The Christmas holidays are usually time for me to do more reading, studying and reflection. It’s also when things slow down a bit because a lot of people go on vacations (except when I get special requests to work on year-end projects). I use this time to reflect on what I have done in the previous year and plan ahead for the coming year.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been hearing of New Year’s resolutions that a lot of people advocate as they approach the new year. I still remember writing down my very own “New Year’s resolutions” when I was in 4th grade and the frustration of failing to fulfill them. I think I’ve done it at least three times before I finally gave up. But ask yourself this question, “What are New Year’s resolutions all about in the first place?”
Before you come up with a list of your New Year’s resolutions, let me give you my personal definition of what they really are about: continuous personal development. I think the reason why I don’t even bother with New Year’s resolutions is because I’ve already made a conscious choice to continuously grow as an individual. As Dr. John Maxwell stated in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “Leadership develops daily, not in a day.”
I’ve already made choices early in my career that I simply manage every day. Yes, I do make plans and goals for the coming year to make sure I have my calendar straightened out. But those plans are simply a by-product of my daily disciplines. I’ve used these guidelines to plan for the coming year.
- Vision: How You See Yourself. I am a natural-born teacher and educator. But I only discovered this in my last year in the university. I reviewed all of the things that I have accomplished and noticed a recurring theme: teaching and education. While I didn’t consider teaching to be a full-time career, I knew that I can take advantage of this gift as I pursued a career in IT consulting. But what made all the difference was when I started seeing myself differently. I started envisioning myself speaking in front of large crowds, particularly in worldwide conferences. I also started seeing myself traveling around the world to do presentations and training workshops. This is why my yearly plan includes items for both developing myself as a speaker/presenter as well as worldwide events that I intend to speak at. This is just one aspect of how I envision myself. A quote that I have used quite often when encouraging people to continuously improve is, “You can only go as far as you can see.” Create a clear vision of how you see yourself. And, don’t settle for anything less than what’s best for you. The sky is the limit.
- Action Plan: Vision Without Action Is Futile. Visions and dreams are great. But without a plan to execute them, they remain just that. A very famous Japanese proverb states, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Now that you have created a clear vision of yourself and what you want to accomplish, prepare an action plan to achieve your goal. You can be as detailed as you want or just provide high-level items. The point is to make a plan to guide your actions. If you see yourself as a great painter, your action plan might include visiting art galleries and do practice painting on a regular basis. Whether you see yourself as a cake decorating expert, an amazing book author, an excellent CEO or a professional graphics artist, you need to have an action plan that will support your vision.
- Commitment: What Only You Can Do. You can always ask somebody for help in defining a vision – a mentor, coach, your boss, spouse, etc. Same thing with creating an action plan. But commitment is something that only you can do. And this seems to be the hardest thing of all. Commitment spells the difference between success and failure. It also means executing your action plan even when you don’t feel like it. As Dr. John Maxwell stated in his book The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, “Commitment separates doers from dreamers.”
Most New Year’s resolutions end up as list items simply because those who made them were not committed to see them through – from those who drop out of gym memberships to those who went back to their bad habits. I myself have fallen short on committing to take action when I needed to. But that is part of the growth process. What matters is getting back on track and sticking to it. Now, that’s commitment.
As you write down your New Year’s resolutions, think of these guidelines. What are your resolutions for 2017? You can share them here. I will definitely look forward to how much you’ve accomplished by the end of 2017.