Tag Archives: new years resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions: Choose Concepts, Not Lists

new year's resolutions list

new year's resolutions listWhile home visiting my family over the holidays, my sister mentioned a few of the resolutions she’d set for herself this year. They included doing more fiction writing (and, specifically, being willing to endure 100 rejections ), upgrading to varifocals so that she doesn’t need to hold a book within an inch of her eye to read, and a handful of other standard-issue resolutions.

“What are your goals?” she asked.

I paused to think it over.

“Thanks for reminding me,” I answered. “I need to set my concept for this year.”

Goal-setting: In Defense of Vagueness

As someone with a fairly strong Type A personality, it’s tempting to use the beginning of the year as an excuse to set even more goals for myself than I normally would.

But a few years back, I resolved that I wouldn’t do that anymore. Instead, I decided to embrace the idea of setting broad, overarching “concepts” to frame the coming year.

I’m aware of all the advice out there claiming that you need to set specific, actionable objectives if you want to get anything done. I’m also aware of all the research suggesting why if you go too far down the measurable outcomes path, you might end up abandoning your goals altogether.

To that end – and, let’s be honest, what good is research if you can’t cherry-pick the stuff that suits your needs? – I have anchored my defense of conceptual resolutions in a Stanford University study entitled In Praise of Vagueness.  Because of the way the brain processes negative information, this article suggests that we are actually better off motivating ourselves through a general principle (e.g., “I’d like to be more fit”) – or through an acceptable range of desired outcomes (e.g., I’d like to lose between 5-15 pounds) – than tying ourselves to one specific number ( e.g., “I need to lose 10 pounds by June 1st.”)

The basic idea is that presenting information in a vague way allows you to sample from the information that’s in your favor and choose the part that seems  achievable or encourages you to keep your expectations upbeat. That way, you are motivated to stay on track.

Goal-setting: Choosing a Concept

But I didn’t really start embracing conceptual New Year’s resolutions because of what the research said. I did it because I thought it would help me to bring greater coherence to the many different hats I wear, both personally and professionally.

I felt that having an integrated, “catch-all” concept would make me feel more comfortable being pulled in so many different directions. I also thought having a concept would encourage me to think more creatively about the different aspects of my life and how they fit together, rather than thinking in siloes.

So, for example, one year my watch word was “authenticity.”  That was all about bringing my personality out more in social media (principally blogging and Facebook), but also about choosing to read books that illustrated other people’s journeys towards self-discovery.

Another year, my watch word was “change.” That year, I knew in advance that I’d be laid off for my job and that I needed to be open to trying out different career options while I took time off.

Yet another year, I embraced slow living.

This Year’s Resolution

This year’s resolution, you ask?

It’s about balance. Not just the professional balance yielded by a portfolio career mentioned above.  And not just work-life balance if all that means is not being a workaholic.

But work-life balance in the sense articulated by author and entrepreneur Robert Glazer, which he defines as follows: …”an understanding that each day or week might bring different combination of things to attend to at work or in your personal life, but they total a portfolio of quality experiences. It’s not about the time itself, it’s about being fully present and engaged in each of the pieces…”

I like that idea. Balance as being fully present in each of the pieces of my life, whether that’s teaching or coaching or writing or swimming.

How about you? If you could pick a concept for 2019, what would it be?

Image: New Year’s Resolutions list via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

White_House_DCOn occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere

a. Tired of hearing about everyone else’s New Year’s Resolutions? Me too. But I really liked this list of five ways to make positive change in 2017 from Next Avenue, especially #5: slow down.

b. And speaking of positive thinking, I’m thrilled to be a contributor to Thrive Global. Over the holidays, they featured two of my posts: one on five self-help books that changed my life and one on swimming (and adulthood!).

c. As we wind down the Obama presidency, check out this fascinating account of what it’s really like to work in the White House, by those who did it.

d. Whatever your politics, you will also want to watch a final address from Obama’s anger translator.

e. Wordsmiths will love this tool, the wordmapper, which tells you who says what (i.e., “supper” vs “dinner”) in which regions of the U.S.

f. And, finally, those of us who would not so secretly love to move to Scandanavia should all learn these Swedish words. My personal favorite? Ghosta.

Have a great weekend!

Image: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

New Year’s Resolutions: Set Concepts, Not Lists

authenticity, the authenticity factor

authenticity, the authenticity factorA friend of mine – a well-known and well-respected self-help guru in the States – once told me that New Year’s Resolutions should never be vague and all-encompassing. “Don’t pick something like: Be more virtuous,” she said. “Choose something actionable like: Recycle every day.”

