How-to: New Year’s resolutions

December 29, 2014

Here’s the deal. New Year’s resolutions suck. At least most common ones (google ‘new year’s resolutions’ and see for yourself). They’re unrealistic, they can’t be measured and most of the time they don’t come from your true self, but are other people’s goals instead. Think ‘eat healthy’, ‘lose weight’, ‘quit smoking’, ‘save money’, ‘learn Spanish’.. How would you know you achieved it? How much weight, how do you define healthy, what level of Spanish and most importantly, why?

These unmeasurable goals also make you feel underachieved most of the time at the end of the year. Unless you are one of the few people who get fuelled by the feeling of disappointment. I’m the other way around – I would rather under-plan or plan realistically and over-achieve than feel miserable at the end of the year thinking “what has this year been about?”.

Don’t get me wrong, I do dream big. And I set myself a very high bar and my goals are bold. But planning a year is different. I realised that I just can’t go to 20 countries in one year WHILE working full-time and doing other things. I mean, had it been my ultimate goal and priority, I would have done it. But it wasn’t, it was a very un-realistic plan for the year and at the end of it (it’s actually a true story – that’s how 2013 ended), I didn’t feel very accomplished. And it wasn’t really a goal coming from my true self neither – it was a “oh, she travelled to 20 countries, I want that too!” kind of goal. The spark of excitement that airs out the next minute.

On the other hand, thinking that you have progressed compared to yourself one year ago is amazing. This is a completely new way of looking at new year’s resolutions. Don’t you think?

How to do proper New Year’s resolutions

  • wrap up your year (more on that below)
  • see what you did great and what could have been done better
  • open the second bottle of wine and plan the 2015 in detail
  • then have a calendar and actually plan your activities/trips/experiences. Holidays, family celebrations – make them your starting point (things you know will happen no matter what) and plan from there. Literally, book slots in your calendar

Wrapping up the year

A friend introduced me to the emotional map exercise – it’s so simple yet very effective. I was sceptical at first – such a simple thing to do, but it was very rewarding after we all shared our results and could see patterns in the year’s graph.

It’s simple: you basically divide a sheet of paper into 12 segments (months) and have a vertical bar of a positive and negative. Not exactly like this, but to give you an idea:

emotional map

Or whichever other way you like. Then think of how you felt about each month emotionally and give it a score. Then connect the dots into a graph. You can also add events to each month to see what affected the feel of the month. I discovered that having no travels (or no change of environment) and stress at work at the same time made the lowest energy months in 2014. So I’m planning my next year with this in mind – trips evenly distributed throughout the year, very aware of how it will make a year more exciting.

Now plan your next year

This is something we do at Mindvalley every 6 months or so. It’s called the 3 Most Important Questions. It’s very straightforward – you list your goals and dreams in three categories – Growth/Learning, Experiences/Objects and Contribution. This can be a great start if you’ve never done any goal setting. If you have, it’s a good habit to do this exercise regularly, do it before the year ends.

The key to a satisfying year (and life) is planning. Open your calendar and book slots. This is super important. Last year I’ve had a truly inspiring 3 Most Important Questions sheet, but I realised I did nothing to pursue those things.. Well, almost nothing, some things I did check off, but at the end of the day, did I do something EVERY day to get closer to one of the goals? Not really.

So look at the emotional graph – what things put you in great emotional state? Add more of those into your year. Trips, hobbies, fun projects? Add them and commit to do them regularly in the upcoming year.

Having an outline of the year is especially useful when booking airplane tickets and trips – you already know where you are going and when (roughly), so you can watch out for good deals from airlines and hotels!

Start on Monday

And here’s a fun little exercise I just learned from one of the podcasts I’m listening to – it’s about trying out something new and making it a habit. Or quitting something. Anything really, I’m going to apply it to writing, I’ll start next year :-)

For example, I want to make writing a daily habit. This is on my goal list because I have, say, ‘write and publish a book’ on my 3 Most Important Questions list. Now, on the day you start, you have been writing for an hour. Good job! In your notebook or anywhere really, write down a pretty ‘G’.

The next day you also write for an hour and at the end of the day you feel very accomplished and happy with yourself. Good job, well done. Now you add an ‘o’ to your ‘G’. By day 7 you have ‘Good job’ written. You can write it anywhere, in your notebook, on a giant poster, wherever. Just don’t do digital – it’s so easy to erase and it doesn’t feel as rewarding.

Good job exercise

So you did a good job. Now do it one more day just to add an ‘!’ at the end. Continue until you get ‘Good job!’ 3 times. That’s a superb job, an amazingly great triple-good job. But it’s most probably also a habit by now and comes effortlessly. Because you know what you do if you slip? You start all over.

If you don’t write for a day/if you eat that piece of cake and you were cutting down sugar/if you skip that morning stretching (you get the idea) – whatever it is you were trying to do/add/completely eliminate from your life – you start all over again. Next day you succeed, write your first ‘G’ all over again.

Tip: it can be any word or phrase that’s encouraging and has 7 letters. I don’t think there’s any science behind a “Good job’.

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