I’ve been talking with several people this week about how quickly January sped by — the fresh start of the new year’s arrival seems now long ago. For many people, the good intentions or resolutions started in January have partially or fully evaporated, disrupted by winter weather, illness, or heavy workloads.
If you started the year by setting a goal or trying to create a new habit, and you’ve lost your enthusiasm or momentum for it now, one way to reinvigorate or restart the process of change is to focus on WHO you want to be, rather than what you want to do. This is the opposite of how most of us set new year’s resolutions or new goals: we tend to focus on the thing we want to accomplish, the target or goal to achieve. But starting with the WHO helps you set goals that best match your core values and helps you maintain a flexible, successful approach to reaching them.
So, who do you want to be this year?
One way of answering this question is to think about the roles you play in different parts of your life. Most of us have 4-7 of these, which might be defined by relationships with others, like Colleague, Friend, or Spouse, or defined by areas of importance to you, like Learning, Activism, or Worship. Who do you want to be as a parent this year? Who do you want to be as a leader in your community? Try creating a 1-2 sentence description of who you want to be in each role, starting with “I am” and written in the present tense. (For instance: “I am a loving and thoughtful spouse.”) Reading or saying those sentences over to yourself as part of your daily practice will help bring those qualities to the foreground in your life.
Or you might answer the question of who you want to be more holistically, in terms of key qualities you want to embody or actions you want to take that cut across the different roles of your life. Choosing 3 key words for the year is a great way to focus your attention on these qualities. As part of my new year’s ritual, I choose three verbs for the year, which I then use to guide my daily, weekly, and monthly plans. (My verbs for 2014 are Love, Learn, and Grow.)
So what about that new year’s goal?
If you have a goal you would like to set, or one that you haven’t made much progress with, revisit it only after you’ve done some reflecting on who you want to be and consider how you might approach this goal from the WHO perspective.
For instance: if your goal was to go to the gym three times a week, but you haven’t been able to keep up with it, see how that goal fits with your essential sense of who you want to be:
- If your goal doesn’t seem to align with who you want to be — maybe spending time with your family is more important to you than logging hours in the gym — then maybe there’s a way to combine physical activity with family time.
- If your goal does align with who you want to be — maybe being healthy is a core value for you — then you probably just need to figure out a better approach to how you’ll make it happen: maybe you need to adjust your schedule, choose a different activity, or get some support with accountability.
Approaching your goals from the WHO perspective will unleash your creativity and help you see things in a new light. Don’t give up on the new year just yet!