John Green, the mega-selling author of The Fault in our Stars, recently discovered his very first book, New Year’s Resolution Streamers, while he was cleaning out his office. He wrote and illustrated this 4-page book when he was about 6 years old. His approach was to write New Year’s resolutions for each member in his family – “my mother should clean out the kitchen drawers because there are little brown things in there, my dad should promise to weigh less than 600 pounds, my brother should promise to take a bath so he doesn’t smell. And I, I promise to try my hardest.”
Fortunately, John Green did try his hardest, for years. That part was true. But, he also admits there were not brown things in the kitchen drawers, his dad never weighed 600 pounds, and his brother didn’t smell all the time. That was fiction. He just wanted to make big, critical demands of his family while keeping his own commitments vague.
Connecting the dots from little John Green directly to each of us is a pretty straight line. All of us in leadership positions (and frankly who isn’t in charge of something that impacts others) can be like 6 year old John Green. We come up with resolutions for everyone else while giving ourselves a pass on the hard stuff.
Accountability is tough, and persistently working on goals is not easy. John Green acknowledges that he writes 10 hours a day from 8 am to 6 pm and deletes about 90% of what he writes. Still, he loves it because it is exactly what he wants to do with his life.
We aren’t much different than a best-selling author in terms of accomplishing goals. Real Resolutions begin by identifying key areas that matter to you, then leveraging these to make progress every single day. Yearly goals are important but need to be broken down into increments. Some goals will require feedback from others. Some will require a buddy system. But all will require personal accountability and persistence.
Accountability may mean less time on your phone with video games, Facebook or constantly checking texts. Smart phones have become our lives. They are essential. And, they can be essential time wasters.
Here are 5 areas to measure which will make a difference. Click here for the Goal Planner or simply create your own system with these 5 goals on your phone. Think big or think small but challenge yourself to new goals every 3 months and make it your best year yet.
5 Real Resolutions:
1. Health: Health trackers like JawBone, FitBit and Pivotal Living are terrific for accountability and results. 10,000 steps a day is aggressive but doable. Most trackers will update active calories burned versus passive calories, and the health, diet, and fitness results are remarkable. This coming year we will see more advances in the ability to track medical conditions with these devices that will report them directly to your doctor. If you don’t have one yet, a health tracker may be the best money you will spend this year.
2. Personal Growth: Read more, especially on topics that stretch your thinking. Audible is a great way to read a book a week in your car or on the plane. Khan Academy is free and is taught primarily through YouTube. Consider a BIG trip in 2015. Nothing expands us like travel. Volunteer with one organization at least 4 hours a month. Watch one TED Talk each morning instead of the news. It all adds up.
3. Professional Growth: Prepare now for your next position. Make some bold moves. Determine what problems you are good at solving and what strengths you offer. Then move forward to increase your experience, credentials, certifications, education and networking in those areas. Observe what your boss or others don’t like to do, and if you can add value, step in to do it. In Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, he talks about beliefs and behaviors that hold leaders back and ways to help eliminate them.
4. Financial: Read or listen to a straight-forward, well written book on personal finance. Getting one’s financial life under control eliminates significant stress. Suze Orman has been a star in this arena for decades and has written multiple books. Tony Robbins dedicated 20 years to figuring out how to establish financial freedom in his new book MONEY: Master the Game. There may not be any guaranteed financial security, but there is financial serenity in living under our means.
5. Relationships: The main source of happiness comes from sustaining our commitments to deep personal relationships. Everyone knows this. But in a world of not enough time and too much pressure, our relationships often take the back seat. Arianna Huffington has written a terrific book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. It is an honest look at what matters in relationships and life.