New Year, Still You: Putting a Stop to Life-Changing New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s that time of year when goals, resolutions, and intentions are set in place. Hopes, dreams, needs, and wants spin together to fill a bright tunnel for the upcoming year–the best year EVER!

This is my guilty pleasure. Planning and organizing events–from our wedding to a new project to a vacation–are my comfortable domains and elevate me to an increased sense of clarity and foresight. And planning for a whole year? Sign me up.

Each year, I set out with a new list of goals, resolutions, and intentions for the year ahead. But the unexpected has gotten in the way one too many times. I’ve slowly learned, and continue to learn, how to schedule open, flexible time for unpredictable and spontaneous events into my minute-by-minute plans, reducing my self-disappointment. (This could, perhaps, be my life intention.)

This year began slowly and quietly, giving me space to ease out of 2013 and into 2014. After traveling during the week of Christmas, my husband and I spent the week of New Year’s in London. I wrote an article for a forthcoming journal. We went to an exhibit and saw a play. And, most importantly, I spent three days reflecting on the past year and planning for what I want 2014 to look like.

Being keenly aware of my typical actions, I sought out a new method to frame this year’s goals and intentions. The team at Fizzle provided a great dialogue around a variety of perspectives on annual plans and goal-setting. The one that sparked my interest most was The Art of Non-Conformity founder Chris Guillebeau’s annual review template, which he has been using since 2005.

After reading Guillebeau’s post that lays out his entire system–which I highly encourage you to do–I jumped into the first part that entails 2 questions, and one addition of my own, for the previous year:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What did not go well this year?
  3. What did I learn? (my additional question)

This was new for me and it was insightful. I tend to always look ahead towards the future and rarely reflect on what has happened unless it has direct, negative implications on upcoming events, projects, or goals. However, what I gleaned from answering these three questions was invaluable. I saw that I have laid a solid foundation and I have made significant progress on personal and career goals. This made me realize that I don’t need to make huge, life-changing transformations in 2014; I only need to build upon what I’ve already put into place.

I urge you to take some time to think about: What went well for you in 2013? What foundation have you already laid for 2014? For me, these are launching Design Affects, working with PublicInterestDesign.org and Commonplace, and joining GoodGym to keep me accountable for running 10-15 miles each week.

Next came my favorite part–planning for 2014. Guillebeau provides a thorough, nicely designed spreadsheet template (I’m a sucker for a spreadsheet) with categorized goals, space to write actions for each goal, quarterly reviews, and an area for the overarching purpose, outcome, and theme for the year.

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At first I was a bit overwhelmed. I felt like I was reverting back to my inflexible plans that led me to disappointment. But I reminded myself that I had already put quite a bit in place last year and many years before then. This is also a year plan, not a monthly, weekly, or daily schedule. I have 365 days to achieve these goals and I won’t be working on all of them at the same time. Guillebeau addresses this reaction in his post: “The plan is designed to give you a road map, not a strict schedule you have to live by.”

Onward I went, filling my categories–health, travel, family + friends, business, creativity, service, spiritual, learning, and finance–with 2-5 goals and an overarching theme for each one. From running two 10K races to taking a dance class to sending birthday cards, I was enthusiastic and hopeful that 2014–my year of cultivation–is going to be filled with rhythm, balance, and just enough spontaneity to keep me growing.

What are the overarching themes and categories most important to you this year? What goals and actions can you take to over the course of 365 days to achieve these?

As one of my biggest challenges for 2013, Design Affects continues to play a key role for a lot of my creative goals for the upcoming year. The three most important goals for me and the blog are:

  1. Take a guided writing course to learn new methods (beginning next week with Sarah Kathleen Peck’s Writer’s Workshop–join me if you’re interested!)

  2. Write 1-2 blog posts a week.

  3. Conduct 12 interviews and experiment with different styles and formats

Your presence, responses, and sharing is the most important part of the blog so I will also be turning to you throughout the year for feedback on what you want to learn, read, and hear more about.

Whether you follow Guillebeau’s annual review template or find your own method, I hope you are encouraged to take some time, even if it’s 15 minutes, to think about what happened in 2013 and what you want 2014 to look like. You just might surprise yourself.

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One Response to New Year, Still You: Putting a Stop to Life-Changing New Year’s Resolutions

  1. BJ says:

    Goal setting and planning have always been the best way of keeping yourself focused and at least on a somewhat organized path of success. We can all benefit from your strategy- well done! Keep up the useful blogs!!!

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