The last few days of the year (the procrastinators among us hold off until the first week of January) is the time when most people sit down to formulate their New Year's Resolutions. I think the reason this beginning-of-year activity is so popular is that we are a nation that loves the "do over."
We fancy the idea that in one relatively short time span (a week, a day) we can raise the magic wand of declaration and erase the past year's mistakes with its missed opportunities and make a fresh start. It's the kind of feeling we get from putting on a clean white shirt, or opening a new box of Kleenex, or unwrapping an unused sponge for the sink and throwing away the grimy old one.
As we roll into January, I have been reflecting (in between shopping, cooking, planning, and partying) on my past resolutions of 2008 and my goals for 2009. To start, I sat down yesterday to review the goals I had set for myself with such good cheer and optimism in that first week of January, a mere twelve months ago.
Perhaps it's twenty-five plus years as a management consultant, or all that time I have spent leading time management courses, or just my natural obsessively organized personality, but I always write down my goals and list them under subheadings by category - body/health, marriage, finance, family, creativity, etc.
The interesting thing is that the goals from the current year often bear a striking similarity to the goals from the previous one. The same desires appear, year after year, like flowers that bloom every spring from long-dormant bulbs. They have been hibernating, storing energy, and every year around this time are ready to spring forth with a fresh bunch of flowers, yet are still part of the same old plant.
Among other things, my yearly blooms always seem to include fitness, career, money and love. Doesn't everyone's? The fact that each fresh crop of resolutions is a slight variation on the same theme does not stop me from making them. I keep coming back for more.
Looking back, it's actually been a pretty good year. I've achieved, if not all my goals, enough progress on them to make me feel like a productive member of my own life. I did write that series of books, sing in that play and start that exercise program.
As for the goals that I did not achieve in 2008, I have come to realize that some (i.e., run a marathon) were just good ideas, never meant to move beyond the page to the real world of action. To others, I gave my best shot (lose twenty pounds) and fell short (I lost nine).
Thankfully, this coming week is officially New Year's Resolution week, so I can declare a "do over," wipe the slate clean, and start again, bringing a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to my "new" goals, even if they happen to look an awful lot like the old ones.
Karen Leland is author of the recently released books Time Management In An Instant. She is the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group. For questions, comments or to book Karen to speak at your next event, please e-mail email@example.com.