I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I really never have been. Mainly I don’t like the idea of waking up one day and declaring things like, “I will now exercise more”. While I do believe a New Year offers the chance for a new start, I think more often than not, New Year’s Resolutions are shallow and low-impact.
What I do love, though, are what I call Birthday Resolutions.
While everyone else is busy resolving to do things come January 1st, I sit tight for a little while. My birthday is in February, so after New Years I’ve got about 6 weeks of thinking to do.
In my opinion, making Birthday Resolutions means there’s less pressure to say things like, “I want to eat healthier” – perhaps because it’s easier to tune out the background noise on my birthday and really think through what I want the year ahead to look like.
In fact, my overarching objective when setting Birthday Resolutions each year isn’t just about changing my behavior or attitude. It’s about asking myself:
What do I want my life to look like this time next year?
Now, don’t get me wrong – setting and then keeping a Birthday Resolution can be just as tough as a New Year’s Resolution. After all, any kind of resolution entails challenging yourself to change, and change is hard.
Still, I do find that Birthday Resolutions help me start my next year feeling present, thoughtful and focused about the year ahead. And for me, that’s the whole point.
This year I have two Birthday Resolutions, which I’m pleased to share with you.
First, I resolve to give.
By this I really mean to give of myself more freely – my time, my interest, my intellect, and even my personal resources (like money, my network etc).
In my family we use a concept borrowed from Stephen Covey called “The Emotional Bank Account”. The premise here is that relationships are like bank accounts, with deposits and withdrawals. Each person in a relationship makes transactions of both kinds, but overall both people must focus on making deposits – otherwise the account balance goes empty.
For me, the last two and a half years have been all about withdrawals. Succeeding in business school required that I focus almost exclusively on myself and my own journey. Because I had built up enough of an “account balance” with my family and friends, I was able to lean on the people around me for support, help, and guidance. But, with my own bandwidth limited, I didn’t do the best job of making deposits.
Now that I’m out of school with a healthy dose of perspective and clarity, I’ve decided that I want this year to be about making deposits. I’m so thankful for the help I have received, and now I feel compelled to be generous in return.
Second, I resolve to try.
By this I really mean to find the courage to take risks, to speak up, and to think beyond what seems possible or plausible.
People who’ve known me forever know that I’m not a big fan of risk, so this isn’t an easy resolution for me. But if there is one lesson I took away from business school it’s that when I am brave enough to speak my opinion or pursue something unknown, good things can happen. Sometimes I fail or make a mistake – everyone does at some point. But more often than not, when I push myself to give something new a try, I’m glad I did.
So there you have it – my 2011 Birthday Resolutions. While I can’t promise instant success, I do feel more focused and prepared to make this year be about both generosity and courage.
Hopefully by this time next year I'll be reporting back to you all the ways I was able to both give more and try more.
Happy New Year to each of you, and best of luck with your own Resolutions!