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With staggering regularity, millions of people worldwide make their commitments to change their lives on that single night. This is the time when we all notice we’ve moved closer to dying and that our passing might be filled with extremely painful regret – that we failed to meet our own expectations. It’s a little surprise then, that seeing this threat we want to change something. Which is where New Year’s resolution come to an aid, an easily available solution to an important issue.

Some want to lose weight – they swarm the gyms. Others want to raise their income – they start to learn new skills. Yet others simply grasp happiness – and open to new relationships and experiences.

What happens next?

I didn’t manage to establish a precise date, but about halfway through January gyms are sparsely occupied, courses get cancelled and experiences are postponed until after I’m through with this thing at work.

And it’s the latest date that devastating majority of resolutions are put in the darkest corners of our conscience, deliberately hidden to be overlooked by any remorse. Many fail even earlier. I can bet most won’t survive the weekend.

Funnily enough, the reason we fail is our strong belief that we won’t fail. We don’t plan for failure. Which makes us perfectly insane, as famously described by Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

(Neither of these remarkable gentlemen said or wrote this definition – the number of misattributed quotes on the Internet is beyond imagination.)

The fact is, we’ve failed on these plans repeatedly, over and over, until it brought us to the tipping point, to the decision to change things.

Why people suddenly decide to lose weight? Because they repeatedly and consistently failed on exercising, eating healthy, and restraining from gluttony.

Why people suddenly decide to raise their income? Because they repeatedly and consistently failed on spending smart, pushing harder, and taking calculated risks.

Why people suddenly decide to pursue happiness? Because, they repeatedly and consistently failed on understanding their needs, communicating them, and verifying whether they’re right or not.

And yet, on New Year’s Eve, we all blatantly lie to ourselves that this time it’ll be different!

NO, IT WON’T.

You kept failing for months, years, and decades. That makes a rock-solid habit. You will fail again.

Unless… Unless you plan for it. How?

Well, you already know what to do to be fat, earn pitiful wage, or be unhappy.

Look at all these times when you reached out for a bag of chips. All those days when you decided that mediocre effort is enough. All those evenings when you looked away from your own happiness.

When did it happen? How? What triggered the specific behavior you want to change? Quantify it.

Now, given you acted accordingly to your resolution, what would you do? Be specific.

Finally, plan. Put it in writing and read every day, until it carves in your mind.

It’s that simple.

And do you know what the best part is?

Every now and then, you will fail anyway. Old habits die hard. That’s ok, we’re humans, perfect in our imperfection.

Yet each of these failures will inevitably grasp your attention – wait, I didn’t want to do that!

This kind of reflection is the best way to learn. Unless you want to die young, poor, or unhappy. That’s always an option.

There are several rules that decide the origin, highlight, and the ultimate fate of every society. There’s the commonality of values, however temporary that may be, deciding it’s appearance. A set of people brought together for whatever the reason, though deciding to stay together far enough the needs of survival, defined in myriad of ways. Then there’s the bright spot – a society rises, grows, and ultimately outshines every other around, attracting all kinds of decent folks, along with freeloaders and some plankton.

Then, as it inevitably fades, it reaches state of stability. Low enough not to become a spot on a radar for big sharks, big enough to thrive. Hey, have you thought about the people around you? Your closest circle of friends.

What are they like?

Seriously, sit there for a while and figure out what it is that defines your inner circle.

What are they like? What is it that defines them? What are the core beliefs that hold them together?

Really, write it down.

Got that? Now it’s going to get harder.

Look at the things you figured out. If you average them out, they will quite accurately describe the actual reality of one person.

That person is you.

There’s a reason for that. Being a ultrasocial species, we seek acceptance above everything else. Whatever role we currently play in the society – father, mother, single at particular age range – there are things our inner circle expects us to do. Everyone outside it expects everybody within to adhere to adequate set of rules.

The system scales up indefinitely, to encompass whole mankind, though that’s irrelevant.

Thing is, subconsciously, you will attempt to comply to rules of your inner circle. Ever heard of all those idiot kids doing the dumbest things imaginable? They do it for the very same reason for which you’re buying a flat on a 40-year mortgage, an enormous size TV set, and get a new car every four years. Odds are, you need neither of these.

Though everyone around has them. Darn it!

And as you might thing I just made my point, I’m not even close.

Career-wise, how far up do you think all these people in your inner circle might get? Executive status? Start-up owner? Just a regular Joe?

Whatever your circle is, you will attempt to keep up with them.

  • Hang out with the winners, winners you shall be.
  • Hang out with the average Joe, average Joe you shall be.
  • Hang out with losers bringing you down, a loser bringing others down you shall be.

There’s the old saying:

“If you hang around with five idiots, you will be the sixth.”

Now, let me state the obvious. It is cruel. Some people just aren’t cut for big wins, epic achievements, and coming victorious out of the greatest of risks. And that’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with this.

As long as you make a conscious choice.

Now, look around you again. Do you think these people will help you go up, or bring you down to the level of their acceptable mediocrity?

Just don’t be cruel when making cuts. It’s not their fault they feel complacent. It’s not your fault you don’t. It’s just the fact of life.

Look around, make your choice, cut mercilessly.

Don’t be a sixth idiot. Unless, obviously, you want to. That’s your choice.