I love new years resolutions.
I am one of those people who is motivated and excited by accomplishments and achievements. I make lists for everything; and everyday I savor the moments I complete an item on the list.
And new years, like birthdays, are a chance to think about the future and plan for what lies ahead – and normally this consists of creating a list of goals and an action plan to meet each one. But this year, I decided to do something a little bit different.
When you think of what you want to do in 2012, it is easy to get caught up in the usual set of goals to lose weight, save money, get promoted, etc. However, for me, when I looked back over 2011 I realized my normal goals (even the ones I accomplished) weren’t the events or memories that really stood out. Take some time to go through these questions and reflect on last year (I spent several days mulling over my answers but you can do it in a few moments if that is all you can spare).
- What day were you the happiest? Who were you with? What were you doing? Why was this the happiest moment all year?
- What was the best meal you had? Why?
- What was your favorite purchase (something you paid money for)? How much was it? Why is it more significant than everything else?
- What was the greatest gift you gave all year?
- What achievement(s) are you most of?
- Looking over the last year, what are the moments that shine the most? What times are most significant and what made them special?
So once you have thought through your responses, gather them into themes.
- What stands out?
- What is missing?
- How do the resolutions or goals you set last new year fit with what mattered?
For me the results were really surprising (and I asked two other people with my questions poised as a bit of a game, and they too, were shocked at what stood out, and the memories that seemed significant).
Hopefully, just going through the exercise will help you reflect on what matters to you in your life – and then you can use those observations to set goals for next year – and if you are lucky they may be more meaningful than the usual ones you set the last couple of years
For some inspiration my answers and reflections are below!
What day were you the happiest? What were you doing? Why was this the happiest moment all year?I took a dance series focused on movement. And during that series there was one class when I performed a dance that was one of the best in my life. Afterward I felt so accomplished, so beautiful, and so strong. And this was during a particular stressful time, so to be able to pull everything off and feel so empowered – just thinking about it makes me smile.
What was the best meal you had? Why?The best meal I had all year was when G fixed his Kahlua pork and we had a Hawaiian themed dinner with 2 of his cousins and their families. It was so great to bring everyone together and enjoy such wonderful food, from the pork to the cabbage salad to the Hawaiian drinks – everything just fit together.
What was your favorite purchase (something you paid money for)? How much was it? Why is it more significant than everything else?My favorite purchase all year was a handbag in Italy, in a style and brand that I coveted since I first started reading fashion magazines a few years ago. It was special because I bought it using premiums from my public speaking and guest writing fees. It was truly a gift of accomplishment – a milestone so to speak.
When did you make someone else very happy?
When G and I went on vacation this year for his 40th birthday, I spent so many hours reading guide books, listening to podcasts, researching online – even packing everything into one carryon bag (for nearly 2 weeks). At one point in the trip he commented on how it was so nice that I had spent so much time planning, and it felt so worthwhile to know that I was able to make his big birthday truly special.
What achievements are you most of?Giving my first presentation at Velocity in June of 2011. And despite the fact there were way more people than I expected (hundreds!), it went well and started an exciting series of public speaking. Despite my reluctance and concern about getting all of the work done, I managed to pull off two new and interesting talks at Oscon in July. Halfway into the year I started blogging again, and my readership and audience skyrocketed. It was amazing to see how many people were interesting in what I had to say. And it isn’t the posts themselves or even the sheer volume of people reading the posts, but the emails and notes people have sent about how I have inspired them or touched their lives. More than any community service I have ever done, my blog and writing has given me a sense that I am helping others by sharing my life lessons. I feel healthier. I lost 7 pounds this year. I worked out or at least exercised most days during the week. I are more fruits and vegetables. And I flossed and brushed every single day (which is good because I grew up with well water and have a penchant for candy – needless to say my dentist and his staff all know me well ) I’ve been able to deepen my relationship with one of my best friends despite the fact that he moved away from Seattle – in some ways we have become closer and more in touch than when he lived close by. Changing jobs. I had an awesome position at a great company, and it was really stepping out of my comfort zone to take on a new challenge; and I know I will be better for having done it.
Looking over the last year, what are the moments that shine the most? What times are most significant and what made them special?G and I went to Hawaii to see friends get married. While we were there, he and I took late night walks on the beach, listening to our iPods (in sync – old school like you did with walkmans hitting play at the same time) and dancing to the music in the dark, barefoot, while the waves splashed beneath the starlight. G and I went to Italy, where we experienced culture, amazing food and wine, and had one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. We explored the ruins of Pompeii, the beach towns on the on Almalfi Coast, and the romantic streets of Venice. During the summer G and I started a weekend tradition of walking our dogs along this hiking trail near our home. Well the hike itself was short, only 45 minutes; this time together brought us closer and being beneath the rainforest canopy was inspiring and relaxing.
- The best memories are associated with people and experiences
- Travel and quality time with close friends/family
- Stretch goals or major accomplishments – although only the ones that were successfully completed, the failures didn’t make the list
- My blog, but not the posts or the work, but the reaction it elicited from people I didn’t even know personally
What didn’t make the list?
- The routine things that I seem to do every week/weekend – regular work, chores, running errands, and meals at home and the usual places
- Expensive or large ticket purchases – clothes, books, furniture, most of it didn’t even come to my mind for consideration
- Projects at work – despite the fact we shipped a lot of big things, I was able to
- My five different hairstyles I tried out during the year; the outfits I agonized over for important meetings, etc.
- Parties I attended
- My volunteer work and community service
Of course, that does mean those things weren’t fun, rewarding, or good experiences – they just were not the things that really defined 2011 for me.
So what does that mean for next year?
- I am going to focus on the things that I think will stand out – setting stretch goals, traveling, blogging, and more time with close friends and family.
- More public speaking – almost every talk that I did, every presentation I put together, I created a big memory and accomplishment.
- More blogging – although when I think about what people seemed to care about it was the more thoughtful and meaningful posts. So perhaps I will change my focus to one or two really good posts a month, versus trying to average one per week.
- Buy fewer higher-quality Items – the purchases that I ended up a loving at the end of the year were not the things I got on sale, but the few things that I really love. In some cases I saved up for them, in other cases they are sentimental, but there are only 4 things that really stand out. Plus I really need to have less stuff.
- Keep exercising and focus on eating right — I’m proud of getting in shape, and I feel better when I feel my body with nutritious food and get regular workouts.
- Spend more time with the people I love – with the exception of my work accomplishments all of my favorite memories are largely based on whom I was with at the time. I want to spend more time with the people that really make me happy and bring out the best in my life.
Now I just need to go write out my resolutions and 2012 goals!
Best wishes in the New Year!
Oh and as usual, if you have more questions or other ideas to improve this process please leave it in the comments – I would love to edit this to make it even better.