Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! "Resolutions" is the word of the day. The New Year's purists are dutifully setting theirs for the year to come (ahem let's be real - for the month to come, LOL!). Meanwhile the new trend in the self-care world appears to be eschewing resolutions in favor of an "I've been working hard all year and am already pretty great, fuck resolutions" approach.
As for me, I don't really fall into either camp. My issue with resolutions is that they are based on the premise that something about you isn't good enough, and needs to be improved. No thank you. But I do think that setting and striving towards goals is valuable. I just think there's a healthier way to do it - from a place of self-appreciation rather than self-criticism. Contentment rather than need. Sustainable, thoughtful, long-term thinking rather than a desperate scramble for quick results that will fizzle by the end of the month.
I see the start of the year as more of a checkpoint rather than a fresh start or source of external pressure. It's a great opportunity to check in, acknowledge milestones and mistakes, and course-correct as needed before continuing to move forward. This is actually something I do once a quarter, but the New Year's check-in is always more in-depth than the other three.
I've found this exercise to be a super valuable way of stepping back from the daily grind and re-assessing the big picture. I reflect on lessons learned AND milestones achieved, pulling from both in order to formulate and re-asses my plan moving forward. If I've learned anything in life, it's that my first stab at any plan or strategy is never "perfect". And really, that the idea of "perfect" is bullshit. Life is constantly changing and we are constantly learning and growing, and so the smartest course of action is to continuously update our plans accordingly.
I learned the hard way that the key to enjoying life is learning how to enjoy the journey. Because the fact is, we spend a lot more time on our journeys than we do at our destinations. And if you're anything like me, as soon as you reach one destination, you immediately move on to your next journey. So learning to enjoy the journey has been a crucial lesson for me. Choosing to Write My Own Rulebook has been a big part of that lesson.
This check-in process is part of how I do that. By stepping back and reminding myself of the big picture, I'm able to keep myself from drowning in the minutiae of my day-to-day life. I celebrate my accomplishments (something I'm very bad at doing), put my "mistakes" into perspective, and approach the future from a place of contentment with where I've already been as opposed to hunger for somewhere I haven't even visited yet.
I'm sharing my New Year's Check-In process with you because I really think it's one of the most valuable tools I've built when it comes to Writing My Own Rulebook. I hope you'll give it a try! If you don't have time to do this today or tomorrow, no worries. Carve out some time this weekend, or come back to it when you're ready. But I highly recommend that you set aside at least a solid hour to work on this, if not more. (I usually end up spending at least 4-6 hours over the course of a few different sittings.)
Here's how it works.
First off, I do two versions of this exercise: Personal and Professional. I highly recommend that you do the same!
There are three major sections: Reflecting Back on Accomplishments, Reflecting Back on Lessons Learned, and Looking Ahead to Goals + Strategies. I've shared my templates for each with you below. You'll want to copy and paste each template for each individual Accomplishment, Lesson, and Goal.
If you're someone who likes even more structure, I recommend you aim for at least 3 of each: Accomplishments, Lessons, and Goals. But personally, I don't like to put those kinds of parameters on myself when doing this exercise. I just list as many things as I can think of.
If you're a pen + paper person, grab a big journal and copy down the templates below, leaving plenty of space for your responses. Or you can just leave the screen up so you can use the Templates to guide you as you write, rather than re-copying them for each Accomplishment, Lesson, and Goal. Title each page Accomplishment/Lesson/Goal # (e.g. Lesson #2)
As charmed as I am by the idea of pen + paper, I prefer to do my journaling electronically. First of all, I type WAY faster than I write by hand. But also, it allows me to organize my thoughts better. I think in bullet points, so usually when I journal I start by making a list of topics that are on my mind and then going back in and filling in the gaps. I also like to be able to go back in and add, edit, and reorganize as I flesh out my thoughts. And of course it makes using these templates super easy, because you can just copy and paste them onto each new page for each new item. But that's just my two cents! You do you, boo.
Reflecting Back: Lessons + Accomplishments
I believe that our accomplishments can teach us just as much as our mistakes. So I place equal weight on both as I reflect on the year behind me.
When reflecting on lessons learned, I start by recalling "mistakes" or "failures" that I made. I put those words in quotes because I don't buy into the negative connotation that they typically carry. I think that when things go wrong, you have a choice: wallow in your despair or find the lesson. Because there is ALWAYS a lesson that can be learned from every difficult and/or disappointing situation. I choose to see every mistake or failure as a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. After all, it took Edison 100-ish tries before he finally got the lightbulb right!
As for accomplishments, this is an area where I think it's REALLY important to forget about other people's opinions. Your accomplishments are for you to define. Bottom Line: if you did something that YOU feel good about, then put it on the list. Even if no one else knows it happened, and no matter what anyone else may think about how important that thing is.
Use this template for each individual lesson you learned over the past year/quarter.
What Lesson Did I Learn?
What Were the Circumstances That Led to the Lesson? (or, if applicable: What "Mistake" or "Failure" Led to the Lesson?)
How Will I Apply This Lesson Moving Forward? (Include any specific scenarios where you see this lesson coming in handy; don't shy away from details!)
Use this template for each individual accomplishment you achieved over the past year/quarter.
Name My Accomplishment:
What's the Story Around the Accomplishment?
What Obstacles/Challenges Did I Overcome to Achieve This?
What are All the Reasons I'm Proud of Myself for Accomplishing This?
What Did Achieving This Change for Me?
Do I Want to Build on This Accomplishment? If So, How? (You can expand on this further using the Goals + Strategies Template below!)
Looking Ahead: Goals + Strategies
Goals are wonderful, but without an actionable strategy for achieving them, they will likely never come to fruition.
I don't like the word "plan" because I've found that in life things almost never go according to how I want them to (i.e. "according to plan"). So instead of getting attached to a concrete set of plans, I think of it more like a flexible strategy. One that I retool continuously along the way as I make mistakes and learn new lessons.
Goals + Strategies Template
Use this template for each individual goal you are setting for the coming year/quarter.
1. What Is My Goal?
2. Why Do I Want to Achieve This? This is an important part of the process as it helps you assess whether the reason behind your goal is really a good one for you. For instance, if your reason has something to do with what other people will think of you or what someone else wants for you or what you think you're "supposed to" be doing because of other people's rules or expectations, I HIGHLY recommend that you reconsider whether this goal is worth keeping.
3. What is My Strategy for Achieving It? You can formulate an umbrella statement here if you find that helpful, or just start drilling down into the steps
Detailed Action Plan:
Deadline: This can be as hard or soft as you want. You can pick a specific date, or something more open, like "by the end of June." I recommend that you not leave this open-ended though. That's how things end up never getting done...
(Repeat for each step in this Strategy)
Need Help Getting Started?
Here are some topics and food for thought to consider as you get started!
Start big and drill down. Consider setting a large umbrella goal and then smaller sub-goals to achieve the larger one. Make sure all sub-goals and action items are geared towards the bigger goal. Anything unrelated can and probably should be eliminated. This is the most effective way I've found to keep from spreading myself too thin.
>Exercise (This Includes a Physical Recovery Practice)
~How You Spend Your Free Time
~The People You Work With and For
~Where You Work
~What You Do and Why
~What Are You Working Towards?
~1--, 5 --, and 10 -- Year Plans
Go forth and write!
Don't overthink it. If my templates are helpful, use them. If you start trying them out and find them too restrictive, ditch 'em and do your own thing! No matter what, drop me a line at Alia@AliaJKhan.com to let me know how it goes - I always love to hear from my tribe!