Ideas to Consider Instead of New Year’s Resolutions

Jann FreedLeading, Living Leave a Comment

It is that time of year when many people set new goals and resolutions for the year.  This post suggests some alternatives to consider that may be more helpful than typical New Year’s Resolutions. 

NOTE:  My next podcast will be posted this Friday, January 11th.  

One of the main conclusions in my book, Leading with Wisdom:  Sage Advice from 100 Expertsis that it is hard to be a good leader if you are not a good person.  So leadership development is really about personal development. And it is at this time of year that we think about goals and resolutions.

Jesse Lynn Stoner, a leadership thought leader whom I follow, advocates that setting goals is not always the best thing for all people.  She says there are five good reasons NOT to set goals:

  1.  You are an overachiever.  You will likely exceed them and can easily over do it and this is not healthy.
  2. You are not clear about what you want.  You might be working on goals set by others and this is not what you want to accomplish.
  3. Your goals are not connected to a larger purpose. If you don’t have a clear vision, these might not be the right goals to achieve.
  4. Your goal is too personal, too big, too vague.  You might not know where to start if too grandiose and not actionable.
  5. You are trying to control things you can’t control.  You are always best to focus on what you can control that does not involve others.

But there are other ways to get focused in the new year.  Instead of looking forward, some people spend time looking back and reviewing what they accomplished.  This can be a way to get motivated for what is next.

This year, I thought I would adapt an idea by Melinda Gates.  She selects a single word such as “gentle” or “spacious” or “grace” to help guide her decisions, behaviors, actions.  My word for the year is going to be “COMPASSION.”  One definition of compassion is “love in action” and this year I am going to use this to guide my work and life and see how it goes.

May I use COMPASSION to guide my life and work.  

At my core, I am driven by social justice.  I taught a diversity course for more than 25 years and the objective was to help us learn work together effectively with all kinds of people.  A few years ago, I took a class called JustFaith “designed for people who want to live more simply, love more compassionately, and make a difference by responding to the needs of the world, the program will help you explore today’s issues through the lens of your faith and formulate a personal/group response.” As a result, I pass out ziplock bags (containing a tooth brush, tooth paste, granola bar, hand sanitizer, and a couple of dollars) at corners when I see someone standing with a sign.

For several years, I have been involved in a faith-based social justice group called AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy).  Churches are members and we work on non-partisan issues that benefit the whole.  Our latest success is the regional Lauridson Skatepark. Privilege is relative.  We all have more privilege than others, but it depends on the situation (white privilege, gender, age, …).  If I can use my privilege to help others, then that is what I want to do. It took many adults (backed by church members) with connections to make this state-of-the-art park happen. Few of us involved have ever been on a skateboard, but we have privilege that the youth skateboarders do not have yet.

For my birthday, my husband took me to Minneapolis to see Joan Baez on her Farewell Tour.  She looked great, her voice was angelic, and she continues to stand for issues important to her.  She said that for her whole life, she has wanted “to take her voice and use it for social change.”  Baez demonstrated compassion and kindness toward her backup band (which included her son) that felt different than most.  It felt as if I were at a home concert and we were sitting in her living room.  Baez is a beautiful soul inside and out.

It was a great concert and no one wanted it to end.  But the song that moved me the most and I can’t stop thinking about was “The President Sang Amazing Grace.”  

What will guide your life and work in 2019?

We need more JOY in the world!