This year I will be continuing a long-standing tradition of not making New Year’s resolutions.
I have found that my avoidance of New Year’s resolutions surprises some people, and I suppose that makes sense. I do, after all, work with my clients to develop goals that are meaningful and keep their work in alignment with their mission and top priorities. So I thought I’d take a moment to explain myself here.
Resolutions are just too binary. My problem with them is as simple as that. You achieve them and you win, or you don’t and you fail. It’s a ton of pressure to put on yourself on one of the few days of the year when you have a great excuse to laze about in your slippers and watch goofy movies you usually wouldn’t admit to loving (mine is Love Actually, of course).
New Year’s resolutions are also too much of a statement that you did something wrong last year. I don’t like looking back on the past year and thinking about all the things I could’ve or should’ve done better.
I’m all for self-improvement, but couldn’t we take a moment before we start the retroactive critique to give ourselves even the tiniest little high five for some of the things we did right?
The problem with resolutions and so many types of corporate goals is their blindness to the fact that humans are multi-dimensional creatures. You can’t just push a button faster to produce more widgets. We’re complicated by our personal history, our faith, our relationships, and in my (decadently non-mainstream) worldview, our relative nearness to ley-lines.
How about this New Year’s Eve instead of resolutions we pick our top three accomplishments from the outgoing year and raise a glass to them? Let’s change the conversation to one of reflective pride in what we’ve done, and give ourselves the chance to unabashedly celebrate our achievements, even if they aren’t the type that are commonly celebrated in our society.
Let’s change the conversation to one of reflective pride in what we’ve done, and give ourselves the chance to unabashedly celebrate our achievements.
Only then can we take a look at the upcoming year from a healthier perspective of building upon our strengths, rather than compensating for our deficits.
To that end, here are a couple of suggestions for replacing resolutions with a more creative and productive approach:
1. Figure out what is central to your value system. Is it spending time with family? Supporting a cause? Volunteering your time? Whatever it is, elbow out a little more space and time for that one thing during the upcoming year. Congratulate yourself every time you are able to find time for it. Not sure what those values might be? Consider leaning on your holiday traditions to find the values that reflect who you really are. Or better yet, borrow someone else’s traditions and dig into them to find their underpinning values. I personally think if more of us used this cultural mix-and-match approach the world would be a better place.
2. Focus on what makes you feel most happy. When was the last time you enjoyed a full-bellied laugh that made tears run down your cheeks? How long has it been since you did something that simultaneously scared and elated you? When did you last give a puppy dog a thorough ear rub? Remember what makes you glow with satisfaction, and relentlessly pursue those experiences.
3. Come to terms with what is blocking you from #2. We live in challenging times, with bad news around every corner. Think about how you protect yourself so that you can continue to forge ahead. Make an invisible force field around you that enables you to keep fighting for what’s right, despite all the obstacles. Find your wolfpack — the people who have your back no matter what. Rely on them. Make sure they can rely on you.
And don’t forget that we will keep getting knocked down, especially those of us pursuing mission-driven work. It’s in the getting up again that we figure out who we really are, and recognize our true strength.
So here’s to 2017. May we navigate this year through its ups and downs, and move toward a brighter and more peaceful world.
Post script: None of this applies to 2016. With all due respect, &@*$ this year.
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