If you’re an entrepreneurial type, making your New Year’s resolutions is probably more fun than Christmas!
Setting intentions, making a vision board, programming your goals–however you do it, we’re all chasing the same thing. How are you going to get the most out of your career and your life in 2019?
The problem with resolutions
Most resolutions fail, and the reasons can be traced back to the fact that we set resolutions from a place of stress. We base our goals on what we don’t want: “I don’t want to work for this company any more”, “I need to get out of debt”, “I’m tired of being single”. Or we base them on comparison: We want somebody else’s business, somebody else’s body, or we’re just trying to keep up. Our resolutions don’t resonate with a vision for our own life.
Instead of resolutions, I think in terms of ‘life design’. What if you could design the life you want, around the things that are most important to you, using the best you have to offer the world? Once you have a blueprint for life based on your values and your value, resolutions and goals will naturally follow–and this year, you might actually stick to them.
Step 1. Start with values
Just as a business is driven by its vision and values, so is an individual. Your life design will only be satisfying and sustainable for you if it’s designed around your values.
You might already have a favourite exercise for discerning your values. Dig it out and remind yourself. My business coach Emily Diamond uses a simple series of questions: “What do I spend time on?” “What do I spend money on?” “What do I fill my space with?” “Who do I spend my time with?” Answer those questions, then ask yourself the follow-up question: “Why?” Keep asking why until you’ve identified the values that underlie your choices. You’ll know when you’ve hit them.
Step 2. Assess your life satisfaction
To assess whether your life is matched with your values, reflect on how you’re going in each aspect of life. I keep it simple with three areas: Self, Work and Personal.
Self covers your spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical well-being, happiness and personal growth. Work is about the main thing you do daily–work, study, or parenting–and how you manage your money. Personal is about your family relationships, romance, your friends and close community, and the way you give back to society.
Reflect on each area in turn and rate your level of satisfaction with it. Are you living in alignment with your values in each area? Are you giving the energy you want to each area? Where are the conflicts? What needs to change?
Step 3. Look for opportunities to blend
Conflict typically happens when elements in each area are competing for your attention. You want to spend more time with your family, but you also want to provide more for them financially. Travel expands your soul, but you’re unwilling to give less attention to the business you love.
Whenever you feel yourself torn between two things, see if you can find a way to bring them together. I call this ‘blending’. Consider how you could re-design the way your work and personal priorities overlap. Can you host a meeting at your home while everybody’s kids play in the yard? Can you foster business connections in a part of the world you love to travel to, and bring your partner on some trips?
Step 4. Know your value
Knowing your value is about understanding your own skills and strengths, and valuing your time properly. Then you can focus on doing the things where you offer the most value, and let other people fill in the gaps where you don’t bring as much to the table.
When you have a conflict of priorities, ask yourself, “What’s the best use of my time?” You don’t have to cook dinner every night, attend every conference, say ‘yes’ to every speaking request or iron your own clothes. Prioritise the activities where you exercise your maximum value, and let go of the rest.
Step 5. Communicate expectations
Assessing your values and your value might lead to some really exciting changes in your life. You might schedule more travel into your year, end some toxic relationships or decide to implement a new flexible hours policy at your company.
Consider the people that need to get on board if these changes are going to work. Think of implementing your personal vision and values the same way you would in an organisation. Your ‘team’ might include your life partner, business partner, close family members, the babysitter and key colleagues and employees.
Have an expectation-setting conversation with the people involved. Express your vision for your life, your business, your family and your relationships. Ask if you can count on their support, and give them space to express their needs too. Make agreements about how you’ll navigate this together moving forward, and promise to keep them until next time you re-negotiate.
If change feels overwhelming, frame it as an experiment. Explain that you’d like to try doing your life a bit differently this year, and invite people to try it with you.
Step 6. Keep hitting the reset button
Periodically sit down to check in on each area of life. You’re allowed to change your goals and priorities as often as you want to (as long as you communicate expectations with the people who are impacted). As circumstances adjust around you, you might need to adjust your behaviour, but you can always operate in line with your values.
Look out for warning signs that you’re getting off track. Are you feeling burnt out by work you used to love? Are you avoiding relationships that you usually enjoy? Are you making choices you don’t feel good about?
Don’t fall into the trap of putting personal priorities on the back burner because you’re in a crucial phase with your business or career. Keep a list of activities that rejuvenate you and restore your sense of self, and take regular breaks to do something from the list. It’s counter-intuitive, but investing in the ‘self’ portion of your life is the most important thing you can do for professional success.
Tamara Loehr is a serial entrepreneur and award-winning businesswoman who has launched multiple ethical startups into global success, including Gutsii and Hot Tresses. She believes in mixing business with pleasure and empowering women everywhere to make an impact for the good of the world. Her first book, Balance is BS, is forthcoming in 2019.