potter have been if Rowling started the book without any intentions or plans beyond the first book? It may have just been a book about a boy who went to school and killed a bad guy. Perhaps, at the conclusion of that story, Rowling might or might not have decided to write a sequel.
Yet, by “beginning with the end in mind,” Rowling was able to direct and position the first book much differently. The first book, although amazing in itself, was a means to an end, clearly leading the reader to the next book.
Not only that, but by having a long-term objective, Rowling was able to create a much bigger story. She was able to foreshadow things the reader wouldn’t learn about for sometimes several years!
But she planted those seeds early and thoughtfully, and as a result, each book was a continuation of the next, rather than several disconnected and random stories.
Similarly, consider how different Star Wars would have been had Lucas created one film, without planning what would come next, or before! Vader may have just been “the bad guy,” not Luke’s father.
Very Few People Live like This
You are the writer of your own narrative. Yet, how often do you plan each year based on what you intend to do during the next year or the one after that?
What if, like Rowling, you were living this year based on what you intend to do in 1, 3, and 5 years from now?
It’s all in the setup.
Goals are means, not ends.
Everything you do is positioning. Are you positioning yourself to do AMAZING things in 1, 3, or 5 years from now?
I can already hear your mental wheels spinning.
But you can’t plan for the future! The real world isn’t Hogwarts!
Obviously, the world is changing fast. You can’t plan for everything. Hence, Tony Robbins has said,
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
And that’s the difference. Most people don’t make committed decisions, which is why only 8% of people go on to accomplish their New Years Resolutions.
In an interview between John Assaraf and Lewis Howes, Assaraf shared what his first mentor taught him about goal setting.
After setting his goals in several areas of his life (e.g., health, spirituality, finances, relationships, service, etc.), and for 1, 3, 5, and 25 years out, Assaraf’s mentor asked him, “Are you interested in achieving these goals, or are you committed?” to which Assaraf responded, “What’s the difference?”
His mentor responded:
“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You just do whatever it takes.”
Clearly, Assaraf’s life probably isn’t exactly how he planned it to be when he set those goals in 1982 at the age of 19. However, I’m confident those goals propelled him to where he is today.
He was playing and planning a much bigger game than most people and writing a much different story.
The Science Doesn’t Lie
If psychological science has found anything in the past 30 years, it’s that people with high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control radically outperform others.
Self-efficacy = your belief in your own ability to achieve your goals. Think “confidence.”
Internal locus of control = a belief that you, not external circumstances, determine the outcomes of your life.
External locus of control = a belief that factors outside of you determine the outcomes of your life.
The majority of the population has low self-efficacy and an external locus of control. According to several research studies, people with these two traits:
The list goes on. You get the point.
Reverse everything on that list for people with high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control.
The Greatest Lie Postulated Today
Is the world changing fast? Yes.
Are factors outside of your control unpredictable? Yes.
Do you have little control over the outcomes of your own life? No! I don’t care who the President of the United States is. You can prosper or perish in either case, and it’s not the President who decides that.
But herein lies the greatest lie being pushed today: That you are not in control of what happens in your own life!
Billionaire Peter Thiel has said:
“Indefinite attitudes to the future explain what’s most dysfunctional in our world today. Process trumps substance: when people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of various options. This describes Americans today. In middle school, we’re encouraged to start hoarding “extracurricular activities.” In high school, ambitious students compete even harder to appear omnicompetent. By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready — for nothing in particular.”
What would happen if you hired a construction manager to build your house and they said,
“Don’t bother giving us a blueprint of the design you want. After all, you can’t really plan for anything. So I’m not exactly sure how your house will turn out.”
When you build a house, you have a plan. You follow the plan and you follow principles, such as mathematical laws. Thus, you’re not surprised by the outcome. In other words, you don’t expect crooked walls that don’t line up. You don’t expect to have the bathroom where you intended the kitchen.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey has taught,
“Mental creation always precedes physical creation.”
Very Few People Desire the Responsibility
It’s easy to believe the idea that you are not responsible for what happens to you.
It’s much harder to own up to the fact that you are making choices every instant that determine your future.
Even this very moment, you’re reading this article.
Who is responsible for that?
Did you not click on the link that led you to this article?
Did you have no control over the matter?
The moment you realize you have complete responsibility for every aspect of your life is the exact moment you are completely FREE! (see the movie: The Adjustment Bureau)
If someone or something outside of you is responsible for your health, you won’t do everything in your power to be healthy.
If someone of something outside of you is responsible for you and yours, you won’t do everything in your power to provide for your family.
If someone or something outside of you is responsible for your future, then like most people, you will be the product of external circumstances.
Jim Rohn has said,
“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”
The 3 R’s of Choice
“When I look into the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.”
— Oprah Winfrey
There are three components to having the power to make choices:
When you take responsibility for your choices, you realize there is no neutral ground. Every decision you make has inherent meaning and consequence. Every decision you make also reflects what you truly believe, far louder than any words you speak. Thus, what you do with your time actually does matter. Who you spend your time with does matter. Everything you do matters when you take responsibility.
Lastly, results. Every decision has a consequence. Said Dr. Stephen R. Covey,
“We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principles.”
Every decision (and indecision!) has a consequence. Withholding the words, “I love you,” to a child or spouse could be more detrimental than you imagine. Conversely, doing small and simple things, like making someone feel special or smiling at a stranger could change their whole day, and whole life!
To quote one of my favorite songs:
“Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. There are chances for work all around just now, Opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,” But go and do something today.”
Every choice has a ripple effect.
Living a Consciously Designed Life
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Pulling it all together, here’s how it works:
“Resolve means it’s done,” said Robbins. “It’s done inside your heart, therefore it’s done in the real world.”
Hence, Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said,
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
Few people make committed decisions. Instead, they state preferences such as, “I’d like to be healthier and happier.”
To quote Assaraf’s mentor, “Are you interested or committed?
5. You are MOTIVATED, even when life is difficult.
According to one of the core theories of motivation, motivation involves three components:
This theory is known as “Expectancy Theory,” and it highlights that what you expect to happen often does. Hence the term, “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Interestingly, there is a related concept known as “The Pygmalion Effect,” which shows that what other people expect of you in large measure determines how well you do.
The principles are simple: Expect amazing things to happen and they generally will. Surround yourself with people who have high expectations for you and you’ll generally live up to those expectations.
Conclusion: Humility and Awe
“My dreams are my dress rehearsals for my future.”
— David Copperfield
Does everything in life go exactly how you plan it? Of course not.
Here’s the principle: Expect great things to happen, be happy even when they don’t.
However, just because things don’t go exactly according to plan doesn’t mean you aren’t in control. It is your decisions, not your conditions, which determine your destiny.
When you take up the responsibility to live your life according to design rather than default, you will constantly be humbled and in awe. You’ll be blown away as you watch life unfold as you saw it in your head — as your physical world conforms itself to your thoughts.
You absolutely can live your life how Rowling wrote Harry Potter and how Lucas wrote Star Wars.
You can dream and live BIG.
You can live by design.
Your world can continue to expand.
But you must think further ahead. 2021 shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. It’s an obvious continuation of 2010.
So what will your life be like in 2022?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work and Personality Isn't Permanent.
Written, Compiled & Edited by
The Bergen Review Media Team