So I am reluctant to take on New Year’s as it seems a topic that has been taken on six ways from Sunday and therefore lacks novelty, creativity or lasting impact. Most of us get excited about the New Year. An opportunity to assess, evaluate and create an enthusiastic game plan around hopeful aspirations and splendid intentions. Now you and I both are thinking, “She hasn’t written anything in forever and THIS is what she now shows up to the party with?” While your thoughts are hopefully lingering on the fabulous celebration of what is now officially yesteryear, I’m offering negativity on toast for breakfast. Nice Shauna. Thanks ever so much.
The truth of the matter is I hate New Years. Loathe it would be a more honest insight. But I realize the fact that I dread this “holiday” is entirely personal and the reality is that my nonsense cannot and should not take away from the spirit of rebirth, renewal, realignment and reassessment that this marker can and should usher in. We are, each and every one of us, well served by claiming the time to take purposeful, honest stock of our lives, our accomplishments, our goals, aspirations and objectives. It is a meaningful task and if taken seriously, it creates purposeful, important results. But the dilemma becomes; how do we take New Year’s resolutions out of the lofty, but unlikely to last more than two weeks category and place them in our lives as a force for enduring, irrevocable change and growth? The answer is accountability.
For most of us, even if we voice our New Year’s resolutions it is among reveling friends and often in the midst of mildly intoxicated intellectual musings in which we tend to be far more enthusiastic and ambitious than usual. And while I am all in favor of copious amounts of celebrating and heaping amounts of fun, how do we take our excitement infused ambitions and translate them into meaningful, measurable change in our lives that don’t fizzle as fast as that half-drunk glass of champagne? And the answer is, we speak it, out loud, to someone in our lives who is willing to hold us accountable and do the occasionally unpleasant work of taking us to task when we start to choose the ease of business as usual over the effort of change. Are there some fine folks who can write resolutions on a piece of paper, tucking them into a desk drawer or bedside table and have the focus and commitment to religiously follow through? You bet. But they are as common as Lamborghinis parked at Wal-Mart. The rest of us need help. Accountability, responsibility, a little fear of failure and an occasional kick in the ass.
So here is the deal. Treat your resolutions with the dignity and respect they deserve. Step one is write them down. Everyone should have at least four categories: personal, professional, spiritual and financial. The more specific you can be, the more commitments you pen to a page the better, but the minimum is four. Now you need to find, identify, wrangle, hire, hijack or simply ask someone you RESPECT to hold you accountable to the objectives you have identified. Now I stress finding someone you respect for a solid reason. This may not be your best friend, your spouse or your fraternal twin brother. It MUST be someone who isn’t afraid to be clear, direct, honest and unafraid of the push back and pouting most of us will likely do at some point. It must be someone who is willing to be more invested in your success than they are in how much you like them and make no mistake about it, these are not always the same person.
Then either on your own or together, you identify precisely how you will measure change and growth in each of these areas. And this needs to be done quarterly, not at the next New Year’s Eve party where you are too busy toasting to be roasting yourself for not giving your goals and intentions the effort and faithful follow-through they deserve. So decide how you will measure change. Are you personally going to commit to a daily mediation practice and professionally commit to increasing your marketing budget by 15% and measure that outgo against increase income or opportunity? These are efforts we can measure, and therefore be held accountable for. Resolving to spend more time with your kids is not measurable. More than you did last week? Last month? Last year as whole? Smart money is on the fact that none of us keeps a ledger of time spent with our children. We can’t look at the 1st week in January of 2015 and measure it against the abundance of quality time we have so far packed into the first week of 2016. Measurable is “we’re going to read together for 30 minutes a day.” measurable is “we’re going to play catch outside every evening rain or shine.” Measureable is the hour it takes to shop for and prepare a quality meal versus grabbing take-out Chinese on the way home.
I have also realized that for many of us New Year’s resolutions tend to be large, very impressive affairs. And while I’m ALL in favor of the philosophy of “make no small plans,” let’s not forget that simple things change the world. Spending one afternoon a month volunteering, hiring a veteran, sharing your education and understanding with someone in need, kneeling down, looking your child in the eye and listening without a cell phone in site. These things too change the world. So whether you are pulling out your passport and heroically delivering yourself to the wasteland of a Sudanese refugee camp, signing on the dotted line to lease office space to definitively grow your business, or showing up for a dance recital, anything you do that grows the seeds of an idea or grows the heart, soul and dignity of another…this changes the world. And these are Resolutions that are not just worth making but are worth DOING. So here’s to the New Year! A chance for you and I to not just dream big, but to DO and DARE greatly and THAT promises to be something that deserves a celebration.