Each New Year, people commit (or recommit) to wishes, dreams and desires for their lives, also known as resolutions. Unfortunately, breaking resolutions is as much a tradition as making them. However, making and breaking promises, especially to yourself, is not Grown, because it is unhealthy; it diminishes your love and esteem for self. Your capacity to make and keep healthy commitments to yourself is a major sign of being truly Grown (not merely adult). So this year, try something new: Instead of making resolutions, try creating what I call esteemable goals.

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I began to form this approach after reading Think & Grow Rich: A Black Choice, the classic success guide by Dr. Dennis Kimbro and Napoleon Hill, nearly 20 years ago. One of the pieces of wisdom I gleaned from the book advised writing down your goals, and reviewing them at the beginning and again at the end of each day. With the second daily reading, you were to review what actions you took that day to make progress on each of your goals. Any goals you took some daily action to advance toward, no matter how small, were real and would almost inevitably be achