It is time again to reflect on the past year and resolve to be better with new, inspirational goals for the coming year. Personally, I think making resolutions is important, but because we often fail at following through, this is also a time when we see ample advice on how to make easier and more achievable resolutions that will stick.
To this, I say hogwash and offer you a message that will make you uncomfortable. If you do not use this particular moment to make a serious effort to better yourself in the coming year, you are hurting yourself. Now, hear me out.
If you are tuned into business news (you are here, which tells me you are), you see the exciting things happening in business. Technology is reshaping business, new inventions are creating incredible opportunities, and entire industries are being disrupted.
I just returned from a long, working trip in China, where I saw firsthand how Chinese businesses and youth are not only embracing and integrating new innovations throughout society, they are also putting tremendous effort toward leading the next generation of innovations.
And whether you believe these innovations are good, bad or ugly, it is what it is, and they are not sitting on the sidelines waiting for you to accept them.
All of this is to say that in order to stay relevant, you need to set more challenging goals and take a proactive approach to achieving them. And there is no better time than a brand new decade to push yourself a little harder.
So while specific goals are really up to you, here are a few tips to make progress toward your challenging resolutions.
Take Control of Your Agency
The idea of "agency" has a few interpretations, but generally speaking it means focusing on only those things that are in your realm of control. All too often we get wrapped up in things we cannot control, such as traffic, the weather, and world news. More harmful is how we are consumed with the lives of others, and the widespread adoption and addiction to social media is only compounding this problem.
This year, stop comparing yourself to others. Delete social media apps from your phone and instead reach for a book or listen to a podcast when you have a break. Too scary? Try at least putting social media apps in a folder and moving them away from your home screen. And instead of checking up on your network on social media, which is lying to you anyway, just call and talk to them.
Yes, you can do this, and while it will be uncomfortable, you will not regret it.
Learn New Things
In the past, we could rely on a college degree to get us through a reasonably long career. Today, however, the cost of university is rising, creating a much lower return on investment and in some cases making it not worth it at all. Moreover, as industries evolve, many of the jobs we learn about today will be irrelevant in a few short years.
The simple truth is that if you are not learning new skills for the future, someone else is.
This is why it is important to set aside meaningful time to learn. For your listening pleasure, there is no shortage of podcasts, from business to creativity to innovation, to at least keep you informed of the relevant and important topics of the day.
More important, try reading more. There is plenty of evidence that supports the fact that reading is good for you, and while it may seem obvious, I am shocked at how many people (including myself) do not read more.
To challenge yourself, join me in the 50 book challenge this year. Many business leaders regularly consume as many books every year, and it is not as difficult as you may think. Get a library card (so you don't have to buy books), set a reading list (include fiction), and swap 30 of the 53 minutes you spend daily on Instagram with reading.
Block Time with 30-Day Goals
One of the most transformational things I did this past year is follow the advice of fellow Inc columnist, Amy Morin, who often writes about setting 30-day goals. Setting incremental, 30-day goals is much less intimidating and has helped me make progress toward longer, more meaningful goals that often get sidelined for short-term, reactionary issues.
Lastly, I have become a strong proponent of blocking time, or the practice of breaking your schedule into small blocks of time to manage your day. The most important part of this practice is dedicating time each day to work on your long term or 30-day goals. This time is not "free" time to fill with emergency meetings or phone calls, but rather time that is only available for goal achieving.
It has never been more important to challenge yourself, and a new decade is a great and exciting time to do so. Once you apply the tips and mindset herein, you can make the improvements you want and need in order to stay relevant in the years to come.