It’s so curious how we spend the last weeks of the year in a sugar-plum-induced family frenzy of parties and holiday sweaters, and expect to walk into our lives on January 1 ready to drill down and get things done.

To get our minds focused back on what the year holds in store for us we make these shoulds-posing-as-resolutions and order all kinds of shiny productivity tools and smile at the future coming toward us. Then February rolls around and we glance sideways at our list and hope nobody’s looking over our shoulders.

Straight out, resolutions are dangerous little dragons because we humans need meaning. We need a resonant, compelling context for any goal, wish, or dream to have a shot at making it into our everyday schedule.

Wait, Come a Little Closer…
So let’s say we’ve teased out a few New Year’s Resolutions by now, and ordered some shiny new gadgets and calendars for 2009. What’s to keep the litany of familiar patterns from grabbing us by the heels as we reach toward our resolutions?

Too many high maintenance friends…loathing the 8-to-5…missing appointments…too much laundry…no time for family…forgetting to back up the laptop.

Those perfectly reasonable sources of frustration provide cover for something deeper. If we look inside the window to our soul and listen, this string of buried refrains actually kills countless plans and goals for getting things done and becoming the high priest[ess] of accomplishment and joy—because we keep avoiding what we really, really want most.

We Already Know This Stuff
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to go back to school, get a law degree and work in the social justice field. Every year you resolve to put it on your list, apply to schools and set a start date. And then life happens—a broken arm, a big new client, something—and you set your lifelong dream aside yet again. It’s too much. Too costly. Ridiculous, actually.

We already know who we are and what we’re passionate about. We can do all the soul searching and personality tests into infinity, yet they somehow keep pointing to the same things. The longer we dismiss what we already know, no matter what productivity gadget we employ, or how many nannies and assistants we hire, the louder the buried refrain will get. Even though we think it’s the report, or the big meeting that’s keeping us up twisting in our sheets at night, it’s everything we’ve been meaning to do and desiring most that does it. Not your crazy schedule and the soccer-momming and the endless board meetings.

We humans can tolerate just about any circumstance when we’re truly committed to our highest purpose. When we actually give our dreams a committed shot at landing on our everyday schedule, we can tolerate busyness and life at high speed.

Goal Setting from the Inside Out in 2009
Truth? No matter how much we want to get things done, what we really want is a life that matters. We want the chain of endless doings to add up to something meaningful at the end of the day. So, take a look back at your calendar in any given week for 2008 and ask yourself two questions:

  1. “What’s most important to me?”
  2. “What values did I honor?”

The information you gather by answering those questions will help you percolate what’s next. Declarations.

Create Context and Meaning with Declarations
To give your resolutions or goals heart and soul, take a look at what you most deeply value in each of the four life areas: Life’s Work, Relationships, Personal Wellbeing and Financial Development. Next to each area, you’ll have words like joy, integrity, leadership, and service, and you’ll use these words to craft your declarations.

Declarations are timeless statements of purpose in the present tense designed to create ongoing quality of life shifts. Much like a mission statement, declarations stem from who you are and what you value, and point to your vision. They may sound bold and completely outrageous, perhaps even a little wild—but not impossible.

You’ll know you’re on track if your declarations make you want to cry or scream or jump up and down. (Go ahead, we’ll wait.) Declarations also act as your truing mechanism when you forget who you are and what you’re up to. Or when your busyness has no connection to what you value. Or when you’ve been saying yes way too much.

Practically speaking, declarations inform your goals, not the other way around. So, once you’ve finished your declarations, listing your top goal in each area (that’s right, just one) should come easily and organically.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

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