A new year often brings more than a glance to the future.
It gives us a chance for a fresh start.
The talk is often of resolutions for the year ahead. New commitments give us a renewed sense of focus after the year's climax.
For some, the end of the year also brings a chance to reflect and cast a critical eye on past events. It seems logical to use the achievements — and the failures — of the past year to define future commitments. But rather than wrap them up in time-honoured resolutions — which often default before they’ve begun — I prefer the use of one word to form my North Star.
A lodestar stops the need for detailed plans and gives a holistic framework to guide us throughout the year.
They all share the same logic of objectively assessing the year they’ve had. It defines their approach to the new year.
The key is to be objective. Unsurprisingly, I have some thoughts on how you can achieve this as you look for your lodestar.
Within Charlie Munger's book, Poor Charlie’s Almanack, one point comes across repeatedly.
Built on objectiveness, the latticework of mental models holds the information Charlie needs. Without that latticework, Charlie’s decisions would be ineffective.
They wouldn’t be objective — they wouldn’t be free from bias.
It is here the opportunity lies to enhance your critical thinking. In choosing a word to give direction to your actions over the coming year, you have to be objective about what has — and hasn’t — worked in the last twelve months.
Without objectivity, without facts, your past will appear in the best or worst setting your nature lets you.
Tim Ferriss offers a past year review which focuses on facts.
He takes a notepad and sets out two columns marked positive and negative. Then he reviews his diary and records which events triggered either sentiment. In preparing for the year ahead, Tim's objective is to do less of the negative and more of the positive.
A journal offers the same factual information to undertake this style of review.
Your memory, however, does not.
Memories change. Hindsight bias embraces the facts we like and conveniently forgets the realities we don't. If you don't, keep a journal — it is the best source of personal history you'll ever know.
What you have is the objectivity you need.
From my past year's view, I found several activities I considered to be opportunities. Surprisingly, most were in the negative column.
Everyone talks about shiny object syndrome, but for me, objects became opportunities. I chopped and changed where I would apply my attention.
My efforts to spread the word of what I was trying to achieve at The Resolve Blog sent me chasing attention, rather than seeking distribution.
I hopped from one platform to another, shifting from X to LinkedIn and back again.
Newsletters replaced articles — even though my articles formed the foundation of my readership. Emails were instructive, before becoming informational, before returning to the former.
Everything was reactive. Nothing was deliberate.
I know I’m quite analytical, so this reactive approach has been counter-intuitive. It has left with little data to judge what’s worked and what hasn’t.
So, in 2024 I will be more deliberate.
I don’t want to avoid opportunities, but I want to ensure I’m positioned to exploit them.
My goal is to help a million people master their decision-making. So, I have some clear actions to take this year to get moving towards that goal which will evolve through 2024.
Using a word to summarise your efforts for the year ahead is a worthy exercise.
As individuals, we don’t do strategies or have long-term goals (even though we should).
But we all start the year with the best of intentions. It’s as natural as the changing of the year, but unlike the number of the year, our intentions don’t stick.
Resolutions end up being empty promises we tell ourselves.
But a word set from an objective assessment of the previous year offers clarity. It comes from fact and encompasses the objectivity which makes our reasoning honest.
It gives us direction.
For me, the direction is to be deliberate.
What will your word be?