Talking Big Ideas.
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
My buddy T.K. Coleman texted me yesterday.
For about a decade now we’ve regularly teased each other for certain failings we each have. Yesterday he wrote: “I’m shedding the identification, letting go of old metaphors that no longer serve me, and embracing the new and strange and beautiful and unfamiliar.”
I’m proud of him! I commit to following his lead on this. The start of a new year is an ideal time for it. A natural transition we can use to change the way we see ourselves. A time to make progress.
This is why New Year’s Resolutions are so common.
The problem, of course, is getting them to stick. It’s fun to join in the ritual of picking goals for the year. It’s easy to say we’re going to change – and even easier to then do nothing about it. The history of my New Year’s Resolutions is largely a history of failures.
After many years of experimenting and adjusting, I’ve finally found a way to get my resolutions to stick. It begins by reframing them as commitments. While resolutions may be easy to ignore, commitments done right tend to stay with you.
Creating commitments begins by carving out time to think deeply about what matters most. I start by reviewing my past year’s successes, struggles, and regrets. And the grades I gave myself for these commitments. I focus on my struggles and regrets. Awareness and honest self-assessments on recent failings are foundational for making future progress.
Then I consider the various aspects of my life. The bestseller Designing Your Life explains how we all have four primary life pillars: health, love, work, and play. To live well, we must make time for all of them. I subdivide these pillars into ten categories:
- Health: mind, body
- Love: partner, tribe, community
- Work: career, projects, money
- Play: leisure, adventure
They follow a basic SMART framework. Each is specific and measurable. And, with effort, achievable. They are written as positive statements in simple sentences. I then use these commitments to help build my Mountaintop Card.
This is a one-pager that highlights a single commitment as a primary focus. It sits at the top in large font. At the bottom are a handful of additional commitments. I also include a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – an aspirational, hallmark achievement as a guide star for my career. Finally, a theme for the year with an inspiring picture.
Here’s my Mountaintop Card for 2023:
Next comes accountability and skin. As the world champion athlete Haile Gebrselassie says, “once you have the commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.”
To keep myself on track, I take a three-step approach:
- Share: My commitments with family, friends, colleagues, and newsletter readers.
- Meet with Others: Weekly with Maryrose and Laura, bi-weekly with my Indistractable team, and monthly with my Mastermind Group. During each meeting, I clarify what I need to achieve to make progress on my various commitments.
- Skin: Hold myself accountable by paying up every time I fail to achieve my agreed-upon progress.
My skin to begin 2023 with my Indistractable team is to watch a movie of Maryrose’s choice and give a short summary of its best parts. I’ve also used money, pushups, and crypto as skin. Feel free to get creative, just make sure it’s painful enough to nudge you in the right direction.
Sharing and meeting create accountability. Skin adds real pressure. Together they build discipline that leads to progress.
What do you want to accomplish this year? How can you best set yourself up for success?
Commitments bring life into focus. Accountability and skin help make commitments a reality.
What is one commitment you are willing to make in 2023 to aid in your professional development? Try this approach:
- Identify: At least one commitment for 2023. Have it be specific and measurable.
- Share: With friends, family, or colleagues. Please share with me as well!
- Meet: Pick someone to update regularly on your progress. Every time you chat, review your commitments and clarify next steps.
- Skin: Hold yourself accountable. Any time you don’t achieve your next step toward your commitment, pay up.