New Year’s resolutions are easy to create; I could write a list as long as my arm without really trying. The problem is keeping them, because there’s a big difference between a resolution and action. In fact, resolutions are often just wishes without any real resolve behind them at all. Even if there is resolve, our yearly resolutions are often tactical, goal-directed and small in scale and scope (e.g., lose the tire around the midsection). Chris Brogan has an interesting solution: ditch your resolutions and come up with three words that will serve to give you direction in the coming year, themes by which you will live your life. With these in place, do whatever it takes to make those words your reality.
It’s a surprisingly difficult exercise, because there are so many different directions you could go. Why not five words? Or ten? Because three is the magic number, as they say, and it requires some focus and discipline to recognize the most critical themes for your life.
Here are my three words for 2012:
Fear is the mind-killer. For me, it’s the single biggest scary monster that prevents reaching out for possibilities and dreams. But fear is not a bad thing in and of itself; it helps us survive. It can create a certain mental acuity, a heightened state of awareness of your thoughts and surroundings, and the act of controlling fear (rather than eliminating it) becomes a positive one. With this in mind, I’ve chosen conviction as one of my words, because it helps control and allay fears. Conviction is an engine you can use to power progress toward your dreams. It doesn’t mean you’ll succeed, but at least you will have taken the journey and failed forward, rather than just sitting in the mud pit of fear.
As a strategist and consultant, I spend a lot of time in the world of ideas. Many of the outcomes of my activities aren’t tangible, and can easily evaporate over time or be forgotten. The creative act is a way to overcome the abstraction that comes with strategy, and so I plan to focus my energies on creation of both tangible things and demonstrable value. First and foremost, for me, this will mean a lot more writing, both creative and professional. The act of writing provides me greater focus and clarity, and leads to something easily shared (and thus hopefully more valuable). There’s also a certain sympatico between conviction and creation, because in order to create, one needs the conviction that what you create serves some purpose or makes the world a better place.
We live in a hyper-distracted world, and it just keeps getting worse. If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing, the next thing I know, I’ve blown 2 hours surfing Twitter and reading all these really great articles and oh yeah watching that cool video that my friend just sent. For the most part, even though it’s fun, it’s a total waste of time. Or maybe I spent time cleaning the closet when I really should have been writing. Mindfulness is key when it comes to choosing how we spend our limited time and energies, and keeps us grounded and in touch with ourselves. It makes our choices active, rather than life just being a series of things that happen to us. Mindfulness can also help with awareness and control of fear, and with listening to the angels and demons that are our inner voices.
And so with mindfulness as a foundation, I will live with conviction and create as much value as I can for the world and the people around me.
What are your three words? I’d love to hear them.