I mentioned last week that I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. To me, they seem somewhat forced. Actually, contrived is a better word. If you REALLY want to change something in your life, why wait until the beginning of a new year to do so? And we’ve all heard the statistics – most people give up relatively quickly. Why?
Why I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions
Reason Number 1: Half-Hearted and “Should” Resolutions
First, I think that many of us come up with a New Year’s resolution somewhat half-heartedly. We do it because it’s something that we think we’re supposed to do because it’s a new year (but not necessarily something that we truly want or feel strongly about) – see my contrived point above. Also, the resolution itself is often something that we think we should be doing – but something that deep down we don’t want or need. By doing this we are living by someone else’s standards – and we aren’t working to fulfill our own needs or values at all. I talked about this last week.
Reason Number 2: The “Fresh-Start” Mindset
Another big reason that New Year’s resolutions fail: the “fresh start” mindset that permeates many resolutions. For whatever reason, we have convinced ourselves that the turn of the calendar means that we are getting a completely fresh start – as though our life experiences, life lessons and what makes us who we are (and why we haven’t achieved our resolution yet) have been washed away. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that we can have (and deserve) a fresh start from time to time. But the mere turning into a new year doesn’t make that necessarily true. And I fear that this mindset may trick us into believing that we don’t need to account for the reason why we haven’t yet accomplished our resolution (which would set us up for failure).
Reason Number 3: Massive (and Vague) Goals, with Little to No Planning
Which brings me to the next reason why (in my opinion) New Year’s resolutions fail: they are often really huge (and sometimes somewhat vague) goals. These type of resolutions require a lot of thought in order to focus in on what we really mean. For example, what do we mean when we say we want to get in better shape, live more healthfully or have a job that we enjoy? And let’s be honest: many of these resolutions would result in major changes to the way that we live. They may be something that we want, but they also mean that we need to make huge changes to our lives in order to fulfill them. And they’re often goals that, for whatever reason, have eluded us so far. Goals that we haven’t had the confidence or support system in place to be able to accomplish just yet.
They therefore require a really big commitment – and lots of time spent on personal development. We aren’t always ready for all of this. And even if we are ready, the resolution itself is so big that we need a strong game plan that includes lots of support, the ability to identify and break through mental barriers and making a lot of changes to our lives to be able to accomplish our resolution. It’s more like a lot of mini-resolutions that make up our overall goal. We cannot just push through with our new-found New Year’s energy. Sheer force won’t get us there.
Instead of a Resolution, Try a Theme
So, now that you know why I gave up New Year’s resolutions you may be asking what I do (or whether I do anything at all). I do like to have something that guides me and assists me to grow and develop throughout each year. And I also find that a calendar year is a good way to keep track of and measure my longer-term growth and development. What I do can be summed up rather succinctly: I pick a theme.
What Exactly is a Theme?
You may be asking – what on earth is a theme? Well, let me give you some examples of themes that I’ve had over the years to give you a better idea of what I mean. Some of my themes have been purely work-oriented, some purely personal and some have included a mix of both. One year I focused solely on growing my law practice in a way that made me more happy and fulfilled. I decided that I wanted to really enjoy working. How did I do that? I made a concerted effort that year to (1) become friends with my clients (because who wants to work a lot for people that you don’t care about), and (2) stop working for clients that I didn’t like and replace them with clients that I cared about and wanted to work hard for (see number one above). That year saw tremendous growth in my business.
Another year my theme was more work-life balance focused (which meant that I learned to delegate more and let go of things that I couldn’t control). I let go more that year and was much happier (but yet my business didn’t suffer at all – because I focused on making intentional choices that made sense for me to feel fulfilled both in my law practice and at home). In 2012, I originally thought I would focus again mostly on my business and growing my law practice. However, God had a different plan for me. That was my “YEAR OF CANCER” (that’s what I call that year, anyway). I was diagnosed in mid-January, so I threw my original theme out the window and instead became 100% focused on living – and enjoying the life I had (my actual theme was to enjoy life). Ever since then, my themes have been a lot more personal development-oriented, rather than just focused on business (fun fact: my business has progressed and been much more successful as a result of my personal development).
Now, does this mean that you have to have a theme for each year? Absolutely not. However, it is a great alternative for those people who feel that resolutions don’t really work well for them yet want some sort of focus for the year.
Benefits of a Theme
I have found that focusing on a theme is more malleable and forgiving than a resolution. It allows me to have numerous goals within that theme that get fleshed out and met. And if, along the way, I change my perspective on a goal – well that is pretty easy to change when working from within a broader theme. I just re-think how I want it to work within the broader theme and move forward.
Choosing an over-arching theme for the year has also allowed me to work on some difficult goals within the themes I’ve chosen that would not work well for me as resolutions. I think this is because I am able to constantly move forward within the theme without fear of failure. After all, I’m just making small steps within an overarching theme. There is never failure – which is key for me. It’s about the mindset of the theme – continued learning and growth. If I pause and re-set or decide to go in a totally different direction, it’s because of what I’ve learned (which is good) and there really isn’t a thought of failure. This mindset allows me to meet and sometimes exceed my goals in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.
So, what is my theme for this year? This year is going to be all about connection. Connecting more with friends and family – to deepen our relationships. To connect even more with my kids – to listen to them and learn from them (for I think they have much to teach me). I want to truly connect with my clients so that I can be of better service to them. And I want to connect with you, dear reader. With many of you. My vision for this blog it to make it a space for deep connection and support. And in order to do this I need your help (hint: here is where I ask you for something). In order for this connection and support to happen, I need you to connect with me too (it’s not a one-way street here). Should a post connect with you, I ask that you provide a comment. I love comments and would ask that I hear from you more. Let’s get to know one another and support one another.
Until next time….