Value-based New Year's Resolutions

I have set new year goals for most years of my adult life. The years that I did not set goals, I thought that I probably would not follow through or that I should be setting goals more consistently anyway, not just at the beginning of the year. However, when I have set annual goals, I have mostly found them to be helpful especially when I review them regularly throughout the year and keep track of my progress. Aligning goals to an annual timeframe helps me reflect over longer periods of time than I think I normally would.

In 2017 my goals were mostly uninspiring. I only fully completed about 30% of my goals and about 50% of them I didn't complete at all. The rest were only partially completed. Toward the end of the year, I realized that they were uninspiring to me because I did not do a good job of aligning my goals with my governing values.

My governing values reflect what matters most to me. They should guide my decisions more than any other factor. When I was younger and first read Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I wrote down what I thought my values were as prompted by the book. I lost the list however and don't remember what I wrote. Since 2014, I have kept track of my own values in the form of value statements. Here is one of my value-statements:

Clear Thinking:

  • Remove distraction
  • Avoid confirmation bias
  • Maintain perspective

For me, it has not always been easy to identify my own values. Benjamin Franklin famously had his 13 virtues which he wrote when he was 20 years old. He originally started with 12 but added humility as a 13th later. Unlike Franklin, mine have evolved more dramatically over time. For instance, I add new ones as I reflect on what I enjoy doing and thinking about. Sometimes I combine a few similar value-statements into one to simplify my list. Other times I remove a value-statement from my list because it was something that I thought I should value, but ultimately was not very passionate about. At the beginning of this 2017, I had 11 value statements in my “official” list. A recent revision left me with only 7.

I am much more excited about my goals this year compared to last year because (1) My recent revision of my value-statements is much clearer than it has ever been, and (2) I have tied those values to my 2018 goals. I did this in a list where I wrote down each value with specific goals that I feel connect to that value. I know people are not supposed to share their goals, but here is one example:

Clear Thinking:

  • Write 12 blog posts
  • Write down big decisions and identify what I think the expected outcome of that decision will be. Compare my expected outcome to reality every month
  • Develop meditation habit (meditate 14 days in a row)

This is probably obvious to most people. I suppose when most people set goals they are implicitly tying them to their values anyway. The above approach is just being more explicit. It just seems more apparent to me now than before that really good goal-setting must be connected to really good value-setting.

Happy New Year!