It’s a new year. The very first (and the very last 2010) that will ever be. And people are re-inventing themselves everywhere with resolutions. You may be, too. Before you get too far into making your 2010 plans, check your premises. How many masters will you be trying to serve?

Myself I am a case study in resolutions. Like many, I have failed epically at several resolutions. (Stay in shape, gain fluency in a foreign language, write a novel, etc.) Too many to even list here. Luckily it seems that I’m in good company. I’ve heard statistics that say that up to 90% of resolutions are lost or abandoned. Most in the first month after being made.

While I’ve failed at a bunch of resolutions, I have managed to make, and keep, and succeed at a bunch. Going backwards from today, the most recent were a bachelor party in Oktoberfest, a 5.25 mile open water swim, running a small business out of my home (after cubicle hours), surgically repairing my big toe, Digging for Jesus in the Holy Land, getting a Master of Science degree (again after hours), competing in a natural bodybuilding show, etc. I feel this gives me a pretty good, if inconsistent, track record.

Why do I succeed at some goals and not others?

I think by examining my successes and failures, I’ve finally figured this out. Are you ready? It’s simple, really. And I am certainly not the only one to have ever figured it out;

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
Matthew 6:24

You Can Only Serve One Master.

While I am taking this bit of scripture a bit out of context the spirit holds true for achieving resolutions, accomplishing goals, and getting stuff done in general. You can only serve one master, completely. If you have one, overriding goal and you follow it completely, your chances for success are much, much greater.

For me, this is a question of focus. If you can take one goal, focus on it, and put it above all others – make that one goal your master – you can get the job done. It’s that focus that becomes the key. I’ve talked before about linear and cyclical goals -goals with a finish line are different than goals that require a lifestyle change. I think both types, the ones with a clear and objective measure as well as their more subjective cousins, can benefit from this kind of approach.

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldn’t that be something?
-Finger Eleven

It’s when you try to serve two masters, even related ones, that you get in trouble. I know that’s why I’ve failed. Here are some examples.

This past year I set two goals; get in shape and to swim 5.25 miles in the cross bay swim. I lessened the abstraction on the first by making ‘get in shape’ an objective goal of weighing 180lbs at under 10% bodyfat. My initial thesis was that anyone who could swim that distance would automatically be in shape. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Especially for someone who needed to train regularly to get to that level of endurance?

I quickly found out that I was trying to serve 2 masters. In order to swim that long of a distance I could not work out at the gym, I couldn’t cross train, I needed to just plain swim. This isn’t to say that other people couldn’t do this, I just was not one of them. To be able to fuel my long distance swims I needed to consume a ton of calories. I had a choice to eat in a healthy manner or to eat everything available. I chose the latter mainly due to time constraints. These marathon practice swim sessions took a lot of time and I needed to be able to eat as I could, when I could, and usually as much as I could. Some times I needed to hold off on training so I could recuperate from my previous practice. In the end I had to sacrifice one of my masters to the other.

This year, I am more closely examining the goals that are on my plate. I have a lot of ambitions and a lot of plans, but I know that it is best for me to serve only one master at a time. My focus now is to write down on paper all of the goals that I have for this next year, prioritize them, and assign a sequence that they will be worked in. This should help me focus and foresee and keep me serving one master at a time. Of course, you can come along for the ride. I am building out a part of this website where you will be able to see my current goal (if there is more than one, they’ll be shown in order.) Let’s see how I progress and if this helps out.

Your part.

What goals do you have for the new year? How many are there and how did you solve the 2 masters issue? Let us know below.

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