With each passing year, I become more convinced that there is no single right way to approach resolutions. If you’re weary of doing them the way you always have, however, let me offer you an alternative approach.
Begin by setting aside all thoughts of modest change or incremental improvement. This means rejecting the majority of warmed over “should dos” and self-improvement goals you’ve had on the back burner for years.
Next, consider a bold and wildly ambitious possibility for yourself. Come up with a new goal so unlikely, so audacious, it sounds a little crazy. The kind of idea that initially makes you think: “No way; it can’t be done.”
In a business setting, this might mean letting go of notions like growing the bottom line by 10 or 15 percent in favor of, say, doubling the size of the business or overtaking an entire industry. In a personal context, it might mean bypassing a well-worn resolution to drop 50 pounds for an entirely different goal, like completing a triathlon, competing in a tango contest, or becoming a personal trainer.
The point is, you are not looking for a goal that requires you to rejigger your plans from last year, or to simply freshen up an old objective. You’re looking for a goal that requires you to toss out your old plans entirely and start fresh with a blank sheet of paper. What you’re conjuring here is not a resolution, but a revolution.
Once you have a goal that gives you shivers and makes your hair stand on end, your next job is to quiet the intimidating voices that say, “It can’t be done,” and begin asking, “If I were going to do this, how would I go about doing it?”
Seriously consider what kinds of daily changes this audacious goal might involve, what sacrifices and risks it would demand, what trade-offs it would involve. Take a close, unflinching look at what aspects of your life would need remodeling, and which aspects of your identity would need redefining, or even abandoning.
Maybe it would call for a change of career or location, an abandoning of comforting daily habits or cherished commitments. Maybe it would require developing new skills and strengths, or peeling away entrenched assumptions and “Big Plans” you’ve held dear for decades.
Scary, I know. But even as your mind and heart might be screaming “Absolutely not!” I want you to push further still. Write those changes down on a piece of paper and then visualize yourself making them, step by step. Really think through, for better and for worse, how they might play out. Imagine your life being different, and you being different, in ways you’ve not previously given yourself permission to fathom.
When you’ve gotten over that hurdle, when you’ve made the list of nearly impossible changes you think would be called for, when you’ve imagined yourself carrying them all out, pause and take a deep breath.
For a moment, imagine being on the other side of that formerly unthinkable change. Take stock of the expansion this exercise has required of you and notice what it feels like. Excitement? Anxiety? Curiosity?
Whatever thoughts and feelings arise, just notice them. Notice the space you created by your willingness to imagine a different set of possibilities. And then, consider whether there are any (or perhaps many) elements of your wild, audacious goal that seem worth keeping.
Are there some action steps and shifts embedded in your imaginary plan that seem intriguing enough to carry out? Are there any elements of your habitual, entrenched reality that might, in fact, be worth letting go of?
You may decide that, on the whole, the oversize goal you allowed yourself to consider is simply not for you, or not for you at this time. It may be that the risks are too great, that the costs are too exorbitant, or that you love your current reality too much to mess with it at this level, or at this time. That’s all OK.
But you may also decide that certain elements of your wildly unrealistic plan are not entirely beyond reach, or that parts of your madcap vision do, in fact, appeal to you on some level. Maybe you now realize that your impossible goal is not quite so impossible, or even improbable, as you once believed.
That is important information to have — and, perhaps, to leverage as the basis of a very real resolution.
Here’s to a New Year full of delightful surprises and intriguing experiments.