2015-12-31

New Year's Retrospective

Will you be making New Year's resolutions tonight? I grew up viewing New Year's resolutions somewhat similar to making a wish when a star falls - you'd better keep the thought to yourself thus increasing the chances of it becoming reality.


In real life however, wishes rarely come true if one is not working towards them (otherwise it would be a good idea to be prepared every year when we pass the Perseids)  and my promises often ended up revolving around things like "I should do more of this and that". In all honesty, rarely did I manage to deliver on the promise, and my friends shook their heads in disbelief, saying that New Year's resolutions was a stupid idea, only serving to create unnecessary stress and guilt.

Still, I kept making resolutions. And breaking them. As I began to work with continuous learning in organizations, I realized that the trick is not about trying to do more  things but rather to do other things.

This made me think about my New Year's resolutions, and I tried giving them the character of a New Year's retrospective  instead. Instead of trying to do more and ending up frustrated - time is a scarce resource after all - I try to do other things with my time, and approach things in a different way. Slowly it grew on me to make a small retrospective of how I live my life not just at New Year's Eve, but at any major event and decision. This may sound very serious and solemn, but in practice an opportunity presents itself naturally a few times each year for me to give some thought to how I spend my limited days, and what I want to achieve. And then I noticed - just like when it comes to getting work done - that focus is more important than results. Because for me - and many others I worked with - the results come automatically if you work hard to focus on doing the steps necessary to reach them.

So, for example, while it is commendable (and frustrating) to promise myself to learn to play the guitar this year, it holds much more power to promise myself to spend half an hour every evening to playing the guitar.

Here are some examples of New Year's resolutions that might inspire you:
  • Choose one day a week where you commit to start your workday by doing all chores you tend to avoid as long as possible, first thing in the morning. When you're done, think about how you usually approach these things, and which way you prefer
  • Find one night a week when you set out for a brisk walk (or short run) before doing the usual evening routine
  • Substitute one of your training sessions a week with playing Minecraft with your children on their server
  • Focus a small piece of time every day on something you want or need to do, but don't think you have time for. For instance, read a few pages of a book on the bus every day
  • If you don't have time to exercise, try to do a Tabata every morning

Finally, I would like to wish all my friends, business partners and clients a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2016, perhaps with new resolutions?