Over much of the course of my life, New Year’s resolutions have had the effect of leaving me feeling pretty useless, disappointed or plain old cynical. They seem like a really good idea at the time. I have all in the gusto in the world for them. I do lots to get started – or at least I think I did. Off with a hiss and a roar.
So what the hell happens between then and the end of the year? What kind of black hole did all my good intentions and actions plans fall into? And, how come I somehow manage to feel that some of them weren’t that important after all? (Or at least that’s what I tell myself).
It defies logic. And it defies all the self-help and motivational books and people out there who tell you how amazing your life is going to be once you’ve set out your resolutions (and hopefully signed up to their course/book group/FB group/etc etc to boot).
I‘m here to tell you that it’s not about resolutions for your year.
It’s about intentions for your LIFE.
Here’s a simple example that has come up with a lot of my clients lately:
Example: I want to work a 4-day week (Yes! I’m a big fan of this goal)
New Year’s Resolution: To be working a 4-day week by March.
Action plan: Start delegating more. Ask my boss. Brainstorm what I want to do with my day off. Organise my days better. Start half an hour earlier for the month of Feb to help me get on top of things.
Sound alright to you? Maybe the extra working time in Feb isn’t so great, but they’re sensible, relatable and relevant steps.
What is wrong with this picture?
At a practical level –
In this case, my sense is that the timeframe is very likely to be too tight. For most people at work, there are many facets to trimming your working hours back, and time is needed to do it properly. And besides, depending on the kind of work you do, it may be terrible timing to try to do this in the first quarter of the work year. (BTW, you don’t have to wait for a new year to make these calls. You have 365 opportunities a year to wake up and decide how you want to live.)
Some action items are not specific enough – I’m sure I don’t need to spell this out for you clever beings.
It’s not really about ‘Ask your boss’, it’s about ‘Engage my boss in my new role design’. Make it a great business case too. And if you’re the boss, this is about getting the people around you performing so well you don’t need to be there. Oh yeah …
And also it has an overall feeling of being too much, too daunting, and maybe it’s not likely to happen in the end.
This missive is not so much about this practical stuff and I’m not going to get into it too much, but here’s one note on do-ability: Once your action steps are written, check – on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is impossible and 10 is totally doable – how do these action steps feel?
If it’s not 8/10 or higher, revise your actions, make them easier, then check again. It might mean you need to allow another two months to get something done. Don’t worry about it. Getting it done later at a more realistic date is WAYYYYY better than what most people do which is never get it done at all. Make it real.
The choice to work a four day week is much more than a work goal – it’s an act of revolutionary lifestyle design and an act of love.
But what else is wrong with this picture? It’s about what’s happening at a human level …
What’s better than setting a goal around your work hours? Setting an intention around how you want to live your life.
The choice to work a four day week is much more than a work goal – it’s an act of revolutionary lifestyle design and an act of love. Your choice says: I choose to design my life to feel good for me and allow me to spend time on the things that matter – to me.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s words (from Big Magic) – create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.
When you see this choice through the lens of lifestyle design and love (of yourself), and actually really start to vision the life you really want to be living, you naturally start to make fresh decisions and take new actions. You don’t have to motivate yourself, because you innately just want to do stuff that helps you get this life you want.
You don’t look at those actions like someone who’s just been talked into a crazy plan they now have to go through with, turning them all into a bunch of seedy ‘shoulds’.
You take actions like a man who’s just seen the edge of the desert after forty days of crawling in the heat, and you go for it. You do what needs to be done (probably a little less desperately than the dehydrated nomad!) but with the same sense of forward movement; no hesitation or questioning, because you know that’s the only way forward. It’s your way.
(Check out Making your bucket list a reality for more on that sense that it’s just what you’ve gotta do because it’s how you want to live).
So, what are your intentions for your life this year? How do you want to be living? What really matters to you – outside of all the everyday, normal life stuff that’s going to happen this year anyway, whether you set any goals or not?
Who do you want to be?
And why is it important to you? Why does it matter? (This is the desert question – the man dying of dehydration is one-focused on getting out of the desert and to water. What is your one-focus? Freedom? Contribution? Creative expression?)
Answer this, and then see what actions or goals might fit. But start with your intention and what really matters.
Then you don’t have to drag yourself along, trying to stick to your plans. They will carry you and it will flow, because you are on purpose.
It’s not about resolutions. It’s about what kind of revolution you want to have in your life.
Onwards, revolutionaries …
P.S. If you haven’t already downloaded your FREE Summer Revolution Life Review Kit, check it out now. It’s a brilliant way to look at where in your life you might want to have a revolution.