I immediately saw the wisdom in her words. At my job, we are constantly taught to set SMART goals for our projects because the more specific the objectives, the easier they are to implement. As a big fan of To Do lists, I myself have been known to generate not only lists of new year’s resolutions, but lists for how to keep them.

But this January, I’m embracing a radically different tactic: I’m going to set myself a concept, not a list. My watchword for 2016 is – drum roll please – authenticity.

Read the rest of this post over on The Broad Side

Image via Flickr, The World Economic Forum, The Authenticity Factor: Gina Badenoch

My New Year’s Resolution: Slow Living

Hello there. And Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I forced myself to set some New Year’s Resolutions. The last time I did  it – at least publicly, on this blog – I not only listed the resolutions I’d set for myself that year, but offered some tips for keeping them. (And yes, I’m pleased to report that of the five that I put down that year, three of them  –  getting a job, eating less meat and seeing more of the U.K. outside London – have all been realised.) Still need to work on “being more romantic” and “easing up on my kids.” Sigh.

But I thought I’d do something different this year, which is to set a goal for myself that I hope others will also emulate: to begin to consciously practice slow living.

There’s an entire philosophy underpinning the slow living movement, which I’ve yet to immerse myself in. (For a great primer, check out Carl Honoré’s book and blog.) Here’s how he describes it:

It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace.It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

I got wind of it through my husband, who happened upon this BBC Radio 4 special on slow living – featuring Carl himself – and recommended that I listen to it. (My husband and I have an ongoing I go too fast/you go too slow dynamic in our marriage, although in the last year and a half since we’ve both taken on new, incredibly busy jobs, I’d say that we both suffer from the “going too fast” dynamic.)

Revealingly, the first time I sat down to listen to the first segment of this programme, I found myself simultaneously paying bills, checking emails and shopping for post-Christmas bargains Online. In other words, although I recognised the value of forcing myself to listen to a programme about the virtues of slowing down, I couldn’t seem to find the time to slow down and actually listen to it. Exhibit A.

But then my husband suggested that we listen to it together, over coffee, one Sunday morning during the Christmas holidays. And so we did. And the more I listened to the three people featured in the BBC programme, all of whom desperately needed advice from Carl on how to slow down, the more I saw myself – or better put, versions of myself throughout the day: as wife, as mother, as worker – grafted onto their lives.

I won’t ruin the programme for you, which is well worth listening to. (Note: it’s on the BBC website for one more day, and the second part airs tomorrow.) But here are three actionable items I took away from it – the “learnings,” as we say at my office – which I hope to implement immediately:

1. Do something slow every day. It could be gardening. One guy on the programme takes up ironing. I myself made a banana bread today. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as the activity allows you to perform a slow, repetitive motion that enables you to practice, physically, the art of slowing down.

2. Create larger spaces between activities. If you’re like me, you race around from activity to activity – especially those involving your kids – leaving yourself just enough time (if that) to make it to the next thing. You actually feel lucky if you manage to eek out an extra five minutes to run to the dry cleaner or return a library book. But one of the things Carl recommends is deliberately building more time in in between activities, to eliminate that feeling that you are always “just in time.” (Phew!)

3. Say no to one thing everyday. Of all the kernels of wisdom that I gleaned from this 30 minute segment on slow living, the one that must rung true for me was the piece of advice to “say no to one thing every day that you’d normally say yes to.” It could be coffee with a neighbour when you’re completely fried. It could be volunteering for that extra bake sale at the PTA. These days, for me, it’s usually something at work. Someone asks me to edit an article that isn’t technically part of my job. Someone asks me to go to a meeting that I don’t really need to attend. I’m given an impossible deadline but fail to ask for an extension. There’s something truly liberating in learning the word “No.” Try it sometime.

I don’t know about you, but all of this feels very right to me at this stage of my life, both personally and professionally. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What have you resolved to do differently in the new year?

 

 

Tips For Adulthood: Make New Year’s Resolutions (And Keep Them!)

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The New Year rolls around and my inbox/RSS Feed/Facebook page is inundated with the resolutions of friends and strangers far and near: Lose five pounds! Run a marathon! Write that #$%@ novel!

I’m a big fan of making resolutions. (As those of us blessed with an overly health super-ego tend to be.) Not just because they impose self-discipline for things like leading a healthier lifestyle. But also because – if you choose your goals wisely – they can genuinely make you happier.

And apparently, I’m not alone. Research shows that 40-45% of adults make one or more resolutions each year.

