A NEW YEAR - A NEW BEGINNING
Who do you want to be in the world this year?
What do you want to be in the world this year?
I love beginnings: a fresh notebook, New Moons and Mondays all present such promise. This day will be different, this week will be different, this ME will be different. Not a surprising admission from a change-junkie.
So when it comes time for a New Year I over-indulge. A brand new year full of potential and possibility - the ultimate new beginning.
I have ritualized a process for setting my intentions for the new year; honoring what I accomplished the prior year and establishing the work I am yet to do. Long ago I relinquished any notion that I would be reasonable in my expectations of what I can achieve in the space of a year - nothing about me is reasonable. Especially not my expectations of myself, so there is never a list that just gets “done”. Each year there are things that I didn’t quite achieve, a few things I barely started and the very occasional ‘nailed it’. Each year I add new things to the list as I adjust my goals based on what I’ve done and what I have learnt the year before. It’s become less of a wishlist and more of a statement of future intent.
It’s become a powerful tool, I believe we all need a statement of future intent. It should be written, it should be specific and detailed and it should be ambitious.
Personally I like to write a page or two of what I am working towards - who that future me is, what I am doing, +wearing, +saying (and to whom), where I am working, where I am traveling, where I am spending my time, how my family is, how I am. It’s a free-flowing creative exercise that I try to do ritualistically and from a place of deep presence - so usually later in the day of the 1st! My husband and I do it together and then we read each others and then we read the prior year and reflect together on what went well, what went terribly and what we want to focus on for the coming year.
From that review I create a list of things that I want to put time into for the year. From ‘surfing more’ to ‘yoga daily’ to ‘write a book’ and everything in between. We might decide we want to travel somewhere, not travel at all, both do surfing lessons etc - it becomes a big list.
There are a million ways you can do the list. I don’t worry too much about the measurability of the goal at this stage but you can be as precise as you want. And precision usually helps. Some approaches are as simple like the ‘word for the year’ approach where you think about what you want to work on for the year. It could be calm (that was mine last year), or yoga, or presence or…
I also like some of the more in depth/fancier assessments like the Wheel of Life, here you think about the 10 areas of your life that are important to you, rate how you are doing for each and then make a commitment for each area (if you are ambitious) or maybe decide to focus on one or two life areas.
I then review that laundry list every month as part of my monthly planning. It’s at this stage I try to bring in some precision as I create a set of sub-goals, so “write a book” becomes “write 1500 words a day this month”. Inevitably the first attempt at setting the subgoals is also overly ambitious, writing everyday proved impossible so I adjusted that the following month as I did my next monthly review.
My biggest learning in a new beginning, and as I review my progress on a monthly and quarterly cadence, is to be critical but not judgmental. Your job is to be hard on yourself and assess what worked (and what didn’t work) from a place of inquiry rather than a place of self-deprecation. IE this is not a beat-up session.
And when I say ‘job’, I meant this quite literally. Most of my inspiration and ideas for goal setting come from the business world rather than the self-improvement genre. Most of my ideas on annual and monthly planning are a mash-up of Scrum/Agile planning, OKR’s and Kaizen, the Japanese management technique popularized by Toyota that translates to “change for better”. I’ll post more on these topics during the year. I believe you should make it your job, your business, to ensure that your life progresses as you want it to. How else are you ensuring that you are in control of this precious thing called your life. We often feel there is such a gulf, such a distance, between who we are and who we want to be. We allow that distance to become overwhelming, making our dreams an impossibility.
Sure, maybe yesterday didn’t go so well. Maybe last week, and even last month, sucked. Hell, maybe you had a tough year. Every new day is a possibility to start over. Not in some monumental “I will never eat sugar again” way because - you know you will. I know I will. No, all today needs is a small token, how did I do yesterday and how can I marginally improve today. All this year needs is a moment of thoughtfulness to allow room for your dreams to come into the foreground.
Maybe that is why I like beginnings so much - they are a moment in time when anything is possible.