Setting Your Focus For the New Year

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Here we are—the first day of the new year. A fresh start. The next 365 days are yours for the taking.

It's tradition to make resolutions on January 1st (if you already have, you're awesome), but for me, setting a focus for the new year has always been more fruitful. It gives us more room to flex, experiment and grow compared to the binary of whether you did or didn't do something you resolved to do.

To help you set your focus for the year, I wanted to share my personal New Year's tradition. Even if your resolution is already set, this exercise can help make it more concrete and achievable.

Step 1: Find two pieces of paper and a pen.
Notecards or pieces of paper that size or smaller work well for this. Nothing fancy needed—a standard Post-it or two pieces of scratch paper are totally fine. 

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Step 2: On the first piece of paper, write down something you want to leave behind with the previous year.
Having a clear focus for 2018 means knowing what not to focus on—AKA getting rid of the baggage and the bullshit from the previous year. Think about things that held you back, drained you, or made you feel less than. Examples: A fear that got in the way, a rough period you went through, a bad habit, cynicism over the state of the world, not landing a particular job, a relationship that's not serving you. 

Step 3: On the second piece of paper, write something you want to focus on this year.
It's tempting to want to improve ourselves in a lot of areas (new year, new you!). But the reality is we have a limited amount of will power and discipline to tap into to bring about change in ourselves, and having too broad a focus will leave you feeling scattered and overwhelmed. So be as specific as possible when defining your focus. Be realistic and prioritize the most important thing you want to work on this year, whether it's a defined goal or an aspect of yourself. Break down more intangible focuses (like "be more mindful") into concrete actions you can measure (ex. "journal every Sunday night" or "keep phone in pocket/bag when eating").

Step 4: Destroy the first piece of paper.
Our method of choice is burning it (Safely! We don't need any more fires!), but you can also put it through a shredder, flush it down the toilet, or any other creative destruction technique you come up with. The point is to actually destroy the piece of paper as a symbol of letting go whatever's written on it. 

  Image by  Lauren Rauch

Image by Lauren Rauch

Step 5: Keep the second piece of paper somewhere you can see it throughout the year.
My favorite place is in my wallet, because I rediscover it every couple of months and am reminded of my focus. You could also pin it to an inspiration board above your desk, or tape it to the inside cover of your 2018 planner. Or get really fancy and email it to yourself throughout the year using Boomerang.

Making your focus physical on a piece of paper will give it greater weight, and keep it on your mind throughout the year. Because resolutions and goals aren't a one-and-done deal—they're things we need to think and act on every day, a little bit at a time. 

Start this year excited, energized, and focused. You don't know it yet, but this year will be your best year yet. 

You got this,
Natalie