Today is the day many of us resolve to change. We vow to be better. We promise ourselves this year is the year we _________. Whatever the resolution is, it’s something we want to improve about our lives. Some people select a theme word for the year. Others, focus on gaining a handle on their health. Others, vow to be financially disciplined, to be more adventurous, become more loving, to do or not to do any number of things. Those resolutions are all well and good. Today, social media will be full of new resolve. Tomorrow, gym memberships will be bolstered. More running shoes will be bought and more journal pages filled. We love our new years. Maybe it’s a Western thing, maybe it’s just American. I don’t know, but there’s something about a fresh start that brings new hope. I cherish new starts. I enjoy the process of change, growth, development and transformation. I like that so many of us take on new challenges in the new year. I know the pride felt when those resolutions stick and we see the change we set out to incorporate. The rewards to a resolution lived out are substantial. Sometimes, those rewards are tangible (weight lost, money saved, etc). Other times, they are more subtle. And often, the most important and lasting changes that come about are those that never made the list.
Each of the last two years I set singular New Year resolutions. The goal in 2015 was to read at least 100 books. Done. And again in 2016. Also done. One goal. One focus: 200+ books in two years, but in that so much more came about. That tends to be how big resolutions work. Life changes beyond the accomplishment. In the years I set the goal to complete an Ironman triathlon not only did I finish the race, but more importantly I made great friends, grew stronger, healthier, more determined and self-discplined. The residual effect of large goals is often much greater than the accomplishment of the goal itself.
So, over the past two years my reading has totaled over 200 books. Some good, some great, some mediocre and some just plain awful. Yes, I accomplished those goals. Sure they were big, but the residual effect of those goals was far greater than the reading of so many books. I was challenged to lean into my strengths, challenge myself with creativity, make some big moves, discipline our finances, go on great adventures with my wife, travel the world, have more substantial conversations, take on new career aspirations, share my thoughts publicly, write, ask better questions, see through a different lens. These are the changes that weren’t on my list. These are the things that last. These are the things that matter.
I advocate setting ONE big goal and then get to it with focus and resolve. One thing to move forward. One thing to measure. One thing to keep at for the year. One thing to celebrate. And then, so much more comes. When you have a list of 17 goals for 2017 you may find it difficult to move any of them forward. Too many to focus on. Too many to think about. And then some of them are unclear or fluffy, they’re impossible to measure making them nearly impossible to accomplish. Goals like: “Love better”. What the heck does that even mean? Love who better? In which way? I get it, it looks nice on paper, but you’ve set yourself up for failure by having nothing tangible to move forward.
If I were to set a goal to share 1,000 affirming things with Lana in a year would that show her love? You might say, “No, it’s forced, it’d be mechanical. I want it to be genuine, thoughtful, spontaneous.” Ok, you set out to love better and I’ll set out to share 1,000 affirmations with my wife and we’ll see what it looks like next year. I hope we both accomplish our goals. By speaking, writing, sharing 1,000 things with my wife the residual effects are many. For example, I’ll have to be intentional to pay attention to her uniqueness and speak the value I see in her. I’ll need to take the time to share with her what I love about her. I’ll have to write more notes, send more cards, take more time. I’ll need to sit and focus on why I love her as I do. Sometimes, I may need to catch up from a few thoughtless days. But at the end of the year it may just have become habit to seek out the positive because I’ve don’t it 1,000 times on purpose. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it? My marriage may grow even closer. My mind more affirming. My guess is that after a while, Lana will get over the initial offense of those “fabricated” efforts and find in it a desire for me to be a more loving and affirming husband. But, that’s just me.
Make your resolution BIG.
Make your resolution SINGULAR.
Make your resolution KNOWN.
Make your resolution MEASURABLE
If you’re a reader, I encourage reading the following books to help with priority and change.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Swith: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts-Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith
What to Do When It’s Your Turn: And It’s Always Your Turn by Seth Godin
The Dip: The Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) – Seth Godin
The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly – Seth Godin