Around this time of year many people make resolutions. New Year, new me has been beaten into a cliché. That said, the beginning the year is often a great time to start pulling out old destructive habits and planting new productive ones in their place.

But if everyone does this every year why aren’t we all billionaires with six-pack abs?

Well, a lot of it has to do with attempting to cut out bad habits without appropriate substitutes. [More on this here.] But it’s also the depth—or lack thereof—of our knowledge. True Mastery of a subject or activity requires 3 levels:

1) Academic understanding: the ability to understand a concept. Most of us know we shouldn’t eat sugary crap all the time, or have more than a glass or two of red wine a day, or we should exercise. We know these things so we think it’s enough—it’s not.

2) Emotional mastery: you have heard something with enough repetition, and it’s stimulated enough feelings inside you–desires, hungers, fears, concerns–that now you become conscious and capable of consistently using what you’ve learned.

3) Physical mastery: you don’t have to think about what you do; your actions are second nature. They’ve become habits programmed into your central nervous system. The only way to get it is through consistent repetition.*

Aside from its usefulness, I’m sharing this with you to illustrate an important point: Just because you academically understand something does not mean you truly know it. You need to become emotionally connected with a concept to the point where you do it consistently.

So unless you already have physical mastery over a specific resolution, please help yourself by reading about it and further internalizing the concept.

Here are 4 resolutions for an amazing new year:

Meditate Daily

While this resolution is probably the most known and touted of the bunch, it comes first because of its importance. Meditation is a force multiplier.

What if you could measurably improve your brain in only a couple months? What if it would only take a daily investment of 20 minutes? Well, according to a recent Harvard study, meditation may do just that.

Is it a coincidence that a disproportionate amount of top performers have a meditation practice? I don’t think so.

The goal of meditation is not to stop all thinking; the point is to cultivate awareness of and detachment from your thoughts. Usually this involves paying close attention to one’s breathing. (I’m also currently investigating heart rate mindfulness, which provides a less woo-woo-branded alternative.) You don’t win meditation, and the only way to lose is by not doing it.

A simple way to start is by picking an upbeat song that puts you in a good mood and just sitting with your eyes closed through the track. Tim Ferriss, who I commandeered this idea from, chose “Party Like It’s 1999.” I went with “Ice, Ice, Baby.” This strategy worked for me as an easy on-ramp into meditation.

The next step I would recommend is downloading the Calm app on your phone. Calm offers a free 7-day Intro to Mindfulness course that’s extremely useful for beginners. The course is simply a ten-minute guided meditation once a day. The app also offers tracking, soothing background noises, and a host of other features.

The Dali Lama said, “If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

That endorsement is good enough for me.

Measure Water Intake

Shockingly, the most important macronutrient—water—is also the most overlooked. Dieters frequently count protein, fat, and carbs while ignoring their water intake. This mistake can slow and even stop progress.

Lean tissue contains more water than fatty tissue, so every human is a different percentage of water, but virtually every one of us is at least half water. Not coffee, or juice, or soda. Water.

Here are just a handful of the many potential benefits of drinking enough water:

  • More energy
  • Improved digestion / relieve constipation
  • Promote weight loss
  • Improved complexion
  • Boosted immune system

And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

How much water should you consume? A good rule of thumb is to take your bodyweight (in pounds) and divide by two. This number is about how many ounces of water you should be drinking daily.

Drink water, my friend.

Upgrade Your Circle

Have you heard the saying “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”? Well this isn’t just fancy life-coach speak. This has been shown to hold true in experiments done with chimps, our closest living relatives.

How did you learn to walk? To talk?

You watched other humans around you and imitated them until you could do these things too. It’s monkey-see, monkey-do, and we are all just monkeys that hit the genetic jackpot.

This is intuitive and obvious when we are young. But as we get older we tend to tell ourselves we are above being influenced by anything we do not want to be influenced by (which makes us even more susceptible to being swayed by unsolicited influence!). Reminding ourselves we are open to all kinds of influence—and most affected by the handful of people we spend the most time with—is a great way to wrestle back a lot of our self-control.

“What if there aren’t enough good chimps around?” is a common question. Well first I would challenge you to dig down and see if that’s the truth or just a way to hide and avoid change. Next I would bring up the notion of virtual chimps.

If you’re reading this you have a connection to the Internet. This means you have access to billions of people, both living and dead. We’re blessed. Today we can find videos, articles, and podcasts of the people we wish to model. Consuming enough of a single person’s content can impact you almost as deeply as a real relationship with her or him. I highly recommend this if you’re stuck in a place that does not offer very many chimps you wish to be like.

Here are a handful of virtual chimp nominees:

  • Tim Ferriss
  • Seth Godin
  • Dr. Sam Collins
  • Derek Sivers
  • Gary Vaynerchuk

Remember: You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Upgrade your circle and you upgrade your Self.

Change “Can’t” to “Won’t”

Last year I attended Jack Canfield’s One Day to Greatness seminar in Chicago. The most powerful concept I took away from this was the notion of changing “I can’t” to “I won’t.”

Change “I can’t make time to exercise” to “I won’t make time to exercise.” Say both out loud and see how each one makes you feel. This can and should be done for all of the self-defeating narratives you tell yourself.

This simple exercise allows you to regain control of your life. By saying “I won’t” you take responsibility for everything in your life.

The notion of extreme ownership is practiced and preached by top-performs from all walks of life. From the most decorated Navy SEAL in the Iraq War (who co-wrote a book called, go figure, Extreme Ownership) to Sadhguru, a non-violent mystic (in his life-changing book, Inner Engineering). If you want success, however you define it, accept complete responsibility and change your can’ts to won’ts.

Meditate. Measure water intake. Upgrade your circle. Take absolute responsibility. I hope you find these suggestions useful. If you have found another suggestion not listed to be extremely effective, please feel free to e-mail me or share it in the comments section.


*I’d like to thank Tony Robbins for developing this simple and elegant framework for thinking about skill acquisition.