You’re officially a few weeks into 2018. Are you intentionally set up to have an consciously, strategically awesome year of expanding your range and impact? Most people start strong and energetically, then default back into patterns they’ve been in for a long time, not making the traction forward they really want (explaining our abysmal 9% resolution success rate). Let’s change that this year for you. Now that the buildup and hype of the new year has cooled off a bit, it’s time…
First, If you haven’t taken at least a few focused, visual minutes to peel back the layers of your last year and what it caused in you, do that now right here, then come back to this. This is a key, often-missed step, and a big part of why resolutions don’t stick; it’s hard to accurately set and stay on the right new course when you haven’t really gotten to the underpinnings of what got you to where you are in the first place.
So, have you made resolutions for the year yet? Before you cross that off your list, let's do a quick check on what this really is, so you can really crush it. By definition, a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something.” It’s definitive, final, involves change of some kind, and is usually a commitment to a big shift from what’s been norm thus far. That's a big deal. As a definitive declaration, it's very different than a goal, which is the outcome, impact, destination or metric to be achieved– the the finish line you're looking to out there on the horizon. Most people mistakenly call out loose goals as resolutions, which is why they often don't pan out; a goal without a resolved commitment to change in behavior to achieve it... is a setup for failure.
So, let’s get some useful resolutions in place first to support whatever outcomes you're hoping for. Otherwise, your best-laid plans of conquest in 2018 might be undermined by never really addressing what you really need to do differently to get there.
It’s easy to state resolutions in big statements and sweeping categories like getting healthier, making better financial decisions, yet they don’t work unless your behaviors in those areas change their patterns with specific intervention of our existing habit loops. I’m a fan of going big and being all-in. That said, very few of us are actually ready mentally, emotionally and physically on Jan. 1 to go all-in kamikaze-style to do the challenging work of interrupting, changing or beginning habits for those big audacious things we optimistically "resolve." I’ve witnessed effective, lasting, transformative change (vs. temporary streaks), and while it’s often launched by a big proclamation, it’s only executed by nuanced, rigorous, internal shifts in mindset and approach. I’ve also seen a recurring set of what trips people up, causing them to default again…
First, let's shift your awareness: You’ve got a sweet spot of great instincts and patterns. On the flip side, you've also got a default set of limiters and blindspots, right there in you all the time. Those are the secrets to your successes, challenges, and patterns of both. While I can’t see your individual profile from here, I can offer some starters of the most critical resolution-resets I give my clients in those default moments, which will either hit the spot for you or get you really close.
This year, starting now:
1. Own it.
You’ve got instincts, talents and a combination of strengths completely unique to you. Don’t flaunt or be arrogant about them, but do know them, carry them with confidence, and intentionally use them to move the ball forward for you, your team, your family, and your community. If you can articulate your strengths, now make sure you’re leveraging them in every interaction. If you don’t see them so clearly, start paying attention to what you think of as “common sense” when nobody else does, what you do easily where others don’t, what gives you energy every time you do it (and what drives you crazy when you can’t do it). Voice the thoughts you’re dismissing in your mind as “common sense” (it’s actually only common to you), and speak up where you see things others aren’t. Powerful influencers bring and instill a confidence to every conversation, of how they can make the situation better or take it to the next level, because they’re owning their strengths. Try that on.
2. Get out of your own way.
Get honest with yourself about your other, not-so-great side. It’s there, and it’s okay. You know– those places where your habits, sensitivities and defense mechanisms undermine your progress, pride, impact, and maybe even your reputation. Calling yourself out is the most important step, but then take yourself on. Rather than succumbing to your default responses, think about what version of yourself you really could be in this moment for the greatest good, and step into it. You can be better, and you know it.
3. Dig in to get bigger
Notice your edges, and what’s outside of them. Your comfort zone is real, and it needs to grow, or you’ll stagnate. Pick something to learn outside of your bandwith, and go hard at it until you get it into your repertoire. Putting yourself in learning zone will improve your thinking during the rest of your day/s, make you a more empathic leader, and expand your range as the needs/demands around you change all the time. Fastest ways: find an expert to learn from, scaffold your practice, be relentless, focus on what you’ll be able to do/fee/understand/know afterward. Step out.
