How to Use Design Thinking for New Year's Resolutions

As I've shared before, I love planning, organizing, and setting goals.

So obviously I love the New Year and I love setting resolutions. I struggle with execution. The last couple of years I have gotten better at them, but I haven't made a real dent in the life I've dreamed up in my personal vision.

Last year, I used The Desire Map to set five Core Desired Feelings for the year: Connection, Awe, Strength, Pride, and Courage. Then I set some goals and committed to some actions that would allow me to feel those things. I really enjoyed The Desire Map and the process for setting and achieving intentions.

This year, I took elements from The Desire Map, Designing Your Life, and several other goal setting tools I've collected over the years. Here is what I focused on:


One quote from literature that I most strongly identify with is in Sylvia Path's The Bell Jar. She compares all of her passions, goals, and choices she has to make about life to a fig tree. The narrator sees each fig at the end of the branch as a different future:

"One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion." 

My heart hurt so much when I heard this quote being read by Aziz Ansari on his show "Master of None"; I read the book shortly after that. It completely encapsulated me. I've always been interested in so many things and I've never put 100% into one thing. Sometimes I want to have my own business but get sidetracked by my current job, while simultaneously feel a longing to be a travel writer, and secretly dream of a career in comedy. I love learning and I get bored easily, so it's always been hard for me to harness my energy and focus on one thing. There's not one thing I'm obsessed with. I'm REALLY into a bunch of stuff. I LOVE STUFF!!!

Over the years, I've learned to think of my enigmatic style as a disability. It's why I can't just focus and crush one thing. I was right, it was causing paralysis, but only because I let it.

The Bell Jar's protagonist continues: "I saw myself...starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Other people I know have trouble defining their goals because they do not feel called to one thing. They're often dissatisfied with their career because they don't feel strongly about one industry/job/career. Unsure of where to go, they don't make any moves; therefore, ensuring their misery. We're all just waiting to discover our one true calling and then "everything will fall into place" (Design Your Life).

This year, I'm not letting my scatter brain prevents me from taking action. I'm going to go for things, unsure of where it will take me or if I'll even like it.In 2018, I'm accepting that I'm passionate about a lot of things. As is most of the population. To use design thinking, "You don't need to know your passion in order to design a life you love" (Design Your Life).

I don't need to define one passion to make goals or do what I love. Instead of developing goals around "one true passion",  I spent a lot of time defining my values, figuring out how I want to show up to the world, and writing my personal vision, then creating action-oriented goals that allow all of that to line up. This type of reflection, or curiosity, is key in design thinking.

When setting my actual goals, I asked myself important questions about it. Ex: What would achieving this goal do for me? How will my life be different? What outcome am I looking for? Why do I want this goal? What are the benefits to me? I answered these questions to ensure that these goals really align with my values and vision. The clarity also makes it easier to plan.

Trust the Journey:

My biggest mistake in goal setting in the past, I would set goals that were too narrow and wide at the same time.

First, I'd decide on my lifelong goal; something that was very important to me. I knew it would be challenging and take a long time to accomplish. For example: Start my own business, which offers 1:1 coaching, events, blogging, podcasting. My next step was to create an elaborate project plan to get organized. Most likely a spreadsheet with dozens of line items, spanning from register business LLC, to create social media strategy, to develop partnerships with local businesses, to write the most perfect blog post ever. Now, I might not have told myself that I was going to accomplish that all in one year, but I outlined my entire journey before it began.

I'd list out everything I'd have to do to create my dream business, start to put things in order, and then suddenly stop. I'd tell myself that I got busy at work/school. But it's because I wasn't taking action. When you don't move, three things happen. First, boredom; planning can only be exciting for so long. At some point, you have to do shit to gain momentum. Second, I'd get overwhelmed at the same time. As boring as planning is, I was also overwhelmed by everything I'd have to do to be successful. Lastly, and my biggest downfall, doubt. When I wasn't creating, doing, moving, I'd have a lot of time to think. And in that idle time, doubt, insecurities, and fear would creep in. All of which creates the Shame Monster, which would tell me, "Who do you think you are, Stephanie? You can't actually do this. You're not (insert any number of terrible things we tell ourselves) enough. You never wanted this in the first place. Just eat tacos and drink too many IPAs - you love that." After being bored and overwhelmed, I'd listen to the Shame Monster and concede.

How I've designed my life in the past did not leave me much room to deviate but created a huge opportunity to stop going after it. In 2018, my goals are not so results oriented and I'm not creating long action plans. It's not that goals aren't challenging or lofty. I'm still keeping metrics; I guess the difference being they're in smaller chunks and the items are action-oriented. The goals itself are big, but I'm only planning 2-3 immediate action steps to make it happen. There was something unsettling about this at first. But I had to trust the journey.

When I trust the journey, I'm not laser-focused on the end result. Instead, I'm focused on doing things while accepting new things that come my way. If I find that I'm doing something I don't want to do or need to change, I can. I know there will be times that I fail or things that I don't end up liking, or find that something isn't the right time. That's life. Nothing works out exactly how we want. So why would I spend precious time and energy planning something that won't happen? It's much more beneficial to take a small chunk, try it out, and figure it out as I go.

In 2018, my goals are minimal. The least amount of work to get the maximum result. And I'll evolve as time goes by. This doesn't mean that I'm settling for less. It just means I'm doing more.