The Year of ________________.

Forget New Year’s resolutions, themes are the way to go.

There are many reasons I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but the influx of people at the gym (or pool, in my case) every January tops the list. What about the rest of us who are regulars all year round? In any case, the resolutioners do drop off, eventually. There is a lot of room for disappointment, and dissatisfaction is inevitable when it comes to resolutions.

Years ago a colleague taught me about how he uses themes or words to define each year. I’ve been hooked ever since. The thing about themes is they naturally morph and grow with you. They also help push you forward and are motivating, rather giving you a sense of guilt for not accomplishing a resolution. You can refocus an idea to help make sure it fits your theme. Each theme is also personalized for each individual, not some generic pressure put on us from society.

I find that instead of looking for a theme, they come to me, and usually around October or November. Subconsciously it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. New Year’s resolutions are for January 1, but when you start thinking about your theme a few months before the new year, it gives you time to start integrating your theme into what you’re already doing, and makes it a habit that sticks when the new year kicks off. It’s also a good excuse to think about where you want to be, and what you want to accomplish in the year to come. It’s more holistic approach, where words can have multiple meanings, making it easy to apply your theme to several aspects of your life.

Over time my themes have included: ORGANIZE, CREATE, MAKE IT (work wise and an actual $$), FOCUS (stop doing so much, and do what I do better), EXECUTE (actually put out into the world the things I’ve been talking about doing for ages).

For me 2016 will be ‘The Year of Writing.’ I write a lot right now, but most of it happens when I’m swimming laps, or walking down the street – needless to say, it doesn’t necessarily get written down for anyone else to see (or for me to remember). Inside this theme I have embedded a few goals:

  • Start a Tiny Letter newsletter (it’s called Underwater, and it’s ‘tiny tales of swimming pools and bureaucracy. You can sign up here).
  • Redo my website and re-write it so it leads me to more projects I aspire to do, instead of more of the same.
  • Blog, even if it’s only once a month.
  • Post more on Medium.
  • Write more about business. (See: Studio/Practice)
  • Send more snail mail. (When a friend was stationed in Afghanistan he wrote long letters to 25 people who have had a deep impact on his life; I was so honored to be on that receiving end. I really like the idea of this project).
  • Write thank you notes.
  • Master sending emails in French (there’s a serious art to it!).
  • Draw more (an ongoing fear, yet still the idea of putting pen to paper).
  • Read more [books]. (Reading makes you a better writer).
  • Top secret project.

Within a theme there is often also a sub-theme. This year, I like to call my sub-theme “next level”. I’ve had so many inspiring conversations with friends and fellow small business owners, and I’ve been reflecting a lot on what my end goal and dream projects would be. I may not get to everything in 2016, but at least I’ll be taking the right steps to get there. I’m ready to take things to the next level.

Your turn. What’s your theme for 2016? Share it in the comments below.

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