Many of us have plans for change in the coming year — but we’re not sure how to get there or where to start.

The BIG IDEA: Before you can have any chance at setting goals that truly work for you, there are three key elements that need to exist in your life in 2019.

In Part 1 of 3 Keys to Making 2019 You Best Year Ever, we explored element #1: An Identity to Change. Focusing on the “who” before the “what” challenges you to shift the belief behind the behavior, and this causes you to think differently about yourself. Identity shapes actions.

In his New York Times Best Selling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear devotes an entire chapter to the vital importance of identity change before behavior change. Clear says, “Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.”

In Part 1, I also mention how Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck, when asked to describe his teams’ remarkable comeback season under first year coach Frank Reich, replied, “Frank’s willingness to surrender the result to the process has been the biggest difference-maker in our season.”

I found Luck’s comments fascinating–and a great illustration of what I call “the difference maker” in living a life of influence and impact.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1, check it out now and then come back here for Part 2.

Here’s the second element:

2. A Discipline to Start

In his popular leadership podcast, author Craig Groeschel recommends a practice I’ve adopted over the last 20 years that has radically changed my life: Develop one small discipline per year. The keys are to (a) start small, and (b) connect it to the identity you want to change.

Finish this sentence: “I want to be a person who…”
• Is organized? Develop the discipline of making your bed every day.
• Is healthy? Develop the discipline of drinking a 20 oz glass of water every morning after waking up.
• Shows genuine appreciation for others? Develop the discipline of writing one thank you note per day.

By starting with small, simple disciplines–making your bed, drinking a glass of water–over time, you train your mind to think differently about yourself.

I know it’s tempting to think it’s too simple. Take my word for it–it’s not. Better yet, just try it.

This approach has, over the past 20 years of my life, produced countless life-shaping improvements that I enjoy every day. Here are just a few:
• I exercise 6 – 7 days a week.
• I eat 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

As a result…
• I enjoy optimal heath–I haven’t even had a cold in over 5 years.
• I read between 20 – 25 books every year.
• I enjoy an amazing marriage and close relationship with my children and extended family.

I don’t share these examples to be boastful; rather, to point out that each of these lifestyle habits started out very small–decades ago–one small discipline at a time–compounded every year.

This commitment will also impact those closest to you. For example, years ago my wife Debbie and I decided we want to be active, lifelong learners well into our 80’s and 90’s. So we made a simple commitment to attend at least one conference–generally over a weekend–every year. The content varies–marriage, spiritual growth, self-development–but this one discipline has not only enhanced our identity as lifelong learners (and directly contributes to my 20-25 books a year goal), it has strengthened our marriage as well.

For me, the one discipline I will start this year to support my identity goal of being a person who is present and has time for people is stillness; specifically, it is a commitment to spending 10 – 20 minutes per day in silence and stillness before God. This might not sound difficult to a sanguine personality, but for me, with my overactive mind, this will be a real challenge!

What I’m asking you to consider in 2019 is, like the Indianapolis Colts surprising success this past year, your commitment to trusting the process over the result will make a much bigger difference in your life than setting outcome-based goals over which you have little control. But you must start small and you must stay consistent over time.

What is one discipline you want—or need—to start?

Ready for the third and final element? Check out Part 3!