Do you usually stick to your New Year’s resolutions?
Or at least I didn’t, until I started doing them differently. You see, I’m normally a New Year’s grinch. I really dislike the end of the year reflection processes that most consultants and coaches recommend, which probably seems odd since I am one of those coaches and consultants. Plus anyone who knows me knows I’m constantly going on and on about how self-reflection is the key to a meaningful and successful life. So why do I hold such a big grudge? Because it feels like we’re usually asking the wrong questions.
Short-Term Questions Aren’t Great
Questions like, What did you learn this year? or What are your goals for next year? seem too narrowly focused on the short-term to me. Here’s why: though it seems counter-intuitive that people would be highly successful and yet be totally unfulfilled, it happens all the time. That’s just a natural consequence of setting short-term goals that don’t align with a broader, bigger picture for your life. And speaking of disorganized, fragmented, somewhat whimsical goals: New Year’s resolutions! We make these resolutions after we’ve reflected on the last year and said that’s it! I’m going to get a new job or lose weight or quit smoking or find a great love. Don’t you think maybe we are set up to fail at our resolutions because there’s no really deep, really long-term base foundation vision to the changes? The reason that most people quit their resolutions is that after their initial enthusiasm to tackle the challenge, the work gets hard. Really, really hard. And then we have to wonder if we really want to do all the hard work. Is it worth it? A longer-term vision will help you answer yes. A short-term vision will help you answer no.
Long-Term Questions Aren’t Great Either
But don’t get me wrong, I also hate the longer-term questions like Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years? I think questions like these set us up more for confusion and uncertainty than for success. 10 years ago I had just left the US public service sector and moved to a new city and went into the corporate life without any previous interest in business. That certainly wasn’t planned. 6 years ago I met my Swiss (now) husband – how many people can guess whether or not I ever planned to move to Switzerland? And before I had my first child 3 years ago, how could I have truly known what work-life balance would look like? Future questions don’t always have answers. Keeping yourself open to opportunities and possibilities sometimes gets in the way of planning for the long term — and vice versa.
So What Questions Are Great?
So by now you’re thinking, Lisa, you’ve said don’t focus on short-term goals and don’t focus on long-term goals and resolutions will most likely fail. I know, I sound crazy. That is absolutely counter-intuitive to everything you’ve learned in life. Hear me out: those things are all important to do, really they are, BUT ONLY after setting up the foundation of knowing your Life Purpose and Values. ONLY after you understand the things that are most important to your lifetime fulfillment can you begin to set your other goals and resolutions. It can’t work the other way around. If you want to find a truly meaningful, fulfilling life, try this for the new year: get (back) in touch with your life vision and your values, and then plan for your new goals and resolutions.
If you want to find a truly meaningful, fulfilling life, try this for the new year: get (back) in touch with your life vision and your values and then plan for your new goals and resolutions.
Your Life Vision
Your life vision is a one-sentence statement about what you would like to leave as a legacy of your time in the world. It acts much like a company’s vision statement and it’s a generally broad statement about how you see the future-state of the world after you’ve been in it and honestly, your vision won’t change much in your adult life. You can use your vision as your guiding principle for knowing what’s truly important to you and how to prioritize what you do with your life.
Questions to help you discover your vision:
1. If you could put one message on a billboard, what would it be? What would your billboard look like?
2. All of the World’s Leaders are gathered together for one large meeting and you have 30 seconds to share one important idea with all of them, and they will listen. What would your idea be? How would the world be different because of it?
3. What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on but you believe it anyway?
Your values are your guiding principles about what is important to you in life. My definition of values says they’re not religious or moral in nature and there’s no one-size-fits-all that you must have. Values are simply a list of characteristics that are important for you to honor as you go through life in order to live a life you want. Often “negative” emotions that you feel are actually triggers from your values not being honored (angry? Someone probably did something against a value of yours, like disrespecting you when you honor respect. Disappointed? Something probably didn’t work out that would have honored your values, like if you value friendship and you expected a friend to drop everything for you like you would have for them).
To help you discover your values, try out this Values Discovery exercise I created.
So About Those Resolutions
For this year, I recommend you scrap your standard self-reflection strategy and try out the above. If you base your New Year’s resolutions on ideas / projects that come out of your vision and values, you’re set up for actually fulfilling your resolutions (and building your fulfilling life. NBD.).
Leave a comment below to tell us about your experience in discovering your Life Vision and/or Values!