Every year, people attempt and abandon a social and cultural tradition known as the “New Year’s Resolution.”

Many people participate in this glorified activity and have made a habit of only committing to goals during this time of year. An even greater phenomenon is the two kinds of people that emerge from this ritual.

First, there are the small handful of individuals that maintain their conviction throughout the year and accomplish their goals: the conquerors.

Then there are the abandoners, who use their initial passion to justify their belief that they can always try again next year.

The big question is: why are there so few conquerors?

In order to be successful in life, there is a necessary understanding of where it is one wants to be, and how one plans to get there. There are a multitude of people that are constantly complaining about how unsatisfied they are, or how they wish they had more. And yet, they do nothing about it.

What distinguishes these people from those like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Casey Neistat? Some may argue that these people lack the appetite to do the work necessary to get what they want. However, if you take a closer look, these so-called “lazy” people actually lack something more fundamental to success: goals.

Goals are the psychological manifestation of one’s desires. They are the stars that orient where it is we want to go, and what decisions we must make to get there. Without goals, we lack the ability to set a direction in life, making our futures unpredictable and inconsequential.

When looking at extremely successful people, like Musk, Zuckerberg or Neistat, we see that these people are constantly evolving. They are constantly making bigger goals for themselves, and are never satisfied, even with billions of dollars, global fame or mastery of their field.

The first step to getting where we want is to set goals. Identify what areas of life are unsatisfactory, be it financial, familial, educational or even spiritual aspects, and make distinct goals to improve it.

Being complacent is bad enough, complaining without doing is even worse. Start by making three small, short-term, attainable goals every day, and spend significant time and energy to accomplish it.

But this is only the first step. When we make goals, we approach the bottom of the mountain. Now, we must climb.

There is this ancient tactic conquerors like Hernán Cortés and Alexander the Great used called “burning the boats.” These leaders would literally burn their boats when they arrived on the land they wanted to invade, stranding them. This was extremely effective because it clearly narrowed the outcome of their future. These conquerors and their men had two options: they could either accomplish their goal, or die. There was no turning back.

These men, much like the successful people of today, were committed entirely to their goals. They saw exactly what they wanted, and used every ounce of strength they had to attain it.

Similarly, but obviously not identically, this mentality should be applied to every goal we make. If we truly believe that the only way forward is by accomplishing our goals, then we accomplish our goals. If we linger or doubt, we may never move forward, or worse, we will lose.

So, when making a goal, make sure it moves forward to something that is truly wanted. We should not waste time trying to achieve things that we do not wholeheartedly believe are important.

The only thing that can effectively halt our progress towards our goals is us. We must hone our appetites for our goals and use this to drive us forward. Just as Cortés and Alexander focused all of their might to get what they wanted, so can we.

Burn your boat, so to speak, and give yourself no other option than to conquer your goals.

By Paul Mai

Please note that opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.