This Year’s Compass
Your current and future identities are shaped by your habits
It has become quite popular to criticise New Year resolutions rather than make them. I get it. Resolutions can be superficial and have a high potential to make you feel worse when goals are left unmet.
Saying that, I enjoy the reset of the New Year, especially the reflection part. It is a great time to take stock, exhale and remember the pivotal moments and accomplishments on macro and micro levels. I do the Year Compass every year.
Looking back helps root you in a place, gives you strength in a real way that is founded in truths and discoveries. It also makes you pause. Too often we are sprinting to some end, too focused on the goal to take notice of the victories along the way.
and famously said,
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Read it again.
At first glance, it sounds like one of those confusingly obvious statements. Trust me though, it is gold and it has changed the way I think about setting goals, establishing habits and any New Year’s resolutions.
I understand how your habits are perfectly designed to deliver the results (or indeed life) that you have right now. It is a somewhat uncomfortable realisation, but it makes sense. Albeit, there is sometimes luck at play—both good and bad that can impact on your life too. Yet, for the most part, each habit we have is a step towards an outcome. Knowing something and being able to change are two very different things. Understanding that you want to build a system is revolutionary to me. The focus is not just on completing goals and that is where habits come into their own.
“Habits are a compound interest of self improvement.” James Clear
First you start with identifying the type of identity you want to have. For example, I want to be a calm and confident person. What does a calm and confident person do? What are the systems in place to support me? This is commitment to the process more than the goals. Goals can make you feel bad but a commitment to the person you want to be is more real.
I can ask myself “What would a calm and confident person do right now?” and find habits to support that. This is different than to set the goal of mediating for 30 minutes everyday. Because the focus is different, it feels different to me.
And you can be happy with yourself right now and want to keep growing.
“You must love the thing you want to change.” Jung
Looking through a pandemic lens- we have become different people
What does that mean in terms of identity and resolutions? The same pandemic has unequally impacted us, yet impacted us all in many of the same ways.
I have only begun to understand the impacts of the past couple of years. We are still in the mess of it so seeing all of the cracks is impossible.
In September 2020, the British Academy was asked by the Government Office for Science to produce an independent review to address the question: What are the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19?
” As history has shown us, the effects of a pandemic are as much social, cultural and economic as they are about medicine and health. Our aim has been to deliver an integrated view across these areas to start understanding the long-term impacts and how we address them. Our evidence review – in our companion report, The COVID decade – concluded that there are nine interconnected areas of long-term societal impact arising from the pandemic which could play out over the coming COVID decade, ranging from the rising importance of local communities, to exacerbated inequalities and a renewed awareness of education and skills in an uncertain economic climate.”- The British Academy
I feel overwhelmed when I think about all the unknowns. The only comfort I can scrape up is in how priorities and productivity feels different. We are more grateful for the small moments; like seeing a friend, going for a walk or having a great conversation. The productivity obsession has also declined, at least in my world.
I am holding on to the wisdom that vulnerability is the acceptance of imperfection coupled with the willingness to be flexible. This affirms the thinking that brokenness comes from inflexibility not vulnerability. I am also going to approach my resolutions differently. Who do I want to become and what would that person do regularly? The habits are steps towards the identity not an arbitrary goal destined to be too hard or never achieved.
So 2022, whatcha got? I am going to build great systems to create the best year I can.
So take that.