A Different Approach to the New Year
Being January, most people are probably making resolutions for the new year. But in a few weeks most will admit with a laugh that the resolutions have fallen by the wayside. I think that happens, in part, because we set very high expectations for ourselves. When we can’t meet those expectations, we give up. However, if we can think differently about starting a new year, there is a better chance of achieving the change we’re hoping for.
At the beginning of 2013 I listened a book by John Maxwell called 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. “If you focus on reaching goals,” he writes, “you won’t necessarily grow. But if you focus on growth, you will always reach your goals.” Goals are only about the end result. Growth, on the other hand, is about gaining ground slowly but surely over time.
With that in mind, last year I had five areas in which I wanted to grow: spiritual, creative, financial, health, and leadership. I then wrote down specific ways I wanted to make that happen. Out of my list of 15 ways, I did about six. I could get mad at myself for not doing the other nine, but hey—hose are six things I wouldn’t have done otherwise! And again, I’m not after just reaching goals; I’m after growing in those areas, and over the course of 2013 I did grow.
This approach really works for me, and I hope you take some time to consider it for yourself.
Areas I want to grow in 2014
Four of the five areas I focused on last year are still applicable for 2014. I’m no longer in a leadership role (at least not an official one), so that won’t be on my list. This year I want to replace that category with Others. I want to help those around me grow, in addition to myself growing spiritually, creatively, financially, and physically.
After thinking about it for a couple weeks, here are the ways I’m going to grow in these areas:
- Develop a set time to hang out with Jesus daily
- Read the Bible daily and chronologically
- Write 250 words a day
- Finish the first draft of a novel
- Publish a side project
- Sell a short story
- Write and direct a short film
- Build my own website
- Learn Avid
- Read a screenplay a month
- Help one person finish a project
- Run 3 miles two times a week
- Pay off all debt
- Learn about investment
I happen to turn 29 this year, so this will be my last year in the 20s! A few years ago I made a list of things I wanted to do by the time I was 30, and a few of them I have accomplished. But one of them, finishing a novel, still remains elusive, so I definitely want to focus on reaching that goal.
Things to help the process
Set goals that seem too low. It’s only a couple weeks into 2014, but this is the biggest thing I have learned so far. When I set my daily word count goal at 250, it felt ridiculous. Surely I could write more than that each day! What I’ve found is that is exactly the emotion you want to have with a goal. I have written 9 days out of the last 10, because even when I get home late at night and I’m tired, I think to myself, “It’s only 250 words. You can definitely do that.” The best part is, I usually end up writing a bit more than 250, so I think I’m going to increase the word count to maybe 350 at the end of the month.
So instead of setting a goal astronomically high and then getting depressed because you never do it, try starting small. Once you can routinely meet that small goal, like running just twice a week, try increasing it.
Find an app that fits your goals. We nearly all have smartphones these days, and they have uses far beyond just games or Instagram. There are quite a few apps that can be really helpful in reaching daily goals. Here are a few I have found helpful:
- YouVersion Bible. Reading the Bible daily, or the whole thing in a year has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. On top of that, I have really wanted to read the Bible chronologically. YouVersion has been around for a long time, but I suddenly realized they probably had that exact plan. Turns out they do! The daily reading plan function works really well, and I’ve discovered that the audio version is perfect for me. The day’s chapters fit just about perfectly into my morning drive to work. It’s been 15 days and I’ve made it through as many chapters in Genesis and all of Job (which was always a laborious chapter for me to get through). I’m excited to get into the other history books of the Bible and hear/read them all together.
- Habit List. Sometimes all you need to reach a goal is a friendly reminder. Habit List has a great look and makes it simple to set up reminders at whatever interval you might want. It also keeps track of how many times in a row you’ve successfully done something, which can be a good motivation to keep going. If you want to set more specific goals and keep track of things like daily numbers or averages, check out the iOS app Strides.
- Audible. I started running last year for the first time and audio books really helped me. Audible is subscription-based and the app works really well. Another app that helps with running is RunKeeper, which tracks your running. Nike+ is also a good option, but I liked RunKeeper’s Pause button was easier to get to—which is a big deal when you’re exhausted after a run.
If a plant isn’t watered, it won’t grow. We are no different. I encourage you to pick at least one area in your life this year and decide to grow in it. Start small, don’t stress yourself out, be patient. Remember that growth is a process.
How do you want to grow this year?