Make Resolutions That Truly Matter

Happy New Year! I’m writing this on January 1st, 2019. The day of the year where millions of people make resolutions and set goals to change their lives for the better.

But what resolutions are they making? What resolutions are you making? I want to challenge you — are your resolutions truly meaningful?

I came across a list of the top resolutions made by Americans and I was sort of disappointed. I feel we can and should resolve to set resolutions that align to our life’s work. Resolutions that are bold and meaningful. Resolutions that have deeper meaning and value not only to ourselves, but for others. Resolutions that truly matter in life’s grand scheme.

Align resolutions to your life’s work

We can guess the top resolutions people make. Lose weight, exercise, eat better, spend less money, spend more time with family / friends, run a marathon, quit smoking, drink less, etc. We can guess them because they are evergreen. They never change.

Just type in “top new years resolutions” into Google. My top result was a survey of 2000 people revealing their top New Years resolutions. Exactly what we expect:

  • 71% — eat better
  • 65% — exercise more
  • 54% — lose weight
  • 32% — save more, spend less
  • 26% — learn a new hobby or skill

Hopefully the actual resolutions are S.M.A.R.T.er or at least measurable (e.g., lose 10 lbs) than the generalized goals above, but you get the idea. These are the same every year.

I’m not downplaying these resolutions at all. These are all noble resolutions. Many people really need to exercise more, eat better, and save money. But stop for a second and actually think about these resolutions and the people setting them (us!). How meaningful are they in the grand scheme of life?

First of all, they are all about improving yourself. Again, all great goals. But is improving yourself the ultimate goal of your life? Is that how you want to be remembered when you die? As someone who was skinny, rich, well read, and had a lot of personal hobbies?

What if the results turned out like this:

  • 71% — give more
  • 65% — donate time to a non-profit
  • 54% — become a mentor
  • 32% — invest into a new friendship
  • 26% — teach a hobby or skill

Could you imagine what the world would be like if these were the actual survery results? What an amazing world we would have. Stop and think about the deep desires behind these goals — investing in others, improving the lives of others, a desire to give. Where the first list is selfish, the second is selfless. A very different underlying mindset.

Stop and think about your resolutions. Now think about them in terms of your life’s work. Are they aligned?

As New Year’s Day is now upon us, as people are setting their goals and resolving to improve their lives, we find ourselves with the absolute best opportunity we have to identify, reevaluate, and change our core beliefs. It’s here where true change, the change of the mind and the heart, can be made.

For the record, I’m not implying here that one is better than the other. Both lists have value. What I do want to imply is that behind both these lists lie a different end goal, a different set of beliefs and desires. These beliefs drive us. They shape our lives. They are the voice pushing us to keep going, to give up, or to change course.

What are the core beliefs, the idols, you hold dear to in your life? Is it time for a change? Are they truly meaningful to your life’s work?

Reflect first

For me, the best part of the new year is setting aside time to review the last year and plan the next. Reflection, at least for me, is a great source of inspiration. I examine the successes and failures, looking into the root causes of both. I feel so often we do things — finish projects, take courses, read books, spend time in relationships, etc, but we don’t take the time to reflect and truly learn from what we did. Only thru reflection and deep thought can we truly learn and grow. You’ve spent countless hours doing things, take a few minutes to think and learn from the time you’ve spent. Every minute spent reflecting is worth more than the thousands of minutes actually doing what you’ve done.

Of the successes, why were they successful? What were the traits, habits, or thought process that made the successes happen? What struggles were overcome? What lessons can be taken to less successful areas of your life? Was the success worth the investment? We have a truly infinite amount of ways we could spend the short amount of time we have on earth. Will those successes truly change the trajectory of our lives for the better?

Of the failures, which for me there are certainly more of, why did they fail? What was my mindset like towards them? Typically, I fail to reach goals because I didn’t want to invest the time it would take to reach them. For me, it’s a matter of losing interest or not wanting something bad enough. Why didn’t I want this bad enough? If something more important came up, what made it more important?

Don’t forget the past. There is tremendous value in what you’ve done. Learn from it.

Begin with the end in mind

How do you want to be remembered when you die? Do you want to be remembered as good looking, thin, rich, and well read / traveled? Do you want to be remembered as someone who gave their life to better others?

The truth is, everyone will be remembered for something. Every day we live our lives we are shaping our life’s work. Begin with the end in mind. Only then will you know how to start.

Make 2019 a year of meaningful change

Today, New Year’s Day 2019, is the first day of the rest of our ultimately very short lives. As we set our resolutions and look to the future, may we first step back and reflect on the past, identify our true goals and desires for our lives, and have the courage to set resolutions which truly impact our life’s work.

I wish you all a very productive and meaningful 2019!