As one year ends and another begins, many of us won’t help but reflect on who we are and who we’d like to become.
Most people aiming to emulate their ideal selves will resort to New Year’s resolutions—but more often than not, those are doomed to fail.
Goal setting and visualization alone just aren’t sufficient methods for changing behavior.
However, there is another way. As we embark on a journey of introspection and self-reflection, we should instead reassess our values for the coming year.
That, in turn, will affect how we spend our most precious resources: our attention and our time.
Values are attributes of the person we want to be.
Being an honest person, a good listener, and a dedicated friend or partner are all examples of values.
When we reexamine our values, we can better figure out how to spend our time becoming our ideal selves. We’ll be more likely to become that person than if we rely on New Year’s resolutions alone.
Examine Your Existing Values
Make a list of your values for this past year. What values did you focus on?
Or, think about it this way: On which domains of your life did you spend the most time?
It’s helpful to break up your life into three domains: work, relationships, and yourself. Then you can categorize your values into these domains, creating an outline of where you spend your time.
As you list your values of the past year, it’s important to note the difference between values and just things we care about, such as financial security or recognition at work.
As attributes, true values are things that cannot be taken away from you. Financial security can be taken away from you—but not your honesty.
Now, to assess those values, write down your answers to these questions:
- Have your values helped you become the person you want to be?
- Which values were a struggle to make time for, and why?
- Do you feel you successfully made time for your values, or do you need to reprioritize them?
- Which values were well-represented in your calendar, and which needed more time?
Choose Your Attributes for the Year Ahead
Our values may change year to year along with our vision of the person we want to be.
We also grow as people. Perhaps you did a great job of emulating the attributes of your ideal self—well done!—and are now ready to focus on expanding your values in the coming year.
Take the time to think about how your values might have changed.
On the other hand, some values, such as being healthy or being a loving parent, may always be values you need to make time for.
Based on your self-reflection, which values will you hold in the next year? Once we name the values we want, we can use them as guides to navigate our life choices.
Here are 20 common values to consider to get you started.
Make Time for Who You Want to Be
When we don’t make time for our values, we unintentionally spend too much time in one domain of our lives at the expense of others.
If we chronically neglect our values, we become someone we’re not proud of, and our lives feel unbalanced and diminished.
Instead, we can plan days that help us become an authentic reflection of the person we want to be using one of the most effective methods for getting things done: timeboxing.
Timeboxing uses a well-researched technique psychologists call “setting an implementation intention,” which is a fancy way of saying, “deciding what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.”
Here’s how it works.
Now that you’ve identified your values, you have to make sure they are represented in your calendar.
First, turn your values into time by asking yourself how much time in each life domain would allow me to be consistent with my values.
If you relied on a timeboxed calendar this past year, consider how you might adjust your calendar to better reflect your values.
Then, plot that time into a weekly calendar template to create your perfect week.
The goal is to eliminate all white space on your calendar so you’re left with a template for how you intend to spend your time each day.
Reassessing your values and making time for them is one of the best things you can do to make sure you stay motivated and indistractable after the New Year.
If you adhere to your values-based, timeboxed calendar, then by this time next year, you’ll be able to look back and feel content with how you turned your values into time.
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