Skip the Resolutions — Take On Consistent, Timely, Development Instead

New Years resolutions have a weak reputation. Few would stake their lives on it. Even so, many stake a piece of their future on it.

And yet, a fresh year does seem to call for something to mark the changeover.

I suggest a trade-in and trade-up of the New Year’s resolution routine for something more developmental, timely, and long-lasting.

There are two parts to the trade up.  They are both essential to shifting to a more reliable and developmental way of living. (This way of living can displace a more presumptuously willful way of living that tries to take on untimely but seemingly important outcomes based on easily dispersed “will power.”)

My first suggestion is that you use the year-end/year-beginning rollover to take stock of what has been accomplished as well as what has been altered over the past year. Take the time to appreciatively savor what has been achieved, and then put it to rest. It may or may not be fitting to continue building on that exact path. Putting the past year to rest provides room for a fresh year and a fresh look at what is calling to be addressed now.

The second half of this first suggestion is to listen into the opportunity of the upcoming year. Make a listing of intentions you have in important areas of life and relations. This is not a “goals” list. Goal lists have a tendency to make people “tight”, as if once they write it down, they are now obligated to accomplish it or they have failed.

This tight “goal oriented” orientation ignores time and timing. There will be disruptions and opportunities that will unpredictably arise during the year. Staying with an early view of the year as senior to an ongoing, updated view is constraining and lacks wisdom.

A free and focused look differs from a “goals list” in that it isn’t attempting to be senior to the environment and pressures of the year. Nor is it distrustful of you and your ability to correct and re-aim yourself appropriately should the time come to do so. It is the difference between trusting yourself and your intentions in your relations with others and life versus trying to manage yourself like a horse that needs handling (the original French context of the word “management” — horse handling.)

This listing of intentions is something you can review periodically and see if it remains relevant. Allow it to inform your focus and actions. You may be surprised how many of these intentions wind up being fulfilled if you have listened well into the opportunities and appropriate use of power for the upcoming year. The flavor I am suggesting here is a free and focused look into the year ahead — what you are out to become and out to have in the environment around you.

Nor is the listing of intentions a “wish list.” It is composed of areas where you would be willing to invest your time and energy if it seems warranted by the opportunities the year presents.

With this free perspective, having appreciatively laid the last year to rest, and having taken a fresh look at what is important and what you intend for the upcoming year in place, my second recommendation then comes into play. That recommendation is to get interested in the next, timely and fitting development in your life and work. Listen into where you meet others and life as well as your own sense of fulfillment and find out what is next for you to become — what is next to free up, or what is next to take on as a new power to develop. (One major development per customer until in place, please.)

The key to knowing whether you have heard something compelling and fitting for development is to listen for the kind of resonance that calls up  instant interest at the thought of going in that direction. There is a quiet “yes” to the area. There is a quiet “amen” — as if you have been heading for that area for some time and it is now timely to bring it to fruition. It is just plain fitting.

Embracing that developmental direction and bringing it to your projects, work, relations and family will get you launched in what hopefully will become a new way of living — an ongoing interest in fitting development — rather than periodic “crash diets” of fixing an issue when it has become urgent, or picking a direction merely because the calendar has changed to a new year.

Development ought to be like breathing — something that sustains your life that you do all the time, in good times and bad, hard times and easy times — as life continually calls for development as we age and as our circumstances and times change. Having a steady diet of development will maximize your freedom, power and sense of satisfaction with how you are living. Over time, it will beat periodic “breakthrough” diets of goal achievement through an equivalent of the “miracle of compound interest” — it will keep building a foundation of increasing power upon which larger and more highly leveraged accomplishments can be achieved.

Lose the New Year’s resolutions. You are better off putting your thought and energy into making an ongoing practice of being in fitting development with our times.

About Ken Anbender

Kenneth Anbender Ph.D. has spent the last 50 years working with more than a hundred thousand people directly on the principles and methods that support the fulfillment of a human life -- in community and at work. He has developed a body of work that is licensable called The Contegrity Approach.
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