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  • Cindy Lee

Setting NYRs That Actually Work - Be Creative With A Personal & Practical Touch

It's that time again. Sharing another tip / anecdote to help you be successful with New Year's Resolutions this year! But first, a reminder of why --

For many, NYRs have become a playful attempt at taking seriously something important to them. But remember the dangers that lie beneath -- setting commitments that you don't keep and take lightly send a signal to yourself that these important goals don't really matter to you after all and, ultimately, weaken your ability to trust yourself to do what matters to you. Each time you make a commitment (big or small) and break it becomes evidence that you can't be trusted to keep your word.

So as fervently as I caution about the dangers of setting NYRs, I'm excited to equip you with ways to make truly meaningful NYRs that you can keep and will help you see the positive growth and change you're pursuing. Ready for another tip?

We've discussed before that the critical first step is to give thoughtful consideration to identifying purposeful goals that actually matter to you. Not what people say *should* be important to you, or what other important people are doing. Think about when you've experienced your sweetspot in life or career, and think about goals that can help you become the person/employee/sibling/parent/spouse you desire to me. Your values and non-negotiables become the convictions and boundaries for a purposeful year.

From there, you get to explore ways to make it tangible and move you towards your goal in practical ways.

How can I express this “purpose” in my world this year? With my family, at my job, in my community, in my personal life.

Explore ways to do it that would actually work for you - you know your tendencies, constraints, motivators, and paralyzers, so consider those as you structure your resolution. Be sure to consider how you'll seek accountability.

  • Hint: keep it simple, manageable, scalable... fancy words to suggest "small chunks often work best"

  • Extra credit for finding ways to integrate it also with other goals you are pursuing! Some examples:

    • Be available & engaged with my kids --> To protect time with family, I’ll put my phone/iWatch in another room 6-9pm each night we’re together. I’ll start letting people know not to call then except for emergencies. For accountability, anyone in the family will see and can call me out.

    • Reconnect & deepen relationships with friends --> When the kids are in soccer practice every Saturday morning, I will call/email a friend. For accountability, my kids are always curious about my friends, so they’ll naturally ask me about who I called.

    • Have better energy & rest --> For deeper rest, I’ll turn off my devices by 11pm and at least be in bed [reading, reflecting, chatting with my partner, etc.]. My husband wants to do the same, so we’ll keep each other accountable.

    • Choose meaningful work projects --> I need to first identify what I find meaningful so I can align my work. To reflect on that, I will protect my morning personal time by putting my phone/devices outside of the bedroom at bedtime. I'll ask Cindy for structured guidance and accountability to get clear about who I am and ideally begin understanding what truly matters to me.


Here's a quick example of a light and easy, but deeply meaningful, resolution I personally made a few years back:

I want to live simply so that I can give generously. One year I looked in my closet and felt convicted to reduce (ie, I realized I was only cycling through about 1/3 of the clothes regularly). I was raised to not waste anything, which in one way translates to keeping old clothes in case one day I need those items again. In that particular instance, I was staring at suits and professional attire I hadn't needed for over 5 years (and were certainly not cheap!). My mindset had to shift from "one day this can come in handy" to thinking instead that “someone else can actually use this now,” which I knew was true because I had helped the Women's Closet in the past that provides professional-style attire for ladies to wear for job interviews. Adopting that mindset, I then became excited to share it with those ladies as soon as possible.

I decided that every month I would pick 3 items to donate to the Women’s Closet, and if I didn’t pick them by the end of the month, my husband had permission to grab any 3 items without argument.

So, what happened? Well, my husband actually had a hard time being so "ruthless" with my stuff the one time I missed, but I made him hold firm to it. I had fun with it and am proud to declare that for a whole year, I was able to share 3 items per month, and sometimes more. My closet was where I felt was appropriate, my mindset and habits actually shifted, and I felt closer to my ultimate goal of "living simply so that I can give generously."

This may not sound like "much" by some people's standards, but it was what worked for me (kept it up ALL year) and fulfilled a meaningful and lasting objective of mine... enough so that I decided I could tackle a different goal/discipline the following year.


Why did it work?

Some things I was mindful of up front, which were integrated into my plan and which I believe played heavily into why it was successful --

  • Having a meaningful objective: "I want to live simply so that I can give generously" - a purposeful mantra based on my values & convictions that naturally drew me to action

  • Recognizing the need for a mindset shift, and choosing the right shift: "it can come in handy later" -vs- "someone else can use it now"

    • Note: I didn't aim for "I obviously don't need these items anymore" because that line of thinking doesn't work for me -- from past experiences and evidence, I'd already developed the firm belief that it's my responsibility to optimize what I have. I'd found that things do come useful again before their end-of-life in some form or another (my MacGyver tendencies!), so then it'd be wasteful to get rid of something before it hits the end of its usefulness.

    • "Someone else can use it now" brings forward the chance to honor someone else's need while also not wasting its usefulness by hiding it in my closet.

  • Choosing a methodology to match my style/needs: Why did I only choose 3 items/month? Two very important reasons for this decision based on what I knew about myself:

    • If I were to scoop out sections of my closet in haste, I'd likely put my subconscious self in unnecessary panic mode -- which not only would've been unsettling, but would likely then trigger unwise reactions. E.g., put it all back in my closet; grieve the loss of things that mattered so little to me; buy new stuff to replace it ;)

    • I wanted to cultivate the steadiness and discipline over time to habitually see what I can be sharing with others and to be comfortable with "space" in my life. --> A secondary goal: to create and enjoy "margin," resisting the urge to (re)fill the voids.

  • Finding smart motivators & accountability: "Letting" my husband pick any 3 items without argument was incentive for me because I wanted [to keep] control over the choices and a fun incentive for him because he thought there'd be opportunities to tease me. That said, I believe it worked out unexpectedly well because the one month that I missed, he really disliked having to choose for me (I actually think he was a bit traumatized!)... which in turn motivated him to bring it up from time to time on his own.

It can seem like all this thinking was overkill. I'm spelling out my thoughts here, but it wasn't actually a laborious process to crank out one NYR - by knowing myself pretty well already and by putting some thoughtful consideration initially, I was able to end up with a very clear and doable resolution that I could commit to and keep.

That's a big deal! As we've talked about before - keeping commitments strengthens your ability to trust yourself to do things that matter to you. NYRs are one way to practice this, though they often get sidelined. Use them wisely and as part of your trust muscle-building regimen, developing worthwhile disciplines to make commitments and set goals you WILL keep that move you closer to the person you want to be.

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