Making New Year’s Resolutions:  Start with a Vision of Your “Future Me”

As the New Year approaches, people say things like, “My resolution is to be better at everything in this New Year.” “I’ll lose weight.” “I’ll go to the gym three times a week.” “I’ll network more.” Such New Year’s resolutions, while well-intended, don’t seem to be very effective and are often quickly abandoned. The list of resolutions above looks like a list of action plans, but action plans for what purpose?

There’s a different approach to making resolutions that I have found to be extremely effective for my career, and my life in general. Perhaps it will work for you. Instead of starting with your New Year’s resolutions, I recommend starting with a vision of your “future me” – a vision you can then use to develop this year’s New Year’s resolutions.

Your Future Me

Rather than developing this “future me” vision for the end of this New Year, I recommend thinking 5, 10 and perhaps even 25 years out. What would you like your life to look like then? Do you see yourself moving up the corporate ladder in your company, changing employers or locations, moving onto a totally different career path in a new function or industry, or perhaps starting your own business?  While your vision should reflect your likes and strengths, this is the time to stretch and dream.

What Do You Want Your Life To Look Like?

When I first developed my vision of the “future me”, I was a senior middle manager in a major corporation, was tired of moving every few years and wanted more balance in my life. I wrote a personal essay defining my vision of what I wanted my life to look like. My vision was 15 years out and included changing my lifestyle, my location and my career. I envisioned myself as a professor/researcher/writer working from home in my glorious yard overlooking the ocean. This vision was initially less defined and was not one I could implement quickly. I needed a doctoral degree as a starter, and I didn’t live near the ocean. Don’t be concerned if your vision of the “future me” is bit fuzzy at first.  Life happens, and it’s difficult to envision a future in an unfamiliar new world. Your vision will likely evolve.

The Ingredients to Your Future Me

You’ll likely find there are many steps you need to take to make your “future me” a reality.  What additional degrees or skills will you need? In addition to new skills, you’ll need people to help you accomplish your vision. Do you know any people who are living your vision now?  Perhaps they’ll be willing to share the process they followed. This might be a good year to begin to identify new networks to cultivate or new ways to volunteer that will help you develop relationships with people in your future world. You might even begin to identify mentors or sponsors who can help you achieve your vision.

Once you have a vision of your “future me” and have identified the major gaps between “current me” and “future me,” it’s then time to develop your New Year’s resolutions, your first year’s action plans and your first steps towards achieving your emerging vision. How will you begin to fill one of the skill gaps you identified?  How will you begin to cultivate new relationships?  As you consider your resolutions and as you make decisions throughout the year, consciously ask yourself “Will this action help me accomplish my vision?” If not, decide no, unless there is another very powerful reason for deciding otherwise.

Happy visioning, and may you keep your New Year’s resolutions this year.

 This guest post was authored by Dr. Lynne E. Devnew

Lynne E. Devnew is an associate faculty member within the University of Phoenix doctoral program, is a distinguished research fellow, and chairs the Women and Leadership Research Group at University of Phoenix. A former senior middle manager at IBM, she has a DBA in strategy from the Questrom School, Boston University.  She is also a graduate of Columbia University in New York City and Simmons College in Boston. Dr. Devnew’s research work and publications are focused on women’s leadership aspirations and leader identity development and women on boards of directors. She lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts and serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations.

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