It’s once again that time of year when many of us look to the passing of a new year as an opportunity to set goals for personal change, growth, and improvement in the form of new year’s resolutions.
As I began to ponder my own resolutions for next year, I started looking back at my lists of goals and resolutions from previous years.
I found that in the past I’ve typically created a long laundry list of items that I sought to address, ranging from personal improvement (lose 10, 20, etc. pounds, read 12 classics novels, learn to speak Spanish, etc.) to career goals (make xxx dollars next year while saving yyy dollars, start 3 companies, etc.) to personal growth (volunteer more often, have more patience, contact my friends and family more frequently, etc.).
In business and in life, I often preach the virtues of simplicity and focus.
Looking over my lists, I realized that in each and every year I really didn’t need any more than one very simple yet very powerful and focused resolution — do the right thing, for myself and for others.
After considering this for a while, it occurred to me as highly ironic that the longer lists actually covered much less in terms of scope and breadth than this one simple and focused resolution.
Think about this for a moment across a wide variety of contexts.
Should I have a salad for lunch today, or a double pastrami sandwich? Do the right thing, for my personal health.
Should I exercise this evening or flop on the couch for another Seinfeld rerun? Do the right thing, for my personal well-being and longevity.
Should I buy that new gadget that does the same thing as 4 other devices that I already own, or should I put that $500 into savings? Do the right thing, for my own financial health and sanity.
Should I stay in that job that I hate, or should I take steps to pursue my dream while also protecting my family? Do the right thing, for my own personal fulfillment.
Now think about how this one simple rule applies in your relationship with others (and ultimately what it can do for your relationships with others!).
Should I do the dishes that I know are in the sink, or go play golf and hope that someone else does them? Do that right thing, for my family.
Should I call my friend or family member that I know would love to hear from me (or might need to hear from me), or get around to it ‘when I can’ and continue focusing on something else that’s ‘more important’? Do the right thing, for the people that mean the most to me.
Should I volunteer at the soup kitchen today, or go to the new action movie that I’ve been wanting to see? Do the right thing, for those that you don’t even know and for society as a whole — and for yourself.
Before the cynic in you declares that you’re not going to become a saint next year just because of one resolution, I’d like for you to consider what might happen in your life if you just followed this simple rule most of the time?
In fact, what if you followed this simple resolution just one time each day for the coming year??
Of course, there will always be times that I’ll choose that pastrami sandwich over the salad, or the new gadget over savings, or the action movie over volunteer work. Living perfectly is an unrealistic ideal.
But that’s not really the point. Letting this simple and focused resolution serve as your RULE and not your EXCEPTION likely means that you’ll accomplish much more in terms of personal and professional growth next year than in years where you’ve listed 10, 20 or even more items that you hoped to address and achieve.
Now consider something even bigger — what if everyone chose this simple resolution and actually followed its guidance even just once per day? How might we all benefit, both individually and collectively?
Remember, we’re talking simplicity and focus here. I believe that one reason people fail to accomplish their resolutions (and their goals in general) is that they make them too vague and complex, they fail to create a plan and they don’t track and measure progress.
Put another way, after a few weeks (or days) into the New Year they simply forget their resolutions altogether until the next twelve months roll around (or, by the end of January, many people may have just thrown in the towel, either explicitly or implicitly).
Instead, what if we all just recalled one simple rule, one simple and focused principle, one simple goal that we all establish at the start of the year and then we live by that rule as much as we can, always trying to keep it in mind when faced with these life situations?
What if we just started taking notice at each decision point, and consciously tried to do the right thing as often as possible and then at times measuring our progress?
How much weight might we lose? How much better might we feel? How much more fulfilled might we be with ourselves, with our career and with our relationships?
I understand and acknowledge that this is no cure-all, as ‘doing right’ requires effort, sound judgment and commitment (among many other things). But this year, for me at least, it’s my only resolution.
I’m committing next year to do the right thing, for myself and for others as often as I can. I’ll let you know how it goes.