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Of all the resolutions you’ve made over the years, how much of that list has consisted of goals you’re deliberately not going to work towards? Oddly enough, that was the crux of my own 2018 resolutions-setting process. Let me explain…

If you’re anything like me, goal-setting – New Year’s or otherwise – has always been about what you can add to your personal and professional plate, and about setting resolutions in terms of “more.” I’ll read more books this year, organize my files more, travel more, eat at home more, practice Spanish more, exercise more, be more successful, have more discipline.

In the spirit of personal improvement, our thinking naturally goes to what we can actively do to better our lives. After all, effecting any kind of positive change requires actively working towards it. But what if we briefly flipped the script and thought about how we can also create positive change from a different angle – by taking some of our resolutions off our plates, both mentally and in practice?

LOOKING BACK

I’ve heard many people – some with whom I’m very close and some of whom are virtual strangers – say that 2017 was the most difficult year of their life. That’s most definitely the case for me too. It was a year of gigantic personal and professional transitions, and I stepped far outside my comfort zone to make bolder leaps than I’ve ever made before in my career or my personal development. In doing so, I’ve experienced incredible blessings, which I count often and dwell on with gratitude. However, my 2017 was also marked by a good deal of personal pain, confusion, struggle, sickness and sadness in my life. The Bible tells us that God won’t allow us to be tested beyond what we can bear, but to be totally honest, 2017 sometimes had me thinking, “Um, Father? I think you might have the wrong person on this particular test!”

The ending of a year doesn’t mean that the door magically closes on all the struggles I experienced, but it does mean that I have an opportunity to re-set and re-focus – to decide how I want myself and my life to improve going forward, and to determine the things I am able to influence at home, at work and in my community to grow in that direction.

LOOKING FORWARD

There’s a saying I love that kept coming to mind when I was thinking through what I wanted this next turning of the corner from 2017 to 2018 to look like. I’ve heard various versions, but it basically goes like this: Sometimes, you have to let something go to gain something else. I don’t know about you, but I 100% believe that. When our arms are full of all the goals, activities and responsibilities we’ve accumulated for ourselves over time and are still holding on to, it can leave little capacity for us to reach for new things.

When it comes to New Year’s goal-setting, I have the tendency to continually look for the “next level” in every aspect. If I set out to exercise 4 times per week last year, I should meet or exceed that this year, right? If I attended 10 networking events last year, I should make that 20 this year, right? If I never made it through any of my Whole 30 attempts last year, I need to try it again this year so I can finally check it off the list…right?

There were all kinds of worthy candidates to consider for my list of 2018 goals – positive, healthy and ambitious habits and aspirations. But which goals truly deserved a big place on my plate this year, and which goals were just taking up space that I need for other things?

To answer that question, I did what I always do when I need to sort something out…I made lists!

WHAT DIDN’T MAKE MY PLATE

First, I wrote down the things I felt were the most important priorities at this point in my life – the standard “do more of these things” list of resolutions. I noticed 2 major themes on my list. The first was that I clearly needed to prioritize my physical, mental, spiritual and relational health and wellbeing. The second was that I had some very ambitious goals for my role at work and wanted to hit quite substantial metrics.

What jumped out at me even more, however, were all the things that were not on the list. Missing were many of the regulars I’d typically believe to be critical to me feeling accomplished – goals that center on hobbies, fitness, routine, academics, diet, etc.

So, I made a second list, this time of all the goals I would traditionally resolve to accomplish, but that somehow hadn’t reached the threshold of importance to make my first list. I figured that if I was going to successfully shift my focus to what demands my attention in 2018, I should probably be equally intentional about what I was no longer going to focus on.

When I finished the second list, I realized it consisted mostly of practices and mentalities that I’ll always maintain to some extent – mostly because they are good things. However, this year I’ve taken them off my plate. By that, I mean that I’ve removed the weight of having a specific or quantifiable goal to measure myself against.

For example, I have exactly zero dietary goals – no cleanses, restrictions or rules are on my plate (no pun intended!). Instead, I just plan to make healthy choices and eat the foods my body needs and craves. I also haven’t determined a magic number of days per week I’ll exercise, nor have I set forth a specific fitness regimen or routine. Instead, I plan to move naturally and stay active in ways that make me feel energized and restored rather than ways that make me feel depleted. Although I’ll undoubtedly end up reading many books this year, I haven’t set a number or a specific list to check off. Instead, I’ll simply continue to participate in a book club, but for the community of good women it provides – something that is on my plate.

What can you take off your own plate? It could be nixing the goal to visit 3 new countries by the end of the year, because 2018 is the year for career to take the front seat. It could be not resolving to work a longer workweek, because the nurturing of home and family needs to have a bigger place on the plate this year.

Whatever those things are, consider the list of things you can take off your plate with just as much intention as the list of things you are adding to it in 2018.

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AUTHOR: Tamara Phillips
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