As 2022 draws to a close many of you will already have part of your mind thinking about what 2023 will bring for you. You may be thinking about a New Year's resolution or thinking about personal and professional goals.
For some, including me, this may even bring an element of anxiety and/or identity crisis. You start questioning who you (really) are, what you are doing with your life, and why you are here.
In today's newsletter I want you to consider some alternates to the typical New Year's Resolution and setting goals for 2023.
Focus on Intrinsic Values not Extrinsic Validation
Could 2023 be the year that you care more about your own intrinsic values and who you really are, rather than constant worries about what others think of you?
A big challenge for many of us is that we put far too much emphasis on extrinsic validation. We spend our days worrying about what other people think of us. We let societal or social expectations govern what we do, how we do it, and how we feel about ourselves.
We attach our identity to our profession and our accomplishments, and we allow our self-worth to be measured by how we think the world sees us.
As Charles Horton Cooley famously said, "I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am". You may need to read that a few times.
This does not mean that you do not care what others think or feel, not at all. Rather that we generate our self-worth by how we think about ourselves and being proud of who we are.
Our values are what define us. How we interact with others and how we feel about ourselves are the true ingredients of who we are. When we live lives that are true to our values and beliefs we achieve congruence to our true self. When we are congruent with our values we can be proud of who we are.
How we treat other human beings, particularly those from whom we expect nothing in return, is a far better measure of our character and worth than what we do or how much we earn.
One key is to ditch the dreaded "comparison syndrome". Fuelled by an increasing consumption of Instagram, we are confronted every day with pictures and reels of other people's "perfect" lives. It is no wonder that we start comparing ourselves to these beautiful IG posts and question whether we are enough. Always remember that someone's Instagram feed is a curated slice of the life that they want you to see. It is not a reflection of their entire life and the struggles and challenges that they also face.
The cold truth is that not a single person on this planet truly has all of their life in order. We all face our own demons; we are all a work-in-progress.
Focus on Progress, not Perfection
Could 2023 be the year that you shift your mindset from perfection to progress?
I am sure that you have all seen the stats, New Year's resolutions do not work. One quarter of people quit within the first week, 43% have "failed" by February, and 91% of resolutions do not succeed.
The issue here is typically the pursuit of perfection and an "all or nothing" attitude. It is not what happens when we get it "right", but how we react when things go "wrong" that is the real issue here. We set ourselves goals based on perfection and then beat ourselves up when we fall short of our own lofty standards.
Some examples here could include having a healthy diet or going to the gym every day. If we set ourselves a resolution that we will only eat healthy meals, the pivotal point will be the day that we inevitably slip up and eat that slice of pizza or indulge in that ice cream treat. If our mindset is "oh well, I have "blown" the diet now I might as well keep going" that is when we are in trouble. If we are able to quickly forgive ourselves and reset, then we can make real progress.
We cannot change what has already happen, we can only change what we do from this moment onwards. Remember that eating one healthy meal does not make you healthy, but equally eating one unhealthy meal does not make you unhealthy; going to the gym once does not make you fit, missing the gym once does not make you unfit.
It is prolific consistency over time that makes the biggest impact. If we are able to improve just 1% per day that adds up to a whopping 3700% improvement over one year.
The same applies to our leadership and personal development. We are not going to get it right every single day. However, it is those that learn from their mistakes and come out and try again the next day that make the best leaders.
Focus on Your Limiting Beliefs
Could 2023 be the year you ditch some of your limiting beliefs?
When setting goals and New Year's resolutions we typically only focus on what success looks like instead of considering the obstacles and challenges we may face.
When setting these goals, they are usually related to something we have wanted to do for a very long time. Rather than just focus on what success would look like, we also need to address any challenges, obstacles or limiting beliefs that have prevented us from achieving this goal in the past.
Limiting beliefs kill more dreams than failure ever has. It is inaction not failed action that typically holds us back. We allow negative thoughts and limiting beliefs to invade our mindset to the point where we don't even try. We are far better off to try and fail and then try again, than to never try in the first place.
A typical limiting belief may be over thinking and worrying about what other people will think of us if we don't succeed. The truth is that most people want to support and encourage us, not shoot us down. If someone does make a disparaging comment about what you are trying to achieve, always remember that this speaks more about them than it does about you. It is often rooted in jealousy or self-pity that they themselves did not have the courage to step out of their own comfort zone and try something new.
To address our limiting beliefs, we need to be able to re-frame them. Converting statements like "I don't have enough time" to "I am going to re-prioritise and make time for this because it is important to me" or changing "I don't know how to do this" to "I am going to learn how to do this" or "I don't have enough resources" to "what do I need to take the first step".
Limiting beliefs left unaddressed will indeed prevent you from success, but when addressed it is like raising the anchor on your boat or taking the handbrake off and speeding down the road in your car.
Focus on Strengths, Not Just Weaknesses
Could 2023 be the year you focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses?
Most New Year's Resolutions and Goals revolve around some level of weakness that we are trying to address. This is normal and understandable. For example, I am currently working on my listening skills to ensure that I am truly and deeply listening to those around me (particularly my wife).
For 2023, I would like to consider focusing on your strengths instead of just your weaknesses. Focusing on our strengths can achieve prolific results. For example, if you are already good at playing the piano imagine how much better you would be if you intentionally practiced this year.
This could the shift that you need to go from being good at something to being great. An example in the workplace may be that you are good at giving presentations and with intentional study and practice that you become a great orator who is capable of captivating an audience and speak with gravitas on world stages.
Focus on Purpose and Meaning
Could 2023 be the year you focus on finding purpose and meaning?
Many people find the very question of purpose confronting. They see leadership gurus on LinkedIn and social platforms talking about the importance of purpose and start developing a level of anxiety. They get concerned and ask themselves questions as to why they haven't found their purpose yet.
My first piece of advice is to be patient, be self-compassionate, and be flexible with it. Purpose can take time to emerge. It can also show up where you least expect it. Purpose may also take multiple forms. It may be for you that there is not one single purpose in your life, but rather a bunch of overlapping purposes.
Start by looking where you are today, in your job, your family life, and with your friends. A common thread that I have seen in all of my research is that purpose almost always relates to how we help other human beings. We can of course find pleasure and happiness in things we do for ourselves, but there is a deeper and longer-lasting joy when what we do helps other human beings.
There is no doubt that finding purpose and meaning is a powerful thing. When we find purpose, it becomes a fuel that drives us to achieve amazing things beyond our wildest dreams. We jump out of bed in the morning excited about what the day ahead has in store for us. When we feel there is purpose and meaning in what we do, we go above and beyond and pull out all stops to make things happen. At the end of the day, we feel proud of what we achieved, warm in the knowledge that we made an impact today.
If you are struggling to find purpose, I would encourage you to look at the work of Zach Mercurio, Ph.D. Ask yourself the following questions on a daily basis for a week or even a month. Ask yourself the following questions on a daily basis for a week or even a month
What did I enjoy doing today?
What specifically was it about that thing that made me happy?
How did I help at least one other human being today?
What would happen if I stopped doing that thing?
What would happen if I did more of that thing?
As you journal and reflect on these questions a pattern may emerge that gives you clarity on your purpose.
Before embarking on a new year of failed resolutions, consider shifting your focus and attention. Focus on who you really are and the person you want to be. Focus on progress and intentional action to become the person you can be proud of. Focus on addressing any limiting beliefs that are holding you back and reframing new perspectives.