Forget New Year’s Resolutions, Use a 3-Word Plan for 2013

Toss your new year’s resolutions. You probably won’t stick with them.

top new years resolutions

I’ve been getting lots of email newsletters with tips on how to plan for 2013. I’ve found that Chris Brogan’s 3-word annual theme is by far the best approach. It’s simple. You just have to remember 3 words. And each of the words you pick will have meaning to you.

I expanded my list of 3 words to have one set for my personal life and one set for my business. Here are my personal growth words for 2013:

Declutter

My old boss used to say that gravity is the most powerful force in the universe. Over the years, everything gravitates to the storage room in the basement. My storage room has been cluttered for too long. During the holiday break, my wife and I got rid of the junk we collected. It appeared to be a daunting task when we started so we took it one section at a time, removing unwanted objects to haul off. By the end of the day – and it was a long day – our storage area was completely cleaned out. Everything was on shelves and fully organized. The best part: it decluttered our minds. I’ve got lots of other areas at my home and office that could use a clean-up so the term “declutter” to me in 2013 means to work on something every weekend until I’m satisfied. This week, the target was my email inbox, which is now fully decluttered. My goal is to be completely decluttered by March 31.

Run

I try to exercise regularly, but sometimes I allow myself to slip on my routine. I’ll then feel guilty about it so it’s a no-win situation – I might as well just do it. Between managing work and a family life with young kids, time can easily escape. Of all of the different types of workouts I’ve done, I’ve found running makes me feel the best. It also provides me with the best return for the time invested. Every time I jog, I feel like I cleaned my body from the inside. I breathe better, have a stronger focus and bubble with creative ideas. It makes me happy and productive. Run has a dual meaning. When I set my eyes on a goal, I want to make sure I don’t put obstacles in my own path or subconsciously slow down. So, “run” in 2013 to me means two things: 1) physically run every week, 2) keep pushing myself hard until I achieve a goal I set.

Read

I love reading. It’s the fastest way to building new skills. I read magazines and blogs all the time and pick up a lot of new ideas that help in growing my business. I find that I do most of my book reading over the summer. My weekends are slower then and I enjoy going out on my deck in warmer weather to relax with a tasty beverage and a good book. So I got to thinking: if I enjoy that feeling so much, why don’t I do more of it year-round instead of in the summer? It prompted me to put “read” to round out my top 3 words for 2013.

Here are some other words and possible meanings that you can use as you develop your own 3-word plan for 2013:

  • Start – stop just talking about starting a company, do it
  • Analyze – evaluate detailed metrics for my business so I make informed decisions
  • Content – write articles to share my knowledge with clients and have a long lasting impact that showcases my expertise
  • Publish – write a book and get it published on Kindle
  • Fund – pitch investors and get financing to grow my business
  • Mingle – join an online dating site to meet my match
  • Laugh – throw at least one party every quarter to enjoy a glass of wine with my friends
  • Hawaii – save for and plan a vacation to Hawaii
  • Participate – find out about openings on local boards or commissions in my county and apply to become a member; plan a strategy to run for a local political office

So forget your new year’s resolution. Create a theme instead. It’s only 3 words so it will be easy to remember. Paste your words on your bathroom mirror so you are reminded of your theme every morning and night. Want something a little longer? Read my big list of sample goals. You will have an amazing 2013!

Making Incremental Change

Sometimes, life feels like a golf game: moments of brilliance followed by long periods of mediocrity.

The trick to changing is to shorten the time between the moments of brilliance while making that time more productive. Like a golf swing, you get there through repetition coupled with corrective actions. You gradually make an incremental change.

In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell writes that world class athletes have 10,000 hours of practice under their belt before they get to the caliber we see. As those incremental changes are burned into your memory, they become habits.

Incremental change means small, steady progress toward self-improvement. Here are 3 themes with increments you can make:

  1. Losing weight. Forget the diet fads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that just by switching from whole milk to low fat milk, you can reduce 25-30% of your calories from milk. This little step done daily can make a big change in your progress. Next, make one more change – like cutting back one meal per week of red meat. Take the steps instead of the elevator. Each month, add a new habit and stick with it for the whole month so it becomes part of you. The incremental change will be a lot easier to do.
  2. Reducing debt. Unless you win the lottery, paying off debt will take a little time. Set a goal to avoid Starbucks for a month. Or go to the deli for lunch an extra day or two during the week instead of a more expensive restaurant. Pocket the money you save, don’t spend it. Find other ways to cut your personal spending little by little. At the end of the month, pay down a debt, whether it is an extra principal payment on a student loan or your mortgage. If you earn extra cash from an odd job or consulting project now and then, allocate the money to reduce your debt. The incremental change will make it possible.
  3. Attracting happiness. People tune out those who constantly complain. Buy a tiny spiral notebook and put it by your bedside. Before going to sleep each night, make a very small entry that starts with “I am thankful for…”  Think about what happened during the day that was good. There is always something, no matter now small. Monitoring what you are grateful for is a fast path to happiness.

Opportunities for incremental change are all around us. One tiny step each day will get you 365 steps closer one year from now.

A Side Effect of Being Too Optimistic

Optimists say “yes” — a lot. They see the glass as half full. They look for the silver lining and the opportunities. Their positive attitude leads the way to reduced stress.

“No” is hardly in an optimist’s vocabulary. That means that the they will likely say “yes” to requests that come their way. Optimists are wired to find solutions, not dwell on problems. Sounds great.optimism

The side effect: when you take on too much, you may be unable to give your full time and attention to the effort required. Deadlines may get missed, co-workers may get frustrated. All of those things an optimist said “yes” to start piling up. Only the ones with the highest priorities get addressed.

The unfortunate side effect of being too optimistic: people may see ever-the-optimist people as flaky or unreliable.

I’m not suggesting you should start being more pessimistic. Continue to be optimistic.  Just start to say “no” a little more, especially when your gut tells you that you won’t be able to put your 100% effort into what you are about to take on.

When you consciously choose to let go, you are freeing your mind of the responsibility of that one additional task. There is less to think about and that gives you more mental room to really put your heart into what excites you.  It is liberating and rewarding.

And you’ll be happier.