There is an easy formula for figuring out how to make good on all of your resolutions to come: clarity + effort = success. What makes keeping resolutions so difficult is defining what you truly want (clarity) and doing all that is in your power to get what you want (effort). However, nothing is easy about following through with resolutions. That is why we have to keep making them every year—usually the same ones, over and over. The other reason we are masochistic enough to repeat the cycle of disappointment every year is that we look at our resolutions as enemies. Ideas and goals we feel like we have to create to give the appearance that we want to be “better” or “healthier” or even “care.” We (with good intentions) proclaim we are going to resolve our insecurities with our habits and physical appearances without honestly wanting to resolve them. You should quit smoking. However, do you really want to quit smoking?
I truly, with my heart and soul, believe that every one of us would succeed at making our resolutions reality if they were actually what we desired with all of our being. So, please save yourself unnecessary disappointment and regret by skipping the “New Year’s resolutions” item on your to-do list if you do not have any that you are obsessed with to your core. If you do not quit smoking, you will disappoint yourself, your loved ones who will then more strongly believe that you will never quit and actually smoke more (that comes from personal experience). So, ask yourself if you have career, personal, social, financial or general goals (resolutions) that mean something to you. In addition, I cannot emphasize this enough; it is fine not to have resolutions! Only you can ultimately decide whether you have anything to resolve. If not, love yourself, try to enjoy your job as much as you can, and never stop brainstorming how you can be the greatest version of yourself.
I discovered when I was in my early 30s that all of the successes in my life, and especially my career, meant something only to me and happened only when the universe finally believed I really, really wanted them. “Timing is everything” is a cliché for a reason. I quit smoking on my 47th attempt when I had an epiphany that nothing was going to keep me from stopping–especially me. I knew I had to stop if I wanted not only to live, but to live healthily. I lost weight when I realized I did not want self-pity and self-defeatism to define my character. I then began to see the gym as my safe place and better food choices as my superpower. I also sat down and wrote a novel about the person I wanted to be in my career and personal life, to my friends and family and to posterity. Then, I read that novel at every opportunity to remind and motivate myself after my failures and moments of near capitulation. Then, I threw out that novel and wrote another one.
I continue to tweak the person I want to be on a regular basis. John Maynard Keynes said something that makes me feel at peace with changing my mind on a regular basis. He said, “when the facts change, I change my mind.” I changed my goals and dedicated my limited time to pursuing what my heart and soul desired. To clarify, I do not change my goals every day, but I do change them when I know the goal at hand is not stoking my passion. Knowing what you do not want is important as you figure out what you do want. The moral of the story is that 2020 is going to be the year you change the paradigm of resolution making you currently hold. Resolution making will become a philosophy and way of life; it will quit being a task that tortures you for the first quarter of every year.
The following are the resolutions I made over the course of my life that have been invaluable to me, especially in the journey that is my career. That journey is not close to being over (unless the lotto ticket I received for Hanukkah gives me an easy path to retirement). I will continue to edit and rediscover who I want to be and what I want to accomplish, but these resolutions have been timeless, so far, in their efficacy, reliability and productivity.
Resolution 1: I Will Write My Novel, Memoir and Autobiography…And Never Stop
“Novel, memoir, and autobiography” is a metaphor. Literally, your first resolution will be to write everything down. Do not ever keep your resolutions and goals to memory only. That is the best way to forget, dilute and tarnish the whole process. Writing creates accountability and clarity. In addition, editing, adding to and elaborating on through writing allows you to record your evolution, progress, failures and accomplishments. Over time, you end up having what looks like a manuscript.
Start with your career. Interview yourself and analyze how you arrived to your current position. Most importantly, paint a very specific and detailed picture of where you want to be in your career and how you will get there over the course of six months, one year, five years and 10. To begin, you can ask yourself the following questions: what is my job title, function, importance, etc.? Where did I expect to be at this point of my career? Based on my current position, what are the possibilities for growth and career advancement and fulfillment? You will eventually find yourself in a personal discovery rabbit hole, which is exactly where you should go. Be aware of the possibility of disappointment in how your reality deviated from your dreams, but seek the inevitable empowerment that comes with an honest and candid view of yourself. Lastly, ask yourself the most important question: how will I spend my time advancing my career? This is where resolutions are made.
Resolution 2: I Will Treat Each Day as Though It Was New Year’s Eve
Please do not party like it is 1999 every night. (Though, that would be an awesome resolution.) Look at, amend and create new resolutions regularly. It does not have to be every day, but it must be done in consistent intervals. You have to hold yourself accountable, which means taking stock of your actions and progress toward your resolutions. One piece of practical advice is to limit yourself to three to five resolutions. Any more than that and you will be stretched too thin without the bandwidth to target each one with all of your energy.
Resolution 3: I Will Decide Who I Am, What I Value and Live By My Own Standards
There is nothing that helps one’s own confidence more than failing to live by one’s own rules. I know that is counterintuitive, but hear me out. I once went through a phase when I was reading wisdom book after wisdom book (read: self-help books), and one author emphasized a specific exercise. He said we should all create a list of our top most inviolate values that you should literally laminate. These five values will be your beacon every minute of every day. What is most powerful about this exercise is that you regain all the control of your behavior, decisions and actions. If you are about to buy a box of donuts, then you will either stop or disappoint only yourself because discipline is one of your most cherished values. The point is that, either way, you are the only one who failed or succeeded. Trivial outside influences, peer pressure and insecurities will slowly lose their importance and you will be the master of your own self-esteem. Make the resolution to define exactly what you stand for and how you will live your life. I promise you that your career and daily work decisions will become wiser, have more impact and attract more attention from decision makers in the office. You will become untouchable at work and in your personal life because people will realize they cannot phase you. Only you can do that.
Resolution 4: I Will Find My Support System at Work
Although motivation is 100% intrinsic, friends, advisors and colleagues are a great source of inspiration and tough love. Fundamentally, I am arguing in this piece that empowerment stems from an unflinching sense of personal accountability and responsibility, but everyone needs help and support along the way. As a compliance professional, you can compare this resolution to one of the Bank Secrecy Act pillars: you need independent testing and oversight. Practically speaking, you have to surround yourself with colleagues and work associates that will help you—directly and indirectly—accomplish your resolutions. Indirectly, trusted associates might have the wherewithal, idiosyncrasies, accomplishments, job titles and philosophies you respect and from which you can learn from and adapt. Directly, you can recruit an advisor or board of advisers to be your auditors and provide the tough love, shoulders to cry on and advice we all need when doing new and strange things that we struggle with at first.
We all are programmed to trick ourselves into thinking our failures were other people’s faults or responsibilities. However, by doing that we violate Resolution 2 and give up our power. Even the most self-aware of us fall victim to this defense mechanism. We need people who truly care about us–our support system–to point out our weaknesses and culpability in our own fumbles. Be hard on yourself but remember to forgive too. You are only human.
You do not need to bloviate to make sense of your goals, desires and resolutions. However, your goals should be a 100% reflection of you. Refrain from thinking your resolutions are stupid, dumb or not good enough. That is nonnegotiable. Ultimately we all want the same things in life. But how we get them, how long it takes and what we have to do to get them are as innumerable as stars in the sky. It is never too late to figure out what you want and who you are; therefore, make resolutions as though your life depended on it. That is a surefire way to get them done.