There’s been a lot of writing about New Years’ resolutions in the blogosphere lately. That isn’t a bad thing; however, there are a couple problems with the way most people make New Years’ resolutions.
First, most people treat their NYRs as mere wishes, not as actual resolutions. They don’t resolve or commit to anything, and you can sense that lack of commitment in the language they use and the (lack of) actions they take. You might see someone take a half-step like signing up for a gym membership, but an over the top commitment is rare.
Secondly, resolutions are something you should feel free to make at any time, not just at the start of a new year. It’s funny that people will think about their NYRs in mid-December and then wait until Jan 1st to get started. If you conceive of a resolution in mid-December, then begin it then. Don’t wait for some arbitrary date to occur. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing now.
Despite these common drawbacks, NYRs can be very effective if you make a big commitment to them. One of the most effective for me has been committing to take a certain measurable action every single day for the whole year — no exceptions. For example, in 1997 I made an NYR to exercise aerobically a minimum of 25 minutes every single day. No excuses. The most vivid memory of that commitment was when I was out late all day and had to go running at 3am in the rain while I had a cold and was very sleepy. Funny how I still remember that run almost nine years later. I succeeded in keeping that resolution, and with each day it became harder to quit. Because the resolution was so binary (either I exercised 25 minutes or I didn’t), I couldn’t justify any kind of slip. It was also very achievable. If I could exercise 25 minutes one day, I could do it the next day. In actuality I exercised even more than this, since I was taking Tae Kwon Do classes at the time too, and I didn’t count those towards the resolution. There were many times I could have made excuses to skip exercise, but my commitment was more important to me.
Often a brainless, repetitive action like exercising 25 minutes every day will produce better results than a more complicated plan, especially if the latter never gets properly implemented. Keep in mind that you can always do more. You can always add complexity later. But having a brainless default strategy is a great fallback to avoid fooling yourself.
An approach I like better than NYRs is to think openly about what kind of year I’d like to have. I do this at all times of year, not just on Jan 1st. I take time to develop clarity about the nature of the road ahead. Journaling about my thoughts and perceptions is especially helpful.
For example, in October 2004 when I started this new web site, I knew my primary focus for the rest of that year and for 2005 would be making the transition away from game publishing and getting my new business running smoothly. This meant creating lots of content, building web traffic, expanding my network of contacts, and generating new income streams. The main goal was to reach the point of sustainable profitability.
But now that I’ve reached that point, my primary aim has shifted. I’ve taken a look around, assessed this new location, and from here I can see that it’s time to take a few months to work on my clarity, vision, and inner development. I’m going to be spending more time working on myself these next few months vs. working directly on the business. Partly this is also a time for me to celebrate and enjoy the new reality I’ve created. This is a time for meditation, reading books on spirituality and philosophy, long walks, massages, journaling, trying new recipes, stimulating conversations, decluttering, spending time with family and friends, playing games, going out and having fun, vacationing, imagining, visualizing, pondering, etc. I’ll be taking some time to allow the results of the past year to sink in, to incubate some new ideas to achieve greater clarity, and to work on my inner development so I can become capable of taking those next steps.
Even though most people wouldn’t consider this to be “work” in the traditional sense, I don’t define my career in traditional terms. I define hard work as doing what challenges me, not as difficult labor. Slowing down and taking time to work on my own inner development has been a real challenge for me, which is why I’m making that my main focus right now. I need a period of saw-sharpening and personal renewal. To me this is a very appropriate part of my purpose. It’s not really a time of rest per se — that would mean putting the saw down. It’s a shift in focus from working on my outer world to working on my inner one.
Spiritually I think of this period as a time of releasing and purging low-awareness energies from my life in order to allow myself to become more receptive to higher-awareness ones. That’s a new agey way of describing it, but the same idea can be translated into any spiritual belief system. I just happen to like the new agey terms.
Fortunately I designed my business to be very easy to maintain. I’ll still be blogging during this time, although perhaps with a more relaxed pacing. If I wanted to though, I could basically do nothing for the next few months and still enjoy a positive cashflow. That’s a wonderful place to be, and I plan to take advantage of it. I love the fact that while I was out with my family having fun on Monday, this web site was still actively serving thousands of people around the world and generating plenty of cash to cover my expenses.
After this incubation period, I expect to set some new goals, much grander than anything I’ve previously set for myself, and then go after them with a renewed passion and energy. But before doing that I want to become even more clear about my purpose and how I’m going to manifest it.
The most important part of this process is trusting my intuition. Often my logical mind wants to keep going in the same direction while my intuitive sense is signaling a turn. My logical mind looks at my to do list and wants me to go even faster, but my intuition is clear that it’s time to slow down and focus on inner development. Otherwise I risk being internally unprepared for what lies ahead.
What kind of year do you want to have? What do you intuitively feel is the right direction for you? Do you feel great about your current direction, or is your intuition signaling a turn?
Even if you don’t feel you can heed its guidance, at least take some time to listen to what your intuition is telling you. Journal about it. How would you intuitively like to spend the next few months? What kind of year do you want to have? If you choose to ignore your intuition, that’s your choice. But make a written record of your intuitive guidance today, so you can look back on it later once you’ve seen the results of your decision. If you don’t have a journal, just create a text file on your computer, type up what you feel your intuition is telling you, save it, and then put a note on your calendar six months from now to go back and re-read it. When you look back with hindsight, was your intuition correct?
When you do this a few times and see that your intuition was often correct in the long run (even when it contradicted your logical mind), you’ll be more likely to trust it. And this will create a bridge between your logic and intuition, so that instead of giving you different signals, they’ll begin to communicate more openly. Your logical mind will turn its attention towards understanding your intuition and will actually develop a respect for it. Then when you have a conflict, your logical mind might even say, “Well, I think we should do X, but she thinks we should do Y, so you should probably listen to her.”