The only New Year's Resolution I've ever managed to keep is the one where I gave up making New Year's resolutions, but I'm happy to report that one's still going strong.
Instead of doing what most people do every January and making "resolutions" that rarely end up being kept, I decided a few years ago to adopt a practice from a friend and instead choose annual "themes" to guide the year ahead. The "theme" approach offers flexibility within a framework, which is something that historically has worked well for me.
I know last year was really difficult for a lot of people, but I had a relatively good year and I suspect a lot of that had to do with how successfully I focused on my themes.
My 2023 themes were "Program", "Persevere", and "Positive".
I obsessively programmed my life (to the point where many people would be terrified if I showed them the level of detail in my calendar), which not only gave me an effective way to plan my weeks but also the ability to look back on my calendar and see where I was able to make an impact and where I wasted time... and then adjust the following week accordingly.
I persevered in doing the work I needed to do to achieve my goals, even when not doing the work would have been preferable. To use one example, I'd have rather been in bed at 5:30 am every weekday morning than at my local gym, but on most weekdays last year, I was at the gym. This was not easy, but that makes sense: the definition of persevere is to "continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success". Easy isn't anywhere to be found in that definition.
And throughout it all, I did my very best to remain positive; I wasn't always successful, but I forced myself to start my day with optimism and that seemed to work.
How, you ask? At the very end of my post-workout shower each morning, I'd turn the faucet to its coldest setting and stay under the freezing water for 30-60 seconds. And as I stood there, I would say, out loud, "This is the worst thing that's going to happen to me today." I realize it sounds ridiculous, but when you're (literally) freezing your butt off in the morning, it really does feel like things can only get better from there... and on most days, they did.
Some of my "big wins" in 2023 were securing my first Fractional CMO assignment, publishing my first book (still available if you haven't yet got your copy and would like to support my writing endeavours), being invited as a guest on two podcasts, and focusing on my health (which helped me to build some muscle and lose over 40lbs). Not a bad year at all.
And because I believe my "three words" were a big part of my success, I'm going to repeat the exercise in 2024. Here are the words I've chosen to guide me over the next year.
I'm going to experiment more in 2024; with my writing, with my hobbies, and with the different ways I make a living. I don't expect everything I'm going to try will succeed, because if they did, it would mean I my experiments weren't bold enough. But I'm going to try a lot of new things and trust at least a few of them will.
I gained some great traction in 2023 and I intend to expand on that in the year ahead. I learned what's involved in publishing a book, for example, so I figure I may as well publish another one. The content I wrote helped me grow my subscriber count for my newsletter and my follower count on LinkedIn, and I'll continue to write and expand my audience. I want to expand everything in 2024. Well, except for my waistline. Which brings me to...
When you think of the word "exercise", you likely think of the first definition: "activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness."
Yes, I intend to get my oversized frame to the gym and exercise more often this year.
But it's about more than exercising my body; it's also about exercising my mind. In 2024, I'm also going to focus on the second definition of the word: "a process or activity carried out for a specific purpose, especially one concerned with a specified area or skill."
So I will exercise creativity and force myself out of my comfort zone. I will exercise my mind and become proficient in a new skill. I will exercise discipline, doing what I need to do even when I'd rather be doing something else. I will exercise my right to say "no" to things I don't want to do if those things don't serve my interests.
Those are my themes for 2024, and I want to use them to accomplish, among other things, the following this year: 1. Secure an additional Fractional CMO assignment;
2. Publish a second book;
3. Secure at least three paid speaking engagements, ideally to talk about my book;
4. Be invited as a guest on five Podcasts;
5. Start my own marketing podcast;
6. Write my 650th dpThoughts post (this is my 564th.. so I need to write 1.6 posts per week);
7. Become an advisor to one start-up (the first one I advised had a successful exit in 2023);
8. Secure an Adjunct Professor role with Schulich;
9. Lose 70lbs+ through even better diet, exercise, and sleep habits.
I'm sharing my themes and goals with you in the hopes you'll help me be accountable to them. And, perhaps, remember me if you hear of any opportunities that align with them.
And if you share your themes and goals with me, I'd be happy to return the favour.
P.S. That purple card you see in the photo is sitting on my desk right now, and will remain there all year to ensure my themes are top of mind every day; an identical card sits on my nightstand so my three words are the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep. I can hardly expect to make progress on my themes if I can't remember what they are, right?