Don't Make This Mistake in 2019

goal setting housekeeping Dec 19, 2018

A few years ago I changed the way I set my New Year’s resolutions and since then I’ve had a lot more success making them stick, and most importantly, making real progress. Here’s how…


Don't Set Goals.  Establish a Theme.

Goal setting is important, but also brings risks. We often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short amount of time. We also tend to set goals that allow for only two possibilities…total success or total failure. Personally, I usually end up with the fuzzy end of that lollipop. The biggest risk is that our goals and resolutions don’t make room for the unknown. We can’t know what tomorrow will bring, let alone 365 tomorrows. Our goals and resolutions need to be flexible enough to accommodate the uncertainty of life while still pointing us in the right direction.

Establishing a theme does this. Keep your theme short and sweet. One-word themes are my favorite. A few years ago my theme was “Bold”. That turned out to be the year I proposed to Kathie. Last year my word was “Connection” and I have to admit, I feel a twinge of guilt and disappointment as I look back at my efforts on this front. I’ll use this insight to inform my theme for 2019.

Themes Don't Guarantee Success

I want to point out the potential flaw in this whole theme-scheme. Although a theme is much more flexible when it comes to dealing with our ever-changing lives, there is a risk that we use it as an opportunity to avoid doing the things we know we need to do. Your theme is not a license to avoid doing the real work. Your theme will serve as a compass for your journey, but you still need to take the steps.

This is where goals have a place. Even though you have your theme, it is still a good idea to set some goals that will serve that greater theme. By having specific goals, you’ll be more likely to hold yourself accountable and better able to measure your progress. Now let’s get you a theme for 2019!


Developing Your Theme

There’s an infinite number of ways you can come up with your theme for the new year. I’ll offer three simple ways that have worked well for me:

  • Contrast Method - Start by examining the previous year. What went well? What would you like to have gone differently? Try to focus on things that were within your control. If there were external factors at work, focus on how you reacted to the circumstances more than the circumstances themselves. Assign a theme that encapsulates the previous year then allow this to shape your theme for next year.
  • More or Less Method - Simply ask yourself two questions. What are some things that I would like to have more of in my life? What are some things I would like to have less of in my life? Write these in two separate columns. Which feels more compelling? Are there logical groupings that you can encapsulate into a single theme? Try to avoid the temptation to put everything and the kitchen sink into your theme. You are after potency here so don’t dilute your magic.
  • Goals Based - Squint Method - If you already have one or two goals identified, don’t worry, you need not abandon them. Instead, simply take a step back from your goals and see if you can come up with a high-level theme that captures the essence of those goals, but allows for more flexibility. For example, if your goal was to lose 20 pounds, you might consider a theme of “Fitness”.


Develop Your Plan

This is probably where most New Year’s resolutions fall short. Without an actual plan to enable your theme, you will never enact it. It is crucial to create some supportive structures. Here are a few ideas.

  • Tell other people about your theme. This will do two things. First, it will make it real. If you keep something to yourself, it can live an undisturbed existence in your mind. If you tell someone else about it, there is no place for your resolution to hide. Second, by telling other people about your theme, you can enroll them in helping you stay on track. Most people will be happy to help!
  • For each goal, identify supporting projects, habits, and practices that will move you in the direction of those goals. For more details about what I’m talking about here, check out the video portion of this post.
  • Create a totem. I totem is simply a physical reminder of your theme. It can be anything, as long as it serves as a reminder to your commitment. In the past, I’ve used a special photo as my computer and smartphone background. One time I had a rock with my one-word theme painted on it. It doesn’t matter what you choose as your totem, as long as you are able to place it somewhere that you’ll see it often.

I hope this has given you motivation to set a solid intention for next year. Why not make 2019 your best year ever?

Click Here for a downloadable worksheet to help you with the planning!



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