How do you discover new year’s resolutions worth making?
If you’re a top-down goal-setter, it would make sense for you to begin with your long-term vision and work backwards. You can use these three techniques to gain more clarity around your vision.
But if you’re someone who has had challenges working backwards from a distant vision and prefers to work in a more exploratory and fluid manner, these techniques can help you discover goals that make sense for you to pursue in the new year.
Start with life areas
I like Danielle Laporte’s life areas:
- Body and Wellness
- Relationships and Society
- Creativity and Learning
- Livelihood and Lifestyle
- Essence and Spirituality
You might have other life areas that make sense to you. The point is to decide on some constraints that you can explore within. Constraints breed creativity and discovery.
Technique 1: Self-interview
A self-interview is a free-associative interview with yourself. You are both the interviewer and the interviewee.
Take out a journal or open a word document. In the case of Body and Wellness, answer the question: When does my body feel good? What makes me feel most well? When did my body feel the best in 2013?
Below you can see my uncensored self-interview. I clocked it at 2 minutes. You can do longer if you’d like. I kept it natural, fluid, and didn’t judge what came up.
“Hey Maria, how are you?
Great, thanks, doing well.
Ok well today we’re talking about what makes your body feel good.
Oh, let me think…mmmm, definitely love the yoga. I feel really good when I stretch and move my body, and breathe with it.
Yes, you’ve always been a yogini.
Do you want to do more of it?
Yes, I’ve been meaning to get back on this for so long.
Ok what else?
I guess the other thing would be dance. I feel like when I dance at a really high intensity, I’m sweating and releasing all this energy, and I feel it counters all the stagnancy throughout my day.
I like that, maybe a dance class?
Yes, or I could just dance randomly throughout my day.
Yes, or you could get a private dance tutor.
Or I could become a dance instructor. That would lock me in.
Wow, that would be bold. What if you started doing dance videos. You would have to dance then.
Crazy, that would be fun. And definitely get me to do it more.”
Technique 2: Contemplation
Let’s take the second area as an example: Relationships and Society. (Note that any of techniques could be used for any of the areas). Close your eyes and imagine how you want to be interacting with (1) your partner (2) your family and (3) your friends. This might be three separate meditations, or one giant mixed meditation.
When I closed my eyes, I imagined myself being more generous in my relationship with my partner. In terms of family, I imagined myself doing fun activities like games with my parents. Finding more shared activities instead of just meals. For friends, I actually saw myself organizing a club of women who met bi-weekly, in hopes of creating more women’s community in my life.
The point is these are the images that naturally came up because they are important and mattered. If you already have a meditation practice, I recommend using this technique after you practice your usual meditation technique (i.e., mantra, mindfulness).
Technique 3: Sounding Board
Buy one of your brightest friends a drink and have them talk you through it. It’s important to work within the constraint of the life area, otherwise you’re too broad and it will get overwhelming. Select a friend that isn’t too close to you. Someone who can still be level-headed and not get emotional about what you’re saying. Ideally, you can get a friend who has some experience mentoring, teaching, coaching or group facilitating. They most likely have skills in active listening that will be valuable to you during this process. (If you have a life coach, then you would naturally do this discovery process with him/her).
Here are some tools you can give your friend:
- The why: encourage them to ask you why? why is it important that you increase X or obtain Y?
- Paraphrase: have them paraphrase what you’re saying every once in a while. When you hear it being reflected back, you’ll gain some insight.
- “Tell me more:” tell them to use the “tell me more” when something sounds interesting but isn’t fully fleshed out.
- Open questions: encourage them to ask you open-ended questions that don’t have a yes or no answer and are more about the underlying processes.
End with a draft list
After a combo of the techniques (or just one technique) above, you’ll have some very broad rough sketchy goals, but you’re beginning to discover. Some goals will be more specific than others, that’s ok. Some will be more outcome-oriented and some will be more habit or process oriented.
Here’s my list as an example:
Body and Wellness
GOAL 1: More dance throughout the day
GOAL 2: More yoga practice at home and classes
Relationships and Society
GOAL 1: Practice generosity towards partner
GOAL 2: Do fun activities with parents
Creativity and Learning
GOAL 1: Self-publish my first novel manuscript
Livelihood and Lifestyle
GOAL 1: Get eight coaching clients at one given time by March
Essence and Spirituality
GOAL 1: Visit handful of alternative spiritual communities
GOAL 2: Reflect deeply about what it would mean to build one one day
Next week, I’ll share how to specify, shrink, and span the resolutions from the perspective of behavior design. But as a warm-up, we can use these techniques to discover our desires and needs around various life areas.
Do you have any processes that have helped you during the discovery or reflection phase? I would love to hear about it; feel free to leave a comment.
Maria Molfino is a women’s leadership coach who helps women gain the creative confidence to lead. With a Masters in Design from Stanford, she has worked with top managers and professionals at companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and IDEO. She has 10+ years experience empowering individuals to manage their stress and has spent the last five years running leadership programs and social initiatives for women. Download her free Creative Confidence Playbook for women here.