“Great thinkers grow from the work done before them, while great ideas are born from the improvements made to an existing one.”

This year began just as many have before it. We’ve spent the first couple of months surrounded by exuberant cries of ‘new year, new me!’ alongside mentions of fresh starts and clean slates. Many of us (myself included) have probably bought into these philosophies that accompany the excitement of another trip around the sun, and why wouldn’t we? They’re exciting, motivating, and they seem foolproof.

Unfortunately, achieving goals through the methodology of a New Years resolution is harder than it sounds. There seems to be a rampant admiration for those who’ve reached their goals by white-knuckling it and a widespread belief that starting from scratch is the best way to get things done. While achievements like these should be celebrated, it’s important they’re not seen as the only worthy method for change and self-improvement.

Starting fresh to achieve a new goal puts you at the base camp of the mountain you’re trying to climb. While there’s nothing better than a good test like this to build some character, starting from the bottom presents us with a greater number of challenges and creates plenty of opportunity for giving up when times get tough. These are the shortfalls of starting from scratch that arise from a lack of planning and preparation that’s usually present in other goal-setting methods – making it much more difficult to master. Without the necessary prep for obstacles and setbacks, those who are genuinely intent on reaching their goals through resolutions and clean slates can develop a deep sense of failure when reaching their first hurdle or bump in the road.

This is a common theme amongst those striving to give up smoking by quitting cold turkey. A few maintain that relying on willpower alone is the best way of getting the job done when in reality only 3-5% manage to keep it up for longer than 6 months; leaving the remaining 95-97% to return to the habit. Square one isn’t an effective starting point for everyone and failing to master the methods of the iron-willed can make people feel unworthy, or too weak for growth and improvement.

So, why work from the bottom of the mountain when you could begin halfway up?

It may seem like the best route to take, but a fresh start can leave you unprepared for the challenges you’ll face as you work toward your goal. To maximise your chances of success in achieving your goal, implement a strategy that’s tailored to you and what you want to achieve. So, how exactly do you do that?

Make the most of what you’ve got

Great thinkers grow from the work done before them, while great ideas are born from the improvements made to an existing one. Legendary innovator, Sir Isaac Newton himself said ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ The idea of doing it tough by starting from scratch goes completely against how many of the greatest innovators of the past have worked. Utilising the people and resources around us in the pursuit of our own goals isn’t something to be frowned upon when it’s one of the most effective and sustainable routes to take.

The fastest car on the market is an example of this; its creators didn’t reinvent the wheel to produce it, they simply refined its predecessor. Make the most of what you’ve already got to eliminate challenges and better adapt to the changes you’re making. Rather than scrapping everything for a new beginning, make the most of what you’ve got and the support around you – there’s value here!

Implement small changes

Starting from scratch often involves a total rewiring of your current processes, habits, and skills – going back to square one could mean giving up progress you’ve already made! Take a look at where you are in relation to your goal, the habits you already have, and the changes you need to make to get to where you want to be. Making small changes to your current practices is a much more sustainable method that results in greater progress over time and minimises the possibility of major setbacks if you come across any hurdles.

The history of human civilisation does a great job of illustrating how powerful incremental change can be. Thousands of years have enabled humans to hone the traits, crafts, and skills that have shaped the world we now live in and the way we live in it. Innovations like the birth of written language through Ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphics have incrementally evolved through generations to a point that has ultimately allowed me to share my ideas with you in this format today. Our success as a species has been dependent on the fact that each generation’s success has been laid before them by their forefathers.

With this in mind, starting from scratch essentially seems counterproductive.

Getting fit. Kicking a habit. Creating that invention that’s going to make you a millionaire (this advice entitles me to a cut if you manage it, by the way). These goals that so many of us aspire to don’t have to be achieved by beginning at the bottom of the mountain with a hard slog to the top. Get rid of the clean slate and utilise the tools you’ve already got – reaching your goal still won’t be easy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

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