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Themes > Resolutions

If your resolutions fail you this year, try a theme instead. A theme is a simple word or phrase that captures what you want to see out of yourself.

A theme helps you steer as you move along the road of your life. You don’t steer all at once – steering is a series of little adjustments that you make as you go down the road. A theme serves the same purpose. As you live your year, think about your theme from time to time and steer accordingly.

Here are some guidelines to help you:

  • Have only one theme at a time. Maybe you set a theme for a year, or a season, but it is always one at a time.
  • A theme is not a goal. You can fail at a goal. You can’t fail at a theme. “Lose 50 pounds” is not a theme.
  • Keep your theme a little open-ended. It shouldn’t be too specific. “Fewer calories in” might be a good theme if that’s all you really care about this year, but it’s probably too specific. “Quality over quantity” might be a better theme and might be more broadly applicable to your life.
  • Avoid overused idioms. “Watch what you eat” might not be particularly useful. If it sounds tired when you say it in January, think of how tired it is going to sound in September.
  • A theme isn’t there to get you excited. It’s there to help you think. You may find that the luster quickly wears off of an exciting theme.
  • Avoid pithy sayings. You don’t want a theme like “You can do it!”. On the other hand, “Go for it!” might be a good theme for someone who is trying to break out of their shell and try new things. Only you know what makes sense for you.
  • Don’t force it. If you’re not satisfied with your theme, pick another one. You need your theme to stick with you all year long.
  • There is no wrong theme if it helps steer you where you want to go.

Themes are just one tool in the toolbox. I’ve had various levels of success with themes over the years. Some years they make more sense than others.

The first year I tried setting a theme, I went with “Commitment and Completion”. It made sense for that year. I knew I was getting married and starting a family. But I also knew I was having a hard time showing up places and completing things I’d set out to do. That theme reflected not only the change in my life but also an ongoing struggle to finish what I started. That year ended up being the best year of my life. Not only did the planned things happen, some wonderful unplanned things happened too, largely because I was showing up and following through more.

The next year I just couldn’t figure out a theme for myself. I tried to force it and eventually gave up. That’s just how it is. Some years I just can’t think of a theme that ties enough threads of my life together to be helpful. What’s great about a theme is that it either serves you or it doesn’t. It’s not a thing you fail at. And if you find one theme that serves you well one year, who is to say you can’t use that same theme again?

This year the theme I’m trying is “Capability”. What’s yours?

P.S. – Was this useful? If so, I have a product coming later this year focused on getting more out of yourself. Interested? Add your email here:

(I promise not to sell your email address or put a Zoltar-like curse on you or anything.)