I’ve read article after article this past week about New Year’s resolutions. How to make them. Why to make them. How to forgive yourself when you fail to keep your resolutions. That’s why I avoid making them.
Then I stumbled across an article that prompted me to think differently. Not about New Year’s resolutions, but about how I make small, seemingly inconsequential, decisions every day that define how I feel about myself and the way my life is unfolding.
The article focused on time management. It offered a method to think about how I use time and apply my energy that resonated with me, because I haven’t used my time and energy to move in the direction I want to go.
I don’t lack for goals. I have a very clear vision of where I want to go and what I want to become, of the kind of relationships I want, of the kind of work I want to do, and of what will make me feel whole in this life. What I haven’t done well is to make the changes that consistently move me in the right direction.
The author, on the Fast Company web site, offered a simple grid format for thinking about using my time and energy, exactly like the planning grids I’ve used for years in my business life. The difference: the article changed what I put into each box and how I viewed each item in terms of expectation and time frame.
In the end, I selected seven areas of my life to focus on. It’s worth noting that there’s nothing new about these areas. They’re the same seven areas I’ve set goals around for years.
Instead of focusing on the big, hairy goals, however, the article encouraged me set specific goals for the next 90 days. Then to repeat the process for the 90 days after that, and for the 90 days after that, until I had goals for four 90-day periods completed. Then it asked me write down the outcome of meeting each quarter’s goals, stating clearly where I would be in a year after achieving those goals.
Sounds simple enough, eh? But how many of us truly look at ourselves and how we approach our lives in such small, specific chunks? I know I usually don’t.
The process also helped me avoid my innate ability to punish myself for missed goals or less-than-perfect outcomes. The exercise started with today, and it discouraged me from trying to catch up for past failures. It helped me to accept my reality as it is today, and to focus on moving steadily forward in small increments, rather than swallowing every issue whole.
What was most compelling to me were the outcome statements. I could truly see achieving each during the next 12 months. That’s exciting to me, and the road map I’ve laid out feels very realistic. The process isn’t leading me toward some overnight change that instantly transforms me. Instead, it’s an evolutionary process, a growth process that I can consciously choose to experience and enjoy.
Once again, I have no resolutions to declare as the calendar opens a new year. But, I do have my goals and a plan for accomplishing them. I call them my New Year’s Evolutions.