The trick, of course, is following through. One study in the U.K. showed that as many as 78% of those who set resolutions for themselves in the New Year failed to stick with them.

Bummer.

I personally think that one way that you keep your resolutions alive is by saying them out loud. Because I firmly believe that if you tell other people what you’re shooting for, you’re more likely to commit to a goal.

(I’ve tested this strategy out. After announcing on this blog couple of years back that I was going to take Saturdays off for “me time,” people still chide me if they discover me lurking on Facebook or Twitter when I’m supposed to be resting. I love that they do this!)

In that spirit, I’m going to share my own resolutions for this year:

1. Get a job. Yup, that’s still top of the list. While my She The People gig at the Washington Post is fantastic, it’s just that: a gig. So I am still out there pounding the pavement: networking, sending in applications and combing job listings. I do, however, have a brand new (top secret!) strategy for my job hunt, which I’ll reveal when (God willing) the time comes. So that, at least, feels like a new wrinkle on an old-ish goal.

2. Be more romantic. While we were in Argentina, I couldn’t help but notice how affectionate, physically, Latins are with one another. It’s been so long since I lived in Latin America that I’d completely forgotten that aspect of life down there. The importance of things like hugging for marital success has long been documented. Seeing this on action in Argentina reminded me that even when you’ve been with your partner for awhile, you really need to fight the instinct to take him or her for granted. Which is why I’ve resolved to do more things one-on-one with my husband in the New Year, including the odd romantic getaway, when/as/if we can afford one. (See #1). I don’t know about you, but I want to die like this couple.

3. Ease up on my kids. Yeah, I know. I’ve said that one before too. I tend to be a bit of a control freak where my kids are concerned. Part of this is situational: I work at home so I have ample opportunity to “hover.” And part of it is just my make-up. But one of my close friends took me aside during our trip to Argentina and suggested – in the friendliest, I’ve-been-there sort of way – that I ease up a bit, particularly with my son. If I loosen the reins just a bit where he’s concerned, she convinced me – based on her own experience – that I’ll not only be doing him a favor (vis independence, less need to act out later on, etc. etc.) but myself as well. (It’s hard work trying to control other people’s lives!) She wasn’t the first person to suggest this; but somehow, coming from a close friend who herself has a tendency to helicopter parent, I actually listened. So far, so good on that one. (More to follow on this, rest assured.)

4. Eat less meat. You may wonder, after I waxed rhapsodic about the joys of eating Barbeque last week, how I could possibly now suggest that I would renounce eating meat? I’m not actually resolved to stop eating meat altogether. (Although part of me wishes that I could.) But yes, I’d like to move in the direction of becoming a Flexitarian – i.e. eating less meat without becoming a vegetarian – a new trend that’s gaining currency in the U.S. (Hey man, we all need a group!) I just think that I’d be happier and healthier consuming less flesh. (And perhaps if I substitute the word “flesh” for “meat” on a regular basis, I will become a vegetarian!)

5. Discover the United Kingdom. We’ve traveled a fair bit since moving to London five and a half years ago. But the vast majority of that travel has been outside the country. I’d like to change that. I feel like I really don’t know my adopted country nearly as well as I should and that there’s no time like the present to alter that. First stop? Wales. Because once you hear someone pronounce the name of the world’s longest railroad station, you, too, will think: I gotta meet those Welsh folks.

What are you resolved to do in 2012?

 Image: hugging by lanier67 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

Every Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I’m not usually much for New Years Resolutions, but as an impatient and impulsive person, I quite liked this list of 7 Healthy Tips For The Impatient and Impulsive by Charlotte Hilton Andersen at the Huffington Post. I especially liked the admonition to “Call your sister!”

2. I love the concept behind Seth Godin‘s new, free e-book What Matters Now where he asks a bunch of popular bloggers to offer their thoughts on, well…what matters now.

3. If you haven’t yet seen this, it’s worth reading blogger James Chartrand – of Men with Pens fame – come out as a woman and explain why she chose to write as a man.

4. And speaking of lady writers, I was saddened to hear that the NYT.com columnist Judith Warner would be ending her blog Domestic Disturbances, which has frequently given me food for thought on this blog. Read her farewell column here.

5. If you’ve ever sat through a children’s Nativity Play, you’ll laugh out loud with recognition at this account by the (London) Times On Line’s Caitlin Moran. Equally engrossing are these depictions of the Nativity story by various modern artists at The Guardian.

6. Finally, for those who are interested, here are my pieces in PoliticsDaily.com this week:  one on the feasibility of high speed rail in the U.S. and another on how British Courts nearly arrested a former Israeli official on charges of war crimes.

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