It is nearly impossible to welcome a new calendar year without thinking about what is to come. The pressure to set new goals, make new plans, and start anew is brought on by the constant reminders from our friends, social networks, and media of all types. Essentially, you would have to be living under a rock not to be bombarded with the expectations of setting new year resolutions. Well, this year I asked myself, what if we saw the new year’s resolution craze for what it really was, an arbitrary point in time in the dead of winter that is marketed as a reset button. Upon further reflection, I believe that we are easily charmed by this idea of a ‘do-over’ because we fundamentally lack stick-to-itiveness for many of our challenging goals in life. I say this not as a pessimist, rather, as a realist that aims to focus on the bigger issue to actually achieve real change. After all, isn’t that what we all really want in the new year, change? So to do this, I will embark on the following alternative plan of action for 2019 and suggest you do the same.
- Count your blessings and answered prayers for the year.
Make this a practical exercise by listing out as many blessings you can think of in 5 minutes for each month of the year. You could start with the December and work your way backward to January. Also, if you have not already done so, commit to keeping a blessings/answered prayer log this year to help you with this process in the future. The best way to put the year in perspective is to review your blessings.
- Take time to clarify what is most important to you.
It is so easy to fill our lives with things that really don’t matter. We are so busy with life’s distractions, influences, and entertainment competing for our emotions, energy, and commitment that we can become a magnet for trivial pursuits. To counter this, we have to focus and refocus on ‘the main thing continually’. Try putting your ideas on paper with a simple table using columns for spiritual desires, family desires, health desires, personal desires, and professional desires. I suggest these categories because most people usually end up pursuing things related to them, but feel free to make columns for the things that you tend to commit time and effort. Then list your most desired outcomes for each. I recommend adding results to help you clarify what goal obtainment would look like and to encourage action toward each area. Keep refining your list until you have one for each category. Once complete, your table should contain what matters most to you. As your life changes adjust, but always revisit before establishing a new goal and committing your time.
- Recognize what is driving you to make a goal.
This is probably the most troubling aspect of making new year’s resolutions. Far too often we go with the flow without asking the question, ‘where is this coming from?’ before taking action. Are we being inspired by someone else’s success, the fear of missing out, a clever marketing campaign, or are we merely avoiding a more significant issue altogether? The best way to accomplish this is, to be honest with yourself and ask why five times to get to the heart of what is behind our desires to take action. Getting a handle on our motivations will always result in making better choices.
- Drop any dead weight – things that are not working need to go.
This is easier said than done. You may even say this is harder than starting something new because our human nature and tendency to hold on to things that we have attached emotion or affixed meaning. Unfortunately, the reality is, we all tend to hesitate when it comes to confronting failures. Maybe that is because we are so used to seeing failures as negatives. Don’t get me wrong, I like to succeed as the next person, but the older I get, the more I appreciate learning – that is learning what works and what doesn’t work. We have to work at framing failures like a researcher developing prototypes. Every day we get the chance to make a new and improved version of ourselves, and this innovative mindset should lead us to scrutinize results frequently and make decisions to stop pursuing the things that don’t work. If you really feel the urge to start something new for 2019, how about starting the year with less – no more time wasters!
- Make a plan to review the progress of your goals at the beginning of each season – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
Yes, the need to review and revise is real, and I am not suggesting that we run from it. Instead, I am recommending that we put it in perspective. If we had a regular routine of goal evaluation throughout the year, we might find ourselves obtaining more goals and achieving what matters most in life. This is what led to my efforts to turn these steps into a practical exercise every quarter. Developing the right habits of mind toward continuous improvement and establishing practical steps for realizing success in life are always more important than following fads, trends, and emotional rollercoasters that end in failure and the need to reset every year.
So here’s to a year filled with daily renewals and not another once a year shot in the arm with the urge to set new goals.