At the end of 2014, this “New Year, New Me” meme exploded across Instagram and Facebook. Women who had never worn a high bun or purchased lace up stilettos (because the strangled-calf look is not cute) took to social media to declare their independence from jealousy, fake friends, and negativity. You could almost hear the clamors of “That's right, girl!” and “Yaaassss” as women all over the internet ceremoniously stepped into 2015 (and later 2016) with their symbolic tan dresses and bags full of God, Love and Focus.
As 2017 approaches, I can practically feel the Google searches increasing for this photo as women prepare to delude themselves into believing that the “new year, new me” catch phrase is going to work some magical power over their lives. The problem is the catch phrase is supposed to be a spark, not the fire that will sustain warmth. Don't get me wrong, the power of positive thinking works, but it doesn't work alone. You have to add some considerable effort to get to results. Honestly, we are so busy with our fast-paced, hustle and grind, can't-stop-won't-stop lives that building meaningful, worthwhile change just.....takes to long.
Cue the Insta-piration!
In today's modern society, we are inundated with so much information that, in order to ingest it all, we only process really short snippets. Don't get me wrong, social media has been awesome for helping us stay connected to one another. However, it has conditioned us to only process 140 characters of information at a time. And guess what? Real change doesn't happen in the time it takes to read a tweet. We read these you-can-do-it memes, get a couple of scriptures about how God knows the plans he has for us and post a few inspirational quotes about how change is gonna happen in the new year. Instant inspiration. We're feeling good about our decision, right? And then, on January 3rd, we wonder why no change has come.
This year, let's try something a little different. Instead of hurriedly posting a few memes and New Year's quotes, let's take some extra steps and make these resolutions a reality.
When I was working as a manager at Shane Co, we did inventory on a monthly basis. Counting thousands of little packages filled with diamonds, sapphires and rubies was annoying, but undoubtable necessary. The inventory report provided the management team with a great snapshot of what pieces of jewelry we had on hand, what stones we were short on, and what settings we had in stock. The inventory report was the first step in creating our sales plan and our sales goals. That sales plan allowed our team to push certain inventory to customers so we could hit our goals.
So, before charging into 2017 with prosperity scriptures in hand, the first question we have to ask ourselves is “what's in your stockroom?” You have to figure out what happened in 2016 that kept you from hitting those all-important goals. You also have to determine what traits you have that work in your favor. Taking an inventory of your life is going to help you create a realistic plan of action.
Let me tell you what inventory does not mean. It isn't the surface stuff. It isn't about going to your refrigerator and cleaning out all the junk food. It isn't about cutting up the credit cards. Taking inventory involves identifying your weaknesses so you can plan for them. It means discovering your strengths so you can exploit them. It means you have to honestly call out those character flaws in yourself so you can both face them head on and create ways to overcome them.
For me, the deeper issue is a lack of consistency and discipline. I don't feel bad about saying that because I know I'm not the only one. You shouldn't feel bad about whatever your inventory report tells you. Your inventory may be distraction (you start on something, but you can't seem to finish it). It could be low self-esteem (every time you start something, you rationalize your way out of finishing it). It could be that you're trying to stay busy so you can mask some type of pain. Whatever is on your inventory report, you can't allow your weakness to be a place of shame. The word weakness does not mean failure. It literally means “the state or condition of lacking strength.” A weakness is an area of opportunity for you to overcome. Your freedom comes the minute you stop seeing your weaknesses as death certificates and start seeing them as a condition you can change or capitalize on.
Think about it like this: When Toys R Us runs out of the Xbox Ones at Christmas, do they shut the store and stop selling video game consoles? Absolutely not. They know that you are going to come in for a Xbox. They know they don't have it. So, they keep it pushing and try to sell you a PS4 instead. They understand their weakness and play to their strength. And that, my friend, is what we have to do to hit our goals. Get distracted easily? Break down those goal in short, doable steps. Being a little too hard on yourself? Record your friends saying awesome things about you and play it to yourself over and over until you believe it. Too busy to work on your goals? Make it a social occasion and ask some friends to come over and work on them with you. You don't have to allow your lack of strength in an area to stop you from thriving.
What's the Plan?
“I'm going to throw away all the junk food in my house and eat 1200 calories a day.”
Friends, this is NOT a plan of action. This is a photo caption on Instagram. Don't do this to yourself.
Since words mean things, you all know I like to crack open my Merriam-Webster and give you a starting point for meaning. Check out what my good friend Merriam says about the word plan:
a : a method for achieving an end
b : an often customary method of doing something : procedure
c : a detailed formulation of a program of action
d : goal, aim
Now, all the rest of the definitions are great, but my favorite definition is C. Because when we are trying to build a life that yields results, we need a few details to be in place. When you design a plan, it has to be one that takes your inventory into account. Let me give you an example.
You're trying to create a healthy eating plan. You love to cook, but you currently eat out a lot because you don't have a lot of time to prep meals. Here's what a detailed plan might look like for you.
1. I'm going to throw away all the junk food in my house and eat 1200 calories a day
2. I'm going to replace that junk food with 6 small meals a day
3. I'm going to download 1 month worth of healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I don't have to hunt for different meals to cook myself.
4. I'm going to go shopping on Friday night after work for my items (Sunday afternoon is my backup shop day)
5. I'm going to buy some fresh foods, but I'm also going to buy some healthy pre-packaged foods in case I get in a pinch.
6. On Sunday, I'm going to cook two or three large meals in the crock pot, put them in tupperware plates and freeze them for the week so all I have to do is whip out a plate and pop it in the microwave.
7. I'm going to get calorie counts for items at my 5 favorite fast food spots/restaurants so if I'm in a pinch, I can grab fast food and still stay within my calorie count
8. I'm going to give myself some room in my 1200 calories to have a treat.
9. I'm going to download an app on my phone to track my calories
10. I'm going to use my phone to set reminders for myself to eat my meals and track my calories
See how that does a better job of setting you up for success? This plan takes both strengths and weaknesses into account. It also allows for the fact that life happens and some things are beyond your control. There are several tools out there to help you create a detailed plan for whatever goal you are trying to achieve. There is no shame in joining a group or program that already has a detailed plan mapped out for you. The point is that your “New Year, New You” meme is not going to help you sparkle and shine like a detailed plan will.
The Audit Team
In a lot of companies, there is no department more hated than the audit team. Their sole purpose is to get all in the middle of your mix and tell you exactly what your team is doing wrong. It seems like they never have anything nice to say and they are normally the people who mess with your bonus at the end of the year. They are clearly not on your Christmas card list.
But, without them, businesses far and wide would fail.
Likewise, if you don't have anyone to whom you are accountable, your goal is going to fall flat on its assets. Who are you accountable to? Who, in your life, can tell you that you're not hitting the mark? Because that is the person who needs to become your best friend. The person that mercilessly calls you out on your missteps is exactly the person who will keep you in line. Accountability can come in a lot of different forms. For you, it may be posting your results on social media every Monday. Maybe it's joining a support group. Maybe it's a gorgeous trainer that makes you want to go work out. It may be telling your nosy auntie who's always trying to compete with you what your goal is so you can constantly show her up. Whatever method works, friend. You just need to find something or someone that holds you responsible for your results.
Listen, nobody loves a good quote or inspirational tweet or meme more than me, but that won't be enough to get the job done. Real results won't happen with just insta-piration alone. Take your inventory, make a detailed plan and be accountable for your actions. Who knows...in 2018, your success can insta-spire someone to make real change too.