Yesterday, I shared the concept of reflection season. Today, I wanted to share a few ideas I’m using as I think about my goals and resolutions for the year ahead.
First – it’s my practice: I should do what works for me. At the start of the new year, there’s no shortage of opinions on resolutions. Whether you should set them or not, what you should do to be successful, and how many people fail. I think it’s important to remember growth is an individual process: each person needs to do what works for them–and that will change with the season they’re in and what they’re working on. The right resolution is whatever you can implement that will bring you back next year, excited for more–even if it seems absurdly small.
Vary your time horizons. One of the most fulfilling exercises I’ve ever done was setting 3-year goals as a family, instead of one-year goals. We were in the midst of graduate school with a toddler at home and another on the way. Things like buying a house, potty training the kids, or taking a vacation seemed impossibly out of reach. By taking a longer time horizon, we opened our minds to what we were really excited about, and the possibilities we should consider. Most of the goals we thought were impossible we achieved far sooner than we thought.
But sometimes short term goals are better. For 2019, I plan to run a half marathon in August. I can put that on the calendar now, with a defined date to register and schedule a 3-month training plan. If you’re making resolutions, consider whether a longer or shorter time horizon would help you implement.
Pivoting your approach. Sometimes, when planning, I forget to give myself permission to change my approach. This helps me with goals that involve a regular practice. Here’s a few questions to help.
- Can I make this simpler or easier? I’m planning to do this with fitness. Instead of trying to complete a workout, I can commit to one rep with a very light weight, or to simply putting on my running clothes on a certain frequency.
- Would re-framing to lower the benefit help? If I’m working on project with an expected return, and it takes longer than I expect, I often get discouraged and quit. Lowering expectations can help. Instead of writing for readers, consider writing only to become a better writer. Instead of exercising for looks, consider working out to be able to enjoy a walk with friends. Instead of committing to an annual project, consider a 3-month experiment. You’ll be more likely to follow through.
- Can I make a more substantial investment? I might do this with something I’m learning or recommitting to. I could purchase a course, or a hire a coach. Or I could sign up for a future event that feels like a stretch. When we make an investment, it can increase our level of commitment.
- Can I create a system to hold myself accountable? I could calendar a sustainable rhythm to revisit my progress. Perhaps I can chart how I’m doing each week or month, or I can ask a close friend to share this journey with me.
Choose a framework you love. I’ve really enjoyed reading about the reflection processes of mentors and friends over the past few months. Here’s a few.
- Rohan’s 10 Questions for the Year
- Harry Kraemer on silent retreats
- Tim Ferriss on past year reviews
- Michael Hyatt on having a great year
- Annual letter from Bill Gates
Write down your plan. Finally, I am continually amazed by the value of writing down my thoughts and plans. And, I was shocked to find that–even with all that I do to think about personal growth and change–I couldn’t find my 2018 goals in my files when I was reflecting recently. So – whatever you commit to, write it down, post in a place you can see, or email it to yourself and a close friend. You’ll be able to return to it in the future, check how you’re doing, and see how you’ve grown–you’re likely to be amazed at what changed and what stayed the same.
In the next few days I’ll share a few of the insights I had from my reflection season this year. Stay encouraged, and enjoy your work!