NOTE: Ironically enough, I started writing this post around New Year’s Day. However, I’m just now getting around to publishing it. But I promise I’ve been working on living out these themes the entire time.
Some folks think New Year’s resolutions are for weak minded fools susceptible to Jedi mind tricks (or those who can’t keep to healthy living and good habits year around).
I’m not one of those people. It turns out many of us can actually benefit from a motivational jump start from time to time, and I’m one of those people.
My lists used to be way longer and much more specific, but I found that keeping to a shorter list of vision-like themes was more helpful for me. The themes are parts of a picture that help drive me toward practicing behaviors characteristic of the type of life I want to be living.
Here is my list for 2016:
1. Cultivate a healthy work/life balance
My natural tendency is not toward balance. I have to work hard at it. My natural tendency is toward obsession, fixation, and putting my all with laser focus toward accomplishing a single thing. At times that can be good, and at times it can be bad. My work/life balance tends to suffer most because of this trait.
I have a wonderful job that I love, and I’m very grateful for that. Which means that it’s all that harder to moderate myself when it comes to my work habits.
Fortunately, I have an employer that does not place unreasonable expectations on me and makes every affordance for me to have a healthy work/life balance.
Actually taking advantage of that, however, is still on me. And often I don’t. So this year I’m really committed to improving my work/life balance.
There are some tangible ways that I’m planning to achieve this. The most significant of which is going to be getting in the habit of stopping work for the day at a certain time. The time I stop is less important than the fact that I should actually stop. Too often I tend to break at the end of the day and go back to work after the kids are fed and in bed, when really I should be putting off what didn’t get done until tomorrow.
To some, that may sound like procrastination. But procrastination is not usually my battle. My battle overachieving and burnout, and to combat that I need to get more used to saying “it can get done tomorrow”.
There are several other ways that I’m going to address this as well. Some of the other areas are a bit less logistic and more aspirational.
For example: making intentional, focused time for my kids daily; making more of an effort to prioritize household work (rather than ignoring it until a convenient, which leaves Ashley often feeling like she bears the brunt of those responsibilities); and not being so attached to my phone, email, slack, etc when I’m not working (i.e. being more “present”).
Finally, there is one big supporting goal I have for this year that will dramatically help improve my work/life balance, and it’s closing Dev Tees down. It’s been a fun run, but I don’t really want to be in the t-shirt business. It’s not worth the cost of operation to me, and even though I don’t put too much time & effort into it I’d much rather be putting that time & effort into my family at this stage of life.
2. Practice self-discipline
There’s a point in life where you realize as long as you are basically responsible with the fundamentals of being an adult, you can do whatever you want.
To a point.
For example, nobody is going to make me eat healthy, or make my bed, or not waste money on things I don’t need. Which can be very freeing, but can also be counter productive. Welcome to adulthood.
Then there is another point where you realize that if you don’t actually practice a certain amount of self-discipline, you miss out on things you may really want to experience.
So it turns out being an adult is a lot about finding that balance between exercising your freedoms, and practicing a certain level of self-discipline so you don’t short circuit the things you want to experience.
So what this means for me this year is a handful of very intentional areas where I’d like to improve my self-discipline.
Master my schedule
As mentioned, I tend to be very good at having a laser focus on achieving a particular thing. However, many other things suffer when I do this. I tend to be fairly good at just staying on task with work goals, but I suck as basic things like having a set daily schedule.
This year I want to do better at keeping track of my schedule, and mastering it. That includes my work schedule, and my family schedule (which means no more just expecting Ashley to tell me what’s happening for the week).
As a curious person, it’s easy for me to get distracted by almost anything. I don’t just mean in my daily workflow, but in life. Some of it has to do with my analytical and creative nature, and some of it is my deeply wired aversion to boredom.
But to be truly successful and effective in the areas of life that are most important, I need to actively fight the things that are ultimately distractions.
What are distractions? Anything that competes for my time and attention with the most important things, and doesn’t serve to support the most important things in any way.
Go to bed at a responsible time
A very simple practice with profound results, it is well proven by science and medicine that getting enough rest is essential to daily mental and physical performance. So this year I’m working hard on making getting to bed at a responsible time a priority.
Eat well, exercise consistently
Just as important as rest to mental and physical health is nutrition and exercise. This year I really want to get into a physical condition that I can be proud of, and that will permit me to do all the active things I’d really like to be doing (skateboarding, snowboarding, hiking, playing relentlessly with my kids, etc).
Prioritize spiritual growth
Faith is a wonderful and challenging aspect of life, to those who embrace it. The benefits of living a life of faith are many. And so are the challenges.
As an adult, the biggest challenge for me seems to be engaging in and pursuing spiritual growth at a stage of life where I seem to have so little time, energy, or attention for the things that are not urgent (see also Tyranny of the Urgent!)
And when you have been living with a faith perspective for most of your life, its really easy to put aspects of your spiritual life in cruise control. Which is exactly the opposite of what I need to be doing.
So this year I’m going to lean into the areas of life that challenge me spiritually and let God use those things to keep maturing me spiritually, rather than coasting on the perspectives and habits of the status quo.
3. Invest in relationships
My third major theme for 2016 is an intentional effort to invest in relationships. Relationships are one of the most important aspects of life to me. Yet too often I don’t give them the intentional effort they deserve (see again urgent vs important).
My goal this year in relationships is to make time to invest intentionally in the relationships in my life that are most important, including carving out specific time for my friends, making more intentional time to connect with my Mom and Dad more regularly, and making individual time with each of my kids on a regular basis.
This also includes prioritizing developing relationships, and keeping up with old friends.
4. Do me
For much of my life I’ve lived in many ways for other people. Perhaps I’ve finally just reached the age where I’ve grown out of that, but I now realize that while being sensitive to how who I am affects other people is still important, I have to be who I am, not who other people expect me to be.
So this year, my fourth theme is just being me. This doesn’t mean in a self-centered, self-absorbed, destructive way. And it doesn’t mean being so set in my ways that I refuse to allow God, or life, or even other people to shape who I am.
What it means is that I don’t worry about what other people think of me, or what my reputation is to the degree that it hinders me from being myself. It means worrying less about offending others, and just focusing on loving people, and being myself, regardless of how it comes across in my often awkward way.
5. Don’t let responsibility hinder creativity
The last theme I’ve decided to focus on this year is refusing to let responsibility hinder my creativity.
As a creative person, I thrive on every opportunity to express creativity. Drawing, making EDM mixes, working on my project car, doing crafts and playing toys with the kids, reading, writing, playing video games, skateboarding and snowboarding, exploring nature – these are just some of the creative outlets that are important to me.
But as an adult, I also value and prioritize practicing responsibility. Responsibility and creativity aren’t necessarily opposite forces that cancel each other out, but as an adult with three kids, a spouse, a mortgage and home to take care of, family and community commitments, etc…it can certainly feel like they are at odds with each other.
So this year I am making more of an effort to find ways to combine my creativity and responsibility. And – when possible – give creativity priority in the event that creativity and responsibility are at odds in a given situation. Because the things that make me come to life are just as important as the things I have to do to be a responsible adult.
Something something journey and destination
As I’ve noted in past goals articles this exercise is less about the accomplishing of goals, and more about the striving toward a better story.
I’m well aware of my propensity to fail, and I’m also well aware of the value of having something to strive for. From my experience, it seems that the value of success itself is nominal in comparrison to the value of having a thing to strive for. So while these goals/themes are important for their outcome, the real point for me is to have something to strive toward.