Looking For Change in 2016

These last two weeks, like every year are full of reflecting, and thinking about self-improvement. As a world, we ask ourselves what we’re glad to see go in 2015 and look ahead at the things we want to make changes for the next year. Typically, we’re used to hearing about “resolutions” but I think it’s become a cliché. An overused word that has lost meaning and the idea of just having one is a little strange to me. There are lots of ways to improve or to think about change.

That’s the key here. Change. The only way to track how much time has passed is to see how much has changed. And when you realize how much you can get done in a year, and you keep track of all that stuff you do, the year feels much longer and fuller and the potential for what you can change in yourself and the world grows.

This year, I’ve kept track of my life in several different ways that have shown me a ton about myself and have made this year meaningful. I encourage you to steal these or make them your own.

Rather than starting with a resolution, start with a vision or theme for the year. Chris Guillebeau in his annual reports talks about indivdual categories that are all informed by his theme. Year of Transition, Year of Learning, Year of Growth all help inform the kinds of goals you should be making in categories like sideprojects, finance, savings, relationships, travel and good deeds.

A 3 Word Thesis. Kind of like a theme for the year, this thesis helps guide your actions for the year. Inspired by my friend Amy Marsh who has done this for the last 10 years or so, I started about 5 years ago. The last 3 were: “Strengthen Your Core,” “Learning by Exploring”, and “Be a Cartographer” in reverse order.

A Daily Log which keeps track of what you do every day to make the most of each day. When you have to write down what you do every day you realize what you spend time on, you change behavior, you see how long a day can be. I’ve kept one for the last 5 years and it feels like the story of the year is kept in each one of my books. Austin Kleon inspired me to make one, and like him, I buy a Moleskine Daily Planner for my Daily Logs.

A gratitude journal that helps you think about being grateful and happier every day. It’s easy to do in a computer or app or something, but it’s also easy to forget. I recommend the Being There Diary by one of my favorite designers, Frank Chimero, which just asks you what the best part of the day was. I wrote mine in my daily log this year, which worked just fine.

Monthly Playlists. Throughout every month, as songs would get stuck in my head or released on the radio, or I heard them over and over, I added them to that month’s playlist on Spotify and iTunes. For example, here’s my January 2014 and January 2015 lists.
Idea folder. I’ve kept a folder on my desktop called “Ideas 2015.” Whenever I have an interesting chat, google image search, art, inspiring photo or whatever, I throw it into that folder. Going through it makes for a beautiful book and a look back on some of the more interesting visual highlights of the year.

The Life Reader. Inspired by my friend Dev Aujla, I’ve kept a folder of the best articles I’ve read this year. It’s brought together amazingly diverse reading from finding life purpose to travel to gun violence, love, and loss. I’ve actually made a PDF for you to view and you can get it here.

Of course I’ve kept my list of goals, inside jokes, lifelists, travel lists, books, movies, things that scare me, things I’ve learned and about a dozen other lists that are ongoing. But these ones above are the ones that I think have been the most interesting.

I hope they bring you lots of joy, inspiration, and of course, change in the next year. Happiest of new years.