It’s that time of year again…as the clock winds down on 2013, countless Americans are busy outlining the goals and resolutions that they plan to tackle in the New Year, just as soon as the ball drops in Times Square and just as soon as the calendar flips to January 2014…a fresh start.
Much is written about resolutions this time of year, and while there are common themes throughout most of the commentary, such as the importance of SMART Goals (Specific / Measurable / Attainable / Relevant / Time-bound), much of the advice can be conflicting.
- Take Baby Steps. Dive Right In.
- Be Realistic. Be Unrealistic – Be Audacious.
- Make a Plan and Stick to It. Just Get Started, Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.
- Share Your Resolutions. Keep Your Resolutions Private.
- Focus on One Change at a Time. Commit – Make Big / Transformational Changes.
To contribute to the confusion, when I think about New Year’s Resolutions, I embrace the polarity and borrow a bit from each side of the spectrum (conservative vs aggressive).
For example, while I like to develop a clear plan around my resolutions (more conservative), I also like to pursue multiple changes at a time throughout the course of the year (more aggressive).
The way I like to plan my resolutions enables me to pursue multiple changes in my life.
Last year, at about this time, I was reading Rory Vaden’s ‘Take the Stairs’ and learned about his framework for setting resolutions…the ‘Fundamental Five’…and it really resonated with me. In rereading the chapter on this topic, I realized that he actually outlines six components of his framework, so I suppose ‘Sustaining Six’ might be a more accurate moniker.
This will mean something different to everyone.
It could mean reading daily from the Bible or attending mass on a weekly basis. It could also mean increasing your commitment to volunteering or charitable giving, be it for a faith-based organization or otherwise.
What can you do this year to reconnect, or more deeply connect, with your faith?
How can you give of your time or money to help others who are less fortunate than you?
Family & Friends
In a close second is family and friends.
I think most of us would agree on the importance of this area of our lives, so I won’t spend much time arguing why it deserves a place among the ranks of your resolutions.
What changes can you make in your life or what actions can you take to improve and strengthen the relationships with your family and closest friends?
What can you do to build new relationships?
This component can also focus more broadly on ‘health.’ It could mean taking a daily walk, going to the gym four times a week or improving your diet.
It’s important to note the ranking of this component, third, before other, traditionally ‘important’ aspects of our lives such as our finances or our careers. While money will come and go throughout the year, largely based on success in our careers, we only have one body and it should be a priority to ensure we keep it strong and healthy for as long as possible.
Taking an ‘airplane oxygen mask’ approach to life, you might even consider this component right alongside that of family and friends in importance. Just like with the oxygen masks on an airplane, we won’t be of any help to anyone else, in our families or in our jobs, if we don’t first take care of ourselves. If we want to be at our best, taking care of ourselves can’t always be what we first deprioritize.
Money. It’s a common focus of New Year’s resolutions. Make more. Save more.
You’ll note that I’ve included this ahead of ‘faculty’ and ‘fun.’ While it might make sense to have finances come before fun, after all, your financial house should be in order concerning the fundamentals before you begin focusing on the discretionary (fun money), placing this before ‘faculty (career)’ might be less intuitive. I’ve done so because, while it matters how much you earn, what really matters is how much you keep, which follows from the daily spending and saving decisions that you make.
With that, the most impactful opportunity for improvement in this area is often to simply understand where your money is going and determining if that aligns with your values and priorities. Spend some time thinking about that before worrying about establishing a detailed budget or fretting about the allocation of your 401k…that can come later.
First things first.
Our jobs are important. For most of us, they are our primary source of income, and oftentimes – though not for all of us, they’re an important part of who we are. They also consume a significant portion of our time, often much more than 40 hours per week.
Given how important our careers are to our personal and financial well-being, this is an important area of focus. Positive changes made in this area of our lives can help enable positive changes in the other areas of our lives. Focusing on improving our productivity at work can help us get home on time to be with our families and friends or can help us carve out time to exercise. Earning more can help improve our finances, which in turn can help our families and enable us to spend more on what matters to us.
For some, positive change in this area might mean getting a new, better job.
For others, positive change might mean focusing on learning more, reading about your industry or obtaining a certification relevant to your responsibilities (or the responsibilities that you’d like to have).
Last, but certainly not least, fun. After all, all work and no play…
While it is important to focus on improvement and making positive changes in our lives, it is also very important to take time to relax and to fully enjoy what makes us happy.
This will have different meanings for each of us. Spending time on a long-held hobby, or picking up a new one. Learning a new skill. Reading. Writing. Traveling.
What’s important is that we focus on what’s fun for us and that we make it a priority.
Before signing off to enjoy my New Year’s Eve, a few words about prioritization. I alluded to this earlier when highlighting the differing opinions of starting small with one change at a time and thinking big, tackling transformational changes in our lives.
For me, using this framework, I’ve had success in pursuing multiple changes in my life, across the different components of my life throughout the course of a year; however, not always in all areas at the same time. In ‘Taking the Stairs,’ Rory Vaden introduces the concept of ‘seasons’ and I think it is a helpful way to think about approaching change.
Mainly, just as there are seasons throughout the year which bring about changes in the weather, there are seasons in our lives where the way we spend our time changes and our attention shifts. This might mean that, during a busy time at work when we are focused on ‘faculty,’ perhaps our focus on ‘fun’ or ‘fitness’ might temporarily be a lower priority. But what’s truly important is that while a ‘season’ might bring about a shift in focus, remember that, just like seasons in nature, it should be temporary and we should focus on finding a balance between all the areas of our life throughout the year.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you focus on one big change or goal each year, or do you pursue a number of smaller changes and goals?
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