A-minus

When you reflect on this past year, what will be your biggest takeaway? Will you remember it positively and think back on all your accomplishments, little adventures and friendships old and new? Or, will you embrace 2016 as the lump of coal, grimy, full of soul-chrushing deaths (Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Michael, Fisher…) and encased with entirely too much trumped up hot air?

As long as you can learn and grow from past experiences, good or bad, there is no wrong way to think about the year that was. That said, there is a right way to look at the year that will be. Sure the grass isn’t always greener, but the future is always filled with promise and possibility. Maybe you will write that book, or take that trip, or lose that weight, or embrace that scary new challenge. Who knows! The future is wholly unpredictable, as both the Chicago Cubs and the next U.S. President clearly illustrate, so embrace it.

What you can predict, or at least have some semblance of control over, is how you prepare for and adapt to the future. Every year is different; the only constant is change. Even if you stay in the same job in the same place hanging out with the same people, your 2017 will be radically different than your 2016. Even if all the new changes in your life are small and seem insignificant, they will impact you. It is important to remain open to change, since change is inevitable.

A new year is a perfect time to set goals. Sure, nothing dramatically changes between December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017, but it could. You could treat the new year as an opportunity to implement positive changes with a good attitude. Set yourself up to succeed. Set achievable goals, however small, that will inspire you to be your best self, or at least a better self. There is nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

Goals, or resolutions if you will, can come in many shapes and sizes. The good news is that you control every aspect of what you want to achieve. If you want to read more, set a goal of reading a certain number of books. If you want to lose weight, pick an attainable number that will drive, not derail, you. If you want to travel more, be specific and pick a new state or country and actually plan ahead. If you want to run more, as I did and still want to, set a goal. For example, in 2016 I made running a total of 366 miles – for the number of days in the year (Leap Year!) – my goal. I was able to reach this goal through hard work and dedication, but also by creating a running spreadsheet on Google Drive and inviting others to join me. This social connection was truly vital in keeping me always pushing forward. Whatever tangible goals you set, the great thing is that you have the power to decide what you want to do and how you want to do it.

For many, setting specific goals can be helpful, but for others it can be scary and intimidating, and ultimately crushingly defeating. So, why not try another way to set goals for the new year and pick a word or theme for the year that can serve as a guiding light in the new year. This word can direct your thinking and push you forever forward, or can serve as a crutch that steadies you in moments of weakness. For example, my word for 2016 was experiment, which for me was intended to push me to continually try new things or ways of doing things. This “word anchor” truly helped me in my thinking and approach to life, both in real life and digitally, as I always sought out new ways to experiment. There are many great words or themes to choose from, like empathy or risk or balance, but the choice is yours. One-word resolutions can be quite powerful, so choose wisely!

Personally, I like both approaches. I find it helpful to set tangible goals and to choose a word. I put a lot of thought into what my tangible goals for next year will be, including analyzing how I did in 2016 such as writing 12 blogs, reading 12 books or running 366 miles. So, after much consideration, here are my tangible resolutions for 2017.

  1. Run 517 Miles. This may seem unrealistic or unattainable, but based on surpassing 366 miles run in 2016, I feel like 517 is doable. It won’t be easy, but it is doable.
  2. Run 7 Races. This goal in part sets up my first, and based on running 5 races last year, it is a small addition. Within these 7 races, at least one has to be a half-marathon and no more than 5 can be 5Ks.
  3. Read 17 Books. My goal last year was to read 12 books, or one a month, and I hit 15. So, my goal is to hit 17 books. The only stipulations are that one of the books has to be nonfiction and that these are all real books, i.e. not short “cheating” books.
  4. Write 17 Blogs. Similar to books, my goal last year was to write 12 blogs, and with this very blog it is exactly 12. My goal next year is to average more than one a month.
  5. Travel To One Country Outside the U.S.. Last year I went to Canada, which is a different country, but considering I live in New England, it isn’t that difficult. This year, I’d like to add at least two different countries, but my official goal is to travel to at least one other “non-Canada” country.
  6. Visit At Least Two “New” U.S. States. In addition to international travel goals, I also want to travel more in the country in which I live. Last year included trips to fun new states like Utah, as well as many other local-ish East Coast trips to states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and the New England states. This year I want to continue to travel throughout the U.S., with an unofficial goal of going back out West. Hello, Wyoming? Or hello again Oregon, Washington or California???
  7. A-minus. See below.

My word for this year is A-minus. I realize that this is a seemingly random word that connotes quasi-success, but here is why it is my word. I recently overheard teachers discussing what they called an “A-minus” student. I was curious what this meant so I asked for clarification. An A-minus student is essentially a bright student that always gets As, or A+s, without really having to try. However, when that student is actually challenged, instead of rising up to the challenge and putting in real work or effort, they rest on their laurels, as they say, and comfortably settle for an A-minus. A-minus students are afraid to really try, or really fail, so they never push themselves; they never risk.

My goal in choosing A-minus as my 2017 one-word resolution is that I anchor my thinking to this word, thereby serving as a constant reminder not to settle or become complacent. I want to be my best self, and to do that I need to actually try, which requires risking failure. A-minus is not good enough.

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