It is the start of a new year and so we are all besieged by advice about how to make resolutions, spark change, and live renewed lives. Frankly, I find most of this kind of advice trivial and inconsequential. However, there are a few steps I take at the start of each new year that lead to genuine change, and I want to offer them to you now.
First, I make an enemies list. I know this sounds very snarling and dark, but we all have people in our lives who would hurt us if they could or who have hurt us when they had opportunity. This is the definition of an enemy—someone who will hurt you if they can. I make a list so I can face the damage done and—since I’m a Christian—so I can forgive them, pray for them, and reconcile with them if possible. What I don’t want is what psychologists call a “negative active past”—a negative past that is affecting me daily without me realizing it. I face the hurtful past, I try to change it, but even if I can’t I still devote myself to shutting down its negative impact upon me. Yes, I have an enemies list—and having it and using it has made me better.
Second, I ask some courageous souls around me to say anything they need to say to make me better. I do this anew at the start of each year. I know I don’t see myself clearly and therefore I can’t define my life alone. I believe that a man who is self-defined is defined by a fool. I need the perspective of others or I’ll be condemned to my own limited perspective. So, I enlist help. I pull down walls. I commission people who aren’t afraid of me or dependent upon me to say what needs to be said for me to be the best I can be. Nothing has brought change in my life like this has.
Third, I offload dead weight. I give away stuff that has accumulated around me physically, and I cut the unnecessary from my schedule and commitments. I clean house in most every way. Then, I stand guard at the door of my life to make sure the space I’ve cleared doesn’t get filled up with more unproductive, unhelpful, and non-essential stuff. It is freeing. It’s preparation for upgrade. It fine tunes my sense of what belongs and what doesn’t. This helps me make better decisions in the year to come.
Finally, I do in-depth check-ins with those around me—my wife, my kids, my team, my friends. I make sure I don’t assume all is well. I make sure I’m not living in mediocrity when excellence is within reach. I want the best for all these relationships and for all that I do. The start of a new year is a good time for scheduling these conversations.
That’s it. You may have some other steps you take at the start of every new year and I’d love to hear about them. These four steps help me dispel the fluff and the clouds of self-deception. They help me make meaningful changes that nearly always lead to more effective, more enjoyable living. Join me in this.