When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most people I talk to roll their eyes and sigh, thinking of the futility of the whole exercise after years and years of failure. The spirit behind a New Year’s resolution is a noble one, an attempt to live a better life or do things differently. The problem is most of us just don’t approach it with much intentionality, instead making up an unattainable goal in the heat of battle, like losing 50lbs after stepping on the scale the day after Christmas. Last year about this time, my sage father-in-law showed me an incredibly simple, but effective way of making a list of goals, or resolutions, for the year and actually following through on them. This is the process:
Understand Balance – I am convinced that 99% of people’s disappointments and failures in life are simply due to imbalance in a certain area(s). Eating too much, exercising too little, not praying enough, too much time at the office, too much television, etc. The point is, there’s a happy medium in every area of our lives; a place of balance where we find our best life. All New Year’s goals should be made with the theme of balance in our minds.
Take Stock of Your Present State – Before you can decide what you want to strive for in the future you have to have a good understanding of where you are in the present. Take a pen and piece of paper and sketch out a diagram similar to the one below.
The point is to look at each area of your life, ie. family, work, spirit, body, finances, etc and take stock of where you are at this moment in time. Decide what areas are important to you and create spokes for each one. Next make tick marks on each spoke, labeling them 1-10; 1 meaning you’re failing miserably in that area and 10 meaning you are perfect, no changes necessary. Make a dot where you think you fall in each area, then connect the dots. You will probably notice immediately that the shape you’ve created has very little resemblance to a circle, which would represent perfect balance. Most likely you have some areas that you’re doing great at and others that you’re struggling. The point of this diagram is to show visually what needs to change in order to make a circle, or bring balance to your life. This diagram is the basis for creating your New Year’s goals.
Make Goals for Each Category – Now its time to actually come up with your goals. Remember, the desired end state of this whole process is a balanced life, so all individual goals should be made with this in mind. In other words, if you notice that you have a very high score for work, but a miserable one for family/marriage, make goals that will allow you more time at home and less at the office. In order to create good goals, use the SMART acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound. For a better explanation on creating SMART goals reference my previous post on the subject. Again, make goals that will create a circle on your diagram, which will mean putting different levels of effort and focus on each area.
Exchange Your Goals With a Close Friend – Accountability is crucial in achieving any goal in life. Find a close friend and have them go through this exercise with you, then exchange your goals and bring them up on a consistent basis throughout the year. I emphasize close friend for two reasons. First, it is likely that some of your goals will contain personal information, like investing goals, or family issues, so its important to have someone you trust. Second, only a close friend will really get on your case if you falling short in a certain area. We all need a good friend to confront us every once and a while if we really intend to make lasting change in our lives. With accountability your chances of succeeding in achieving your goals and keeping your resolutions increase dramatically.