I generally don’t do New Year resolutions because I believe every day is an opportunity to achieve new goals. Why wait until January 1st to start them? But I understand why a major milestone date is needed. They could be huge goals that require a fresh mental start and a symbolic start date in order to move away from the old ways. Sometimes, depending on the resolve and desire about for goal, you have to eradicate all means and possibility for returning to the previous undesired state or habit.
I would share a true story from my life that demonstrates this.
After high school in Nigeria, I had briefly attended a Nigerian university before leaving for the United States. It was quite a memorable time of great freedom and choice compared to the strict boarding high school I had graduated from (see my article about this here). An era of youthfulness and innocence with no fears or doubts about the future. I recently connected with my friends from that era; they are all now very successful doctors, medical practitioners, accountants and advertisers: Teddy, Larry, Gunny, Lepski and Maxie (nicknames).
Nigerian universities were experiencing a major challenge during that time, and the college professors and lecturers would frequently go on strike to protest low wages and other work-related issues. I recall the college shutting down twice for at least six months each during my freshman year there. These disruptions to my learning objectives were frustrating and I sought to return to the United States for my college education and career. This became my goal of goals.
My father preferred that I attained my undergraduate degree in Nigeria and learn some responsibility and maturity before setting out to the US. He was not comfortable letting me go to the US by myself at that age.
However, my heart was set on returning to the US. I could see nothing else. I made frantic efforts to find a place to stay and I reconnected with my childhood friends in Detroit, Ochuko and Ono Onosode, who had moved back a few years prior. They shared powerful testimonies showing how I could make a decent living and take care of myself in America while going to school there. We could all share an apartment together and my younger brother, Ayo, could also join us later. My father heard these things and agreed to let me go. We started the process for applying for my US passport which took many months because we had to get a certified copy of my birth certificate from New York State.
Despite all of this, there was a good chance that I could still make it in my college in Nigeria. I had graduated with excellent grades from my high school and I was book smart. I could compete very well with my peers and make my way in the medical disciplines just like my friends did. These alternative goals were not too bad and I might be able to make it work.
But I did not want to make it work there. I wanted to leave. I deprioritized my attendance in classes and took up one of my childhood sporting fascinations: karate. I attended every karate class with Teddy who was also in a transitional state to medical school and was taking only an elective until his transfer was completed. We learned all the karate katas, wazas, kicks, blocks, punches and all the various moves. It was so much fun. At night, we would all hang out, roaming around the school campus doing goofy things.
I would attend regular classes mainly to socialize with friends and perhaps out of respect for the professors. It was a great pleasure dissecting toads for pretty girls and then using those opportunities to hang out with them later in the evening. Colleagues and associates inquired why I was no longer interested and I told them my goals. My grades dropped very fast and I don’t not care very much. I was so irresponsible in this area as I thought I was merely passing time until I left. But it is my life and I am taking responsibility on how I want to live it — with a strong sense of urgency (my mentor, Sandy Gallagher, wrote about sense of urgency in her article, “7 Habits To Become A Multimillionaire” here).
Some scary thoughts did come to my mind. What if my father changed his mind for some weird reason? What if it took years to receive my US passport? How would I face my friends, colleagues and associates? Fixing my grades would take many years and I would never graduate at the top of my class. I was actually in danger of getting kicked out of college. These were opposing thoughts to my goals.
Like Napoleon Bonaparte said: “I see only my objective, the obstacles must give way.” I removed all possibility of me staying in Nigeria. I announced boldly to all my friends that I will be leaving…I even said my goodbyes. I destroyed my grades and my scholarly reputation. I burned that bridge completely and there was no going back. I had to exit the country or nothing else. I finally received my US passport early in my sophomore year and left for Detroit. The rest is now history.
I learned a powerful lesson from the entire experience about goals. How strong is your resolve towards your goal? What are you willing to sacrifice for it? Is your faith strong enough that you do not even consider a Plan B or C? Here are some guiding tips for accomplishing a strong goal:
- Follow your heart. Know your self and what you really want. Your heart would not lie to you. Remove all opposing thoughts about your goal. Burn the bridges.
- Make every day count. Complete a task towards your goal each day. Make that follow-up phone call. Send that email reminder. Be persistence. Don’t stop. Check that task off your list.
- Be happy and stay in the assumption of your goal manifested. This brings more happy feelings and more motivation about your goal.
Every day is a new year. You do not have to wait until January 1st to start and execute a new goal. If you can imagine it, you can do it. Do it now.