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Set a theme for 2017 and rock the new year

My blank 2017 goal-setting planner.

Every year hundreds of thousands of people resolve to make the new year “my year.” Every year tens of thousands of people quit the gym after the first month.

Me too.

When I started my planning for this post, I thought I’d talk about SMART goals. I planned to say with authority how to best kick that smoking habit for good; how to cut out the foods both delicious and awful for us once and for all.

That is not what this post is about.

In my reading I’ve found the horrible truth that goal-setting for guaranteed success is a fallacy. Sometimes SMART goals can actually be pretty dumb, or at least impede success.

Then, I discovered something better.

Using this technique you’ll transform your New Year’s Resolution from a giant albatross into:

  1. A flexible strategy which won’t go stale after January.
  2. A unique to you “goal” and mantra for your year.
  3. A clear path to 100% success.

Yes, we’re going to make ourselves a theme for 2017.

Mine is going to be “abundant creativity.” Hold on for a minute so I can explain how I got to that.

Discover- don’t choose- your theme

When I’m not reporting news, DIY-ing, voice acting or blogging, I’m nursing several seedlings of novel ideas. I’ve committed one to paper (but it wasn’t particularly good in my opinion), but I’d like to revisit it and also channel what I’ve learned since then into a story. So, you can say I’m familiar with theme.

Writing on the back of a receipt because it’s classy.

My current favorite read on the craft, Writing Deep Scenes talks about theme as “thematic significance” which in the case of a novel ties the entire story together.

“It is the main thrust of your presentation and what you hope to prove through your story. The theme is the why: what you want your audience to take away after having read your story. The deeper meaning becomes the story’s thematic significance.”

Replace “story” with “year” and you get the gist.

So make a list of all the things you want to do this year. At left you can see mine:

  • Write a complete novel
  • Journal more
  • Save money
  • Simplify my life
  • Read 12+ books (I read more than 12 this year)
  • Take the next step in my career
  • Bring something new and exciting to The Honeydew (of course!)

Like Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld discuss in Writing Deep Scenes in chapter 13, go through your goals and expand them. What do they all (or most) have in common?

In surveying mine, I see a thread of creativity throughout. Even in the case of saving money– it might mean being creative or thrifty in meeting my needs to make that happen. My job itself is creative, but maybe it means taking a class or learning a new skill associated with my work. These are spokes on a wheel of my theme of creativity.

This theme creation allows flexibility, side-stepping the pitfalls of making firm SMART goals, which can be failed. Even if you don’t hit all your specific goals, chances are you will still speak to your year’s theme through conscious and unconscious effort. The flexibility of theme allows your needs and wants to evolve over time.

And, success breeds success. You’ll want to stick with it the more you stick with it.

What if I wanted to paint 16 paintings this year but halfway through #4 I decide I’d rather do cross-stitch? Being “abundantly creative” allows me the freedom to be just that!

For those of you with a very different list, here’s another example:

Hypothetical goal list:

  • Career change/get out of my dead-end job
  • Pay off student loans
  • Better manage anxiety and stress
  • Be more independent
  • Change my diet

This list I would give the theme of “take charge.” This is a list of concrete needs which have to do with empowerment and “owning” oneself.

Keep your list short (5-10 items) and seek a common denominator.

Ring in the new year with your 2017 theme! Give this technique a try and share your New Year’s theme in the comments!

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