Life plans and resolutions

New years resolutions are a waste of time for most of us. They are forced, and out of sync with reality. When we look back on the resolutions of the previous year, we cannot remember them clearly; or if we do recall any we have to admit that most have not been achieved. If this describes your situation then don’t worry – it just means that you are normal.

Hiking

Any resolution that is artificially created just by virtue of it being January 1 is bound to be of limited value unless it is integrated into your life plan. Your life plan needs to be developed with purpose, and is a process that requires you to understand your true goals and inner direction, take into account your present position and chart a clear roadmap to your desired future. Most of us derive our new years resolutions on the fly and as a result they often lack depth and have no chance of success because there is no clear plan to achieving the goals! For example, “I want to exercise more” or “I want to lose weight” must rank high in the goals most often set on January 1. Yet these goals are non-specific, have no clear measurement of success and are vague in terms of how long it will take. But most of all they are unlikely to be integrated into a life plan that is a holistic perspective of exactly what you want to achieve and where you want to get to.

Developing a life plan requires you to clearly envision the end game. How would you like to be remembered? What best describes your life in 5 years, or 10 years time? Wealth, family, spiritual, social, health, career, life experience – these elements can define your inner purpose and goals. When these are understood then your “I want to lose weight” resolution at least has some context – i.e. “I want to be healthy”. In the pursuit of the health goal, both exercise and losing weight are sub-goals that need to be pursued continuously. Not just in January!

Having said this, the end of a year it is a good time to reflect and reinforce your life plan. If you don’t have a life plan then your only new years resolution should be to start the process.

Even before you develop a plan for the way forward, there is great value in taking a good honest look at the year past. Have you accomplished what you set out to do? Can you recall your goals from January last year? Where are you on your journey – can you measure progress and how well are you doing? What were your weaknesses around achieving your goals and can you compensate for these in the future? Can you develop the necessary skills and strength to stick to your plan? Where have you succeeded? What led to this success? What was the cost, what have you given up – and if important can this cost be re-paid this coming year?

Reflecting on the year past is arguably the best starting point for developing your plan for the year ahead. Don’t ignore this step!

Don’t worry about 1 January – this is an artificial constraint. In setting your goals – rather than randomly coming up with some “new year resolutions” concentrate on where you have come from, the way forward and exactly what needs to be done. It is important to get clarity on each of these elements. Once this is done your goals will start becoming evident and you can take the next step to ensure they are SMART – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time framed.

Is this not a better approach than making an arbitrary new years resolution to lose weight, but only to start after you have overindulged at the end of year year party?