4. Turn inward, push outward
You’re likely part introvert + part extrovert, so make sure you’re feeding your energy with the right mix of interaction and solitude, while keeping yourself connected yet clear-headed. Intentionally make space to be alone with your own thinking, without other people or media coming at you. That space to reflect, hear your own pure thoughts, and work through them will grow your self-awareness, clarity, insights and ability to be fully present. Also make space to be overtly engaged and actively immersed with other people. That interaction will feed your social brain, give you immersion + impact in other people’s thinking, expansion of your perspective, and opportunity for vital connectedness to others. One of these sides will be more natural and give you more energy than the other, and that’s okay– do both anyhow, as they’ll stretch and feed you differently. Stretch.
5. Get the effect, then affect a shift
Pay close attention to how other people and you yourself are effected by “negative” things. Superficially and profoundly, everything around you has some impact, like what other people say/do (or don’t say/do), things happening closeby and things far/global. We are all more sensitive than we think or admit, and how we’re effected by it all both shapes our perspective and defines who we are. Study this in others, and listen to it in yourself. Rather than resigning yourself to whatever happens, and just “dealing with it,” instead notice what it stirs in you, then choose to create or cause something constructive out of that stirring, which offsets things in a direction you believe in. Responsibility = your ability to respond in a way that moves things forward somewhere. This is the distinction between empowerment or resignation. Cause good.
6. Be committed, not attached
Commitment is awesome, attachment isn’t. Choose the impact you want to have, and go after it. Do what you need to do to make it happen, and be the version of yourself you know you need to be to do it, even if it’s a stretch. If you really want it, commit to it, all-in. Yet… Watch out for getting too attached to the specific picture you have in your head about how it needs to go for you to call it “success.” This is when you’re so enmeshed with what or how you’re doing what you do (like a project, or your work) that you’d feel unhinged or at a loss if it went away. The more attached you get to your plan, the more you define yourself by it, and the less nimble you become, which you don’t ultimately want. No matter how clear you are about what it will take, there will be other ways, obstacles and factors which come up, and you can flex to master them, too. Stay committed to the impact, yet not so attached to your specific project, and you'll become more agile in collaboration, progress, and effective reach– way broader and deeper than you envisioned. Think nimble.
7. Feed your head, declutter your mind
Declutter the mess of input you allow into your head. Curate your social media feeds to what actually feeds you energy, insight and useful focus, then give yourself a daily time limit on those inputs. Cut everything that distracts, depowers or frustrates you with extra mental clutter to carry around. Create white space (no information coming in at all, for at least a few minutes) for your mind to recover in spots throughout the day. Research abounds on how, with our constantly toggled attention, we’re making our brains work harder, and building mental fatigue. Next, feed your head, choosily. Create a playlist of songs that calm, focus, energize or relax you, and listen to them when you need them. Move your body throughout the day. Put photos of people/places that inspire you in your workspace. Read one carefully chosen article every morning which inspires you, and let it marinate (instead of 10 articles which just blur together in your memory). Choose a book which you suspect will help or grow you, and read it instead of your social media feed. Balance.
8. Zoom in, pan out
Get the close up details in the way you only can be taking on a micro focus, yet also pan all the way out to see it in perspective. You need both, and are likely do one better/more often than the other, so deliberately balance it out. Zooming in is when you're all the way immersed into the details of a project, situation, initiative. You see the intricacies and relationships, and are tweaking them to get it better. Panning out is when you step back from the details to get the bigger picture of context, influencing factors and the situation/project in relation to everything else. Panned out, from a distance you can see connections and patterns you can’t see close up. Zoomed in, you can see detail and nuance you’d miss from too far away. Be the camera lens, adjusting.
Every one of these is powerful alone, yet used strategically, and in combination, they’re game-changing. They each also take some practice to get smooth. Real resolutions are a big deal, and you can absolutely hone, then crush these.
Your year is just beginning, there’s impact to be made, and… you’re up. :)
More on getting out of your own way: What's in the Bag?
More on Comfort Zone + digging in to get better: You, Playing Big
More on feeding your head: The Power of State: Choosing It
More on panning out: Just Watch What Happens When You Step 5 Feet Away
Mental downtime research: Why Your Brain Needs Downtime