In the stampede to set New Year’s resolutions, our natural tendency is to zero in on the areas of our lives that have been dragging us down or driving us nuts. The usual suspects shuffle into the annual lineup for a quick once-over.
Yep, they’re all here: Lose some weight, get in shape, improve finances, stop smoking, reduce stress, find a better job, get organized and so on.
It’s not that these aren’t all worthy objectives, it’s just that when they’re stacked up like that, they read like a big, somewhat superficial list of what we feel is wrong with us or with our lives. And thus, it’s not a terribly inspiring list to contemplate.
That’s too bad, because without some contemplation, very little is likely to get done. Or a whole lot will get done, but it won’t be the stuff that matters most.
What works better, I find, is to round up the usual suspects — since a lot them have been trying for years to get our attention anyway — but to then sit each one down in turn for a deeper conversation.
Imagine that instead of reviewing a lineup of all the things you’re unhappy with, you’re interviewing candidates for a really great, important job — the job of improving your life. Really, of course, you’ll be interviewing various parts of yourself, gauging your own willingness, readiness and reasons to embrace change.
“Thanks for applying for this opportunity as a major force for change in my life,” you might say. “Now, I’d like to ask you a few questions: What makes you interested in doing this job? Why does it matter to you — what are the personal values it fulfills? What’s your long-term vision for how things will change if we’re successful? What are the first steps and small daily changes you’d like to begin with? What strengths will you bring to the job? What obstacles do you think you might encounter? And what kind of direction, new skills or support will you need in order to succeed?”
This may sound a little crazy, but if you actually take the time to complete this sort of interview, and to write down the answers, you will probably be amazed at how much you discover.
You’ll find that some goal-candidates are self-starters, full of enthusiasm and good ideas — while others are lackluster foot-draggers, disinclined to get started anytime soon. They either can’t summon the energy to make much progress, or simply aren’t quite ready to grab the fast-track opportunity you’re offering them.
Personally, I prefer to take on candidates I’m genuinely excited to work with — those goals and resolutions that not only come with plenty of good interview answers, but that get me so jazzed about their potential rewards that I want to roll up my sleeves and start working with them today.
I also prefer to focus on big goals that align powerfully with my overarching sense of purpose, my instincts about what I most want to do with my life. That’s important, because if a resolution doesn’t sync with your deepest, most abiding sense of direction, its prospects for long-term survival aren’t good.
As I shared in my last column (“Pushing the Envelope,” December 2010), I spent much of 2010 taking on goals important enough to me that I’ll be carrying most of them forward into 2011. Many of these objectives come out of an enduring desire I have to help lots of people (including me) live healthier, happier lives, and to help make the world a better, healthier place.
In the realm of my personal life, that means participating in a number of Leadville races — super-intense competitive athletic events that will undoubtedly challenge my physical limits, and motivate me to stick to a solid training and clean-eating nutrition regimen.
In the realm of business, it means doing everything I can to make Life Time the ultimate Healthy Way of Life Company — one that brings together all the resources people need to discover their healthy passions, pursue their healthy interests and achieve the healthy goals that matter most to them.
I’ll close with a thought that runs through this entire issue of Experience Life: No matter what your goals, no matter what your personal or professional ambitions, making a conscious choice to change your life is an incredibly empowering — and incredibly challenging — thing to do. So once you’ve interviewed and “hired” the right resolutions, go ahead and take bold steps. But also take your time, and take pleasure in the process. You’ve got a whole new year stretching out ahead of you.
Bahram Akradi is the founder and CEO of Life Time Fitness.