New Year, More Life

Posted on January 28, 2020

Fear Knocked

Today’s Buzz is by Alisha Janes (Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn)

What I’m Listening To: This Unladylike Podcast (Unlikely Source of Great Local Gov Learning) 

What I’m Reading: HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership

I love a fresh shiny new year. New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. I love it unapologetically and unabashedly. Where others roll their eyes at a New Year’s resolution I talk about mine ALL YEAR LONG. So, yes, it is the last week in January, but I think this is the perfect time to keep talking about New Year’s resolutions. So buckle up.

I am one of those crazy people that always sets a resolution at New Year’s, and I am one of the crazier people that usually keeps it. In fact, at the beginning of last year, I bragged that I had been successful with every resolution I had set in the past five years. I should have slowed my roll because I’m about to talk about how I did not meet all of my goals last year.

I really got into New Year’s resolutions and goal setting about five years ago when I was still working at Morey Middle School (Hey Mustangs!!!) One of the things that I did as part of my work was to plan social-emotional lessons that the whole school used during homeroom. As part of that work, I was able to attend a training with Angela Duckworth (of grit theory fame) and Dave Levin the cofounder of Kipp Charter schools (of Work Hard, Be Nice fame) and there I learned about WOOP goals. And so, I planned a series of lessons guiding the entire school through setting WOOP goals. Now, one of the most extraordinary things about planning and leading those types of lessons is that you cannot teach it without practicing it yourself. Additionally, a lot of teachers and kids were depending on me to have authentically thought about and engaged in the work. So I took my own WOOP goals very seriously and unsurprisingly that meant that I met my goals. And then I became OBSESSED.  

Armed with my new knowledge of the psychology of successful goal setting, I changed my whole perspective on New Year’s resolutions. I stopped resolving to quit doing things and starting resolving to start doing things. I planned ahead to predict and overcome inevitable obstacles. I used visualization techniques to think about how it would feel to meet my goals and I celebrated small wins along the way. I got better and better at reaching goals and so I kept thinking bigger. It’s not that I was not good at reaching goals before, I had just never spent as much time purposefully thinking about the psychological process of goal setting and accomplishment. And then on New Year’s Day 2016, I registered for a full marathon. If you knew me as a young person, you would understand that I was no athlete. A marathon felt like the scariest goal I could pursue. I would have said it was not possible for me to be more obsessed with goal setting, but crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles only made my passion grow stronger. 


So, how did I finally fly too close to the sun in 2019? I set six different year-long goals, all of them ambitious. Now, I didn’t attempt that out of the gate. In 2018 I had set four goals and crushed them all, so I thought six was just good incremental growth and if you aren’t dreaming big with a New Year’s resolution, where are you dreaming big? Ultimately, I had a tough year. Things happened that were beyond my control and I refocused my priorities. So, I did not reach all of my goals for the first time in five years. Was I disappointed in myself? Sure. But, one thing to note about setting crazy goals and thoughtfully planning ahead, was that falling short still feels like wild success. I had set a goal to run 500 miles and to read 26 books. Well, I did not meet either of those goals. However, I did run 250 miles, including four half marathons and I read more than I did in 2018 – all while still meeting my other goals. For the first time, I was not 100% successful, but maybe for the first time, I was goal setting at the right level! 

That brings us to 2020. I typically start setting my goals before New Year’s Day (I mean, I do not want to start behind on day 1!!!) But this year, I had too much transition going on. So, how did I start the new decade? Well, the first thing I did on January 1st, was to sign a job offer to be the Assistant Town Manager of Winter Park, CO. And then, because the new home-base warranted an all-wheel-drive vehicle, I bought a new-to-me car – all in the first 10 hours of 2020! So how does one top that? Well if you aren’t growing you’re dying, so there is no choice but to keep reaching! So in 2020, I plan to run 300 miles, workout 250 times and read 20 books. I am adding a new type of daily goal setting and I am aspiring to support my friends and network in reaching their goals too. My theme for the year is courage. So I hope to write and speak about topics that scare me at least a little. 

One final thought. I really dislike the “New Year, New You” motto. A whole “new you” feels disingenuous because you can reach your goals while being true to yourself. You do not need to be a whole new you to experience success. And this is coming from the person who is starting 2020 with literally everything looking different! So instead, I hope you aspire to not be a “new you” but to instead grant yourself more life by living it to the fullest as yourself! And if you did not set a resolution, or have already fallen short, remember, it is never too late. And if this inspired you to dream bigger, good! Let’s go get it together.

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