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Resolution season approaches!

We’re approaching the season of resolutions and challenges. Gyms are running deals, diet programs are buying extra ad time, self-help/life coaches/ and gurus are gearing up for the season of building a better you. At least for January.

I like the idea of resolutions, but frankly, New Year’s resolutions do it all wrong.  Most of the time it’s resolving to do something you never wanted to do in the first place.  They’re things we think we ought to do but not what we want to do. All the resolutions, programs, or promises in the world won’t help if you don’t actually want to do whatever it is you’ve resolved. So if you are making resolutions thinking, “I really ought to lose weight/stop smoking/eat more soup,” just stop now. For most of us, ought isn’t enough to sustain a goal. You’ve got to want it. But if you really want to lose weight/stop smoking/eat more soup, well that’s just step one. Desire is good, but you need a little more power behind it.

Jon Acuff — author, blogger, professional encourager — has a jump on the resolution season with an interesting challenge he’s called “The Empty Shelf Challenge.”

He explains:

“Empty a shelf in your house somewhere. Every book you read from now until December 31, 2014 goes on that shelf. . . At the end of the year, I guarantee you will have read more than you did in 2013. Best of all, you’re scientifically more likely to accomplish something when you have people working on it with you.”

What’s great about the way he’s set it up is that it harnesses the power of accountability and the visual push of having an empty shelf to fill to encourage you to read more. Participants can join a shared Pinterest board and share their progress for added accountability.  (Pictures substitute for ebooks and library books and audio books count as well.)
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 empty shelf

I’ve found those two things — accountability and a visual record of accomplishment — have helped me in achieving other goals, most notably my great blog project. (Speaking of, this is my 303rd day of consecutive blogging. Go me.) The accountability factor helps not only by having people on your team saying, “you can do this!”, but also by exerting peer pressure.  The more people you tell that you’re going to do this thing, the more likely you’ll be asked at various times how the thing is going.  Societal pressure not to look like a total loser is a powerful motivator.

I think we all have a bit of Scarlet O’Hara in us when it comes to challenges: we’ll think about it tomorrow. The visual reminder doesn’t let us get away with that. If you see it, you’ll think about it. For my blogging project, I’m using the Seinfeld calendar to give me that visual motivation needed to maintain my momentum. For the empty shelf challenge, I’ve chosen my empty shelf in an area that I pass frequently. It’s the exact opposite of out of sight, out of mind.

Whether you’re making formal resolutions or just trying to start or break a habit, accountability and visual motivation are great tools to reaching your goals. But remember: first you’ve got to want it.

Are you making any New Year’s resolutions? What tools will you use to accomplish them?

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