Many years ago, I started writing new year’s resolutions. I would write them, forget about them until December 30th, and then judge myself based on whether or not I had done the things on my list of resolutions despite never having looked back at them throughout the year. Just like everybody else. This was… not the best.
Then I learned about the idea of using seasonal focuses as opposed to new year’s resolutions, because 1) they’re visited four times per year, which is a much better timeline with which to set goals or focus on certain things, and 2) they’re focuses, meaning there is no failure for not having completed them. These focuses would be things like “writing”, “drawing”, “learning about fitness”, etc. This was better!
But then I would look back at my previous season’s focuses, for example, “get back into writing music”, and realize that I hadn’t made any progress on them. I would reflect by writing “I didn’t do this, I should really do more of this” and that’s where it ended. Either the focus was too daunting and large and I didn’t know where to start, too vague, the actual next “to-do” step wasn’t clear, or the final goal/deliverable wasn’t clear. The other issue here was that it ignored anything else that I might have done during that season that wasn’t on the list, but might have been a very meaningful or fulfilling focus.
The obvious solution, in this case, is to not be so hard on myself and to be okay with doing something, anything relating to my passions and interests as long as it brings me joy. Easier said than done!
So I also wanted something to facilitate actually doing those focuses that would also allow me to be less hard on myself. It should remind me to spend my free time in a way that actually feels valuable and fulfilling, as opposed to messing around with distractions that ultimately don’t leave me feeling fulfilled. For the record, messing around with distractions is absolutely a valuable thing to do when you feel you need it, but I would argue it’s not a valuable thing to do if it’s the default when you have free time simply because you don’t know what else you want to do.
What I’m trying this year is to have two sets of resolutions, qualitative and quantitative. So my qualitative resolution look like bullet points that say things like “have more mindful moments throughout the day” while my quantitative ones look more like a checkbox that says “create a song and post it to SoundCloud”. Then, my seasonal focuses are still just focuses, but they tie into my resolutions in that they can help me get to the quantitative resolutions if I focus on them. So there is some larger driving goal behind the focus, but it’s not considered a “failure” if I reflect back on the previous season and I haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked on it.
The other thing I’ve changed is that I’ve planned out the reflection questions for the seasonal check-ins. Every season, I’ll look back and ask:
- How did I progress, if at all, with my seasonal focuses?
- What didn’t I enjoy, what were some of the negative things of this season?
- What went well, what were some of the positive things of this season?
- What did I learn this season?
- Take a quick look at resolutions, have I made any progress on these? If not, why not? What’s getting in the way?
The idea is that this will help me tie the focuses back to the overall goals, and also allow me to be aware of other things that happened during the season through questions about what I enjoyed and about learning.
This might sound like a lot of stuff to think about and do, but for the last years I’ve done this kind of reflection I’ve always found it quite rewarding (when I’m not being too hard on myself). It usually takes under an hour every three months, it gives me things to improve and focus on moving forward, and it leaves me feeling grateful for the things that I’ve enjoyed in the past season.
Feel free to share what you do for new year’s reflections or resolutions, I always like to hear this kind of stuff!