It’s the new year and one tradition we hear a lot about is the making of our New Year’s Resolutions. And how difficult they are to accomplish! It’s easy to adopt the attitude that it doesn’t matter if you make resolutions now; that most people don’t keep them after a week or a month, let alone a year or a lifetime anyway. But having spent many years working in the corporate world, I’ve seen personally and professionally how important it is to OWN your intentions. To write them down. To share them with someone so you are accountable. To form strategies and objectives that can be accomplished with the right tools and tasks. The right resources. In the business world, these resolutions are known as “goals” and are typically an intrinsic part of performance reviews and sometimes linked to compensation, raises, and bonuses. In our personal lives, tracking our accomplishments contributes greatly to our feelings of self worth and confidence.
But first, before we explore making goals, let’s visit the history of making New Year’s Resolutions. The tradition of the New Year’s resolution is not new. It can be traced back to 153 B.C. when Janus, a mythical king of early Rome, was placed at the beginning of the calendar. He was characterized with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward at the past and forward to the future at the same time. The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. The Romans also began exchanging gifts on New Year’s Eve. These gifts, such as branches from sacred trees, were meant to symbolize good fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year’s gifts.
The New Year doesn’t begin on January 1st everywhere. It begins on that date only for cultures that use a 365-day solar calendar. The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. Some cultures have lunar calendars, however. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese use a lunar calendar and their new year begins at the time of the first full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius – sometime between January 19 and February 21. Regardless of the date, New Year’s Day is always a time for celebration and for wishing each other good health, good fortune and good luck for the new year.
Since the beginning of a new year is a long standing natural event it is a prime time to begin new life-time habits, organize your home, plan vacations or visits to family and friends in the coming year. Use it to take time to reassess what worked well for you in the past year as well as what could be made better with appropriate changes. Imagine for a moment that time moves toward us. Then visualize your intentions, your dreams, your desires, paving that road as it unfurls at your feet. Now see yourself walking that road into the future – the one paved with your own goals. Makes great sense! In this regard, resolutions and goals are valuable to our well being. To our enjoyment of life. To our ease of passage.
So how do we stay on track? How does all this work? And what can you do to avoid failure? It might look something like this:
- Set a Goal – a broad primary outcome. Example: This year my business will support itself as well as fund a retirement account.
- Visualize a Strategy – the approach taken to achieve a goal. Example: In 2016 I will focus my business on three fronts: head shots, floral photography sales, travel magazine submissions.
- Decide on an Objective – a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy. Example: At year’s end I will have deposited X (a specific amount) dollars in a retirement account.
- Construct Tactics – tasks moving you toward objective associated with strategy. Example: Create flow chart for each area of focus; identify events and populate calendar; initiate contact with retailers and galleries.
Be as detailed or as streamlined as you wish. These are your goals. Your resolutions. Your lifestyle. I’ve found for myself, the simpler and the more specific I make my goals for the year, the better chance I have to accomplish them. I tend to get overwhelmed when things get too detailed or too complicated. And when I get overwhelmed, I tend to procrastinate and then things pile up and that cycle creates more stress. In fact, when making my new goals for the year, I try for between three to five, some personal and some business related, striving to keep in mind that in order to keep traveling, writing, photographing, my personal life must be in good working order. Keeping to fewer resolutions also leaves room for spontaneity, which is extremely important in my life. With a few specific, acheivable goals, when life happens and throws a curveball – as it always does – I can still count on looking back on the past year feeling good about meeting those 3-5 goals, while looking forward to a new year with a clean slate of intentions paving the road ahead.
Happy New Year. Wishing you good health, good fortune and a year of wonderful memories to make!
All images from Pinterest.