Did you set any New Year’s resolutions for 2016? Have you broken any of them yet? New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad rap, but research backs them up. In fact, you are ten times more likely to achieve your goals if you make resolutions than those who don’t. Even so, only eight percent of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
Perhaps there’s a better way, a way to reach your goals without feeling like you’re letting yourself down when the scale on your bathroom floor tells you the wrong number or your savings account balance just isn’t as high as you hoped it would be.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work
We set New Year’s resolutions for one reason: we want control, control over our weight, control over our spending, control over our reading list, control over our smoking habit, control over our work/life balance. And it makes complete sense that we would want control over our life.
However, control comes with costs. Willpower is a limited resource, and for each thing you try to exert control over, you lose the ability to control something else. This can sometimes lead you to feel more out of control than when you started.
New Year’s resolutions, in particular, set you up for failure because they focus on the things you should be doing rather than the things you intrinsically want to do. And as you exert your willpower you end up feeling more drained and exhausted, when you should be feeling excited about living each day to its fullest.
We need a better way, a way to control and plan our lives that leaves us feeling full of life rather than leaving our lives (and stomachs!) more empty.
A Better Way to Plan Your Life
I call it the No-New-Year’s-Resolution Life Plan. I’ve been using it and teaching it to others for a few years (you can see last year’s post about it here), and I think it will help you have a better start to 2016 than any run-of-the-mill resolution.
This life planning method centers around one, very simple question:
What do you want?
Really. I’m asking you. What do you want for 2016? Not what should you want or what are you supposed to what. What do you actually want to do this year?
We spend a lot of time stuffing our desires down. Sometimes, that’s appropriate, but when you’re planning your year, you need to let them out to play. Otherwise, you might either have a very boring year or resolutions that are doomed to fail from the start.
You can think of what you need to do and what you should do tomorrow. Today, focus on what you want to do.
Three Aspects to Focus On
There are three sides to this method of life planning: experiencing, accomplishing, and quitting.
The question: What do you want to experience this year?
Life is a great adventure. What do you want to see this year? What do you want to try for the first time? Where do you want to travel and who are you going to take with you?
Don’t settle for a life filled with tasks, to do lists, and cheap take out. This year, what will you experience that will bring your life more meaning?
The question: As you think about 2016, what do you want to accomplish this year?
This is where I spend most of my planning time, thinking about what I want to accomplish over the next year. For writers, ask yourself what writing projects you want to finish this year? A novel or a book of short stories? Selling more copies of your books than ever before? Reaching for a new, higher daily word count?
What will you accomplish in 2016?
The question: In 2016, what do you want to quit? What do you want to not be doing any more?
There are always things that keep us from living our best life, whether a job, a bad habit, or a task. What if you could quit? How would that transform your life?
I love what Bob Goff says:
It's Thursday. Quit something. Eliminate some of the noise in your life and let your symphony have the stage again
— Bob Goff (@bobgoff) December 8, 2011
If you could stop doing anything, what would it be? You can’t add more to your life without getting rid of something. What will you quit in 2016?
You might not be able to quit it today or tomorrow (responsibly, anyway), but figure out what you want to quit and then make a plan.
An important part of this process is to ask yourself WHY you want each of the things you want. Is there a deeper motivation behind the desire?
For example, let’s say you want to buy a Mercedes this year. Why do you want it? Are you looking to feel more significant? Do you want others to see you as successful and achieving? Is it a way to compete, to prove your worth? Or do you just have a deep passion for German automobiles? If not, perhaps there is a different way to get what you want.
We often settle for outward success when what we are really looking for is something much deeper. As you explore your desires for the new year, try to get past the superficial and figure out your true motivations.
Apply This Question to All Areas of Life
We often focus only on one area of our lives when we brainstorm like this, especially our goals for our professional lives.
However, you are a whole person. If you succeed in one area of life but fail in all the rest, you’ll be miserable. That’s why it’s so important to spend time dreaming about what you want in all areas of your life.
- Work. What do you want to experience, accomplish, and quit in your work?
- Writing. What do you want to experience, accomplish, and quit in your writing?
- Relationships/Family. What do you want to experience, accomplish, and quit in your relationship with your spouse? with your children? with your friends?
- Self. What do you want to experience, accomplish, and quit in your personal life? This includes fitness, hobbies, and personal goals.
Then, Pick Four
You will likely have many things you want in one or two areas of your life and just a few in others. Keep brainstorming until you have at least three things you want in each area. Then, pick your top three, the four things you want most out of this year.
You pick just four because you don’t have time for mediocre goals and aspirations. A year really isn’t very long, especially when it comes to achieving your deepest desires. The more you focus on the few things you most want, the more chance you have at achieving them.
When I first tried this exercise in 2012, I tracked each of these four things carefully for a few months. Then, I got busy with other things, and got out of the habit. However, a year later I found my list again, and I was shocked to discover that I had accomplished all of them. They didn’t look exactly how I planned, but each one was an important part of my life.
So choose carefully! What you choose will change your life!
You Can’t Do Everything, But…
Of course, you may not get everything you want, but I find that when I connect my desire with my goals, I am much more successful at finishing them.
Stop focusing on what you should be doing this year.
Instead, spend time thinking about what you want to be doing. You may learn something new about yourself, and you will definitely have a fuller, more meaningful year.
Did you set any New Year’s resolutions this year? What do you want to experience, accomplish, and quit in 2016? Let me know in the comments!
Spend fifteen minutes dreaming about what you will experience, accomplish, and quit in 2016. When your time is up, share what you have so far in the comments section!
Happy life planning!