Happy New Year everyone! We are so excited to close the book on 2020, and open a blank page for 2021. But as much as we love the celebrations - board games, a glass of wine, great food and some good music - we also know that New Years can bring with it some anxiety. Why? Because of the pressure to make AND keep your resolutions and intentions.
A new year is always symbolic for a fresh start, and many stress about making a list of the hopes and dreams which they want to chase. Now we are all for reflecting on the past and coming up with a vision for the future, but we also know that there are some tips and tricks which may help make it seem a little less scary, and a little more possible to reach!
Let's first spend some time reflecting
The best way to start the process is to reflect on 2020 - what did you love about it, what did you wish you could change. What would you like to do more of, what do you regret not doing, and what do you wish you could redo? Consider all aspects - your family, friends, significant other, work / career development, adventures and side projects....
Some great questions for initial reflection could be:
- What was the best thing that happened in 2020?
- What was the most challenging thing that happened in 2020?
- What was an unexpected joy?
- What was an unexpected obstacle?
- What was the most enjoyable versus the most challenging part of your work?
- What wasted your time versus what do you regret not spending more time focusing on?
Then consider your values relative to where you dedicated your time and energy in 2020
Once you have a good idea about these considerations, it is also helpful to consider your values (say your top 5-10). The things you believe are core to who you are and what you want to stand for. Then spend some time comparing these values to what you spend your time and energy on. Often there is a disconnect here, and realigning can help reduce cognitive dissonance and strengthen your personal identity and self esteem.
A great example is the value of community and belonging. In theory this often translates to dedicating time to your family and friends, or perhaps connecting with a social unit in the local community that shares common interests (such as giving of time to help others) or common identity elements (such as religion). In practice you may come to the realization that you are constantly prioritizing a last minute work meeting over family dinner time, or choosing to sleep in on the weekend instead of showing up for a community event. Alternatively, you may find that you are sufficiently dedicating your time and energy to this value, and then it is about looking at other values to see where the disconnect lies.
Now think about the actions you want to take to live life in better balance for 2021
What are the things on your wish list - write out an exhaustive list, including your dreams for personal / career development, family and relationships, things you want to learn more about, experiment with and spend time on....
Then figure out which items on your list best reflect the values you espouse, because they will allow you to start enacting your values, leading to greater fulfilment and sense of self in the long run. It will also help you to cross off a few items (at least temporarily) because unfortunately, there really is only so much time in a day and we want to set ourselves up to succeed and not to feel overwhelmed.
The aim would be to finish this step with a couple things that you really want to dedicate yourself to. And then to prioritize that list so that you can focus your efforts exclusively on the most important item.
But how do we ensure we stick to our resolutions?
It is great to dream big, but it is also important to set ourselves up with goals that are "SMART". This is a tried and tested framework which we highly recommend trying.
- S - Specific. Define your top item as specifically as possible.
- M - Measurable. Find a way to measure your successes and failures as you work towards your goal.
- A - Achievable. Don't overcomplicate it. Break it down into bite size pieces so that it becomes a goal which you can work towards slowly, consistently.
- R - Relevant. Well, if you did the values exercise correctly then this should automatically be aligned. If not, take another stab at the previous exercises.
- T - Time-bound. You don't want to work towards something over too long a period, because it is easy to lose motivation and get fatigued. By breaking it up into bite size pieces, this also helps make it more manageable in a shorter time.
We also think it is incredibly helpful to build in an accountability mechanism. Tell a close family member or friend about what you are trying to achieve. Find a way that they measure your progress, keep track of your successes and failures and hold you accountable to not forgetting about the resolution or intention when times get tough.
Going back to our example above of having values related to community and belonging. If you are often missing dinner with your family because of work meetings, try experimenting with a few things. Can you block off time in your work calendar so that no-one can put a meeting in that space - perhaps not every night, but a few times a week? Or perhaps if the work week is too crazy, can you at least dedicate Saturday and Sunday nights as family time and commit to those evenings? Starting small is key! Plus it might be a good idea to tell a family member or perhaps a mentor at work about what you are trying to do, because that will keep you accountable to your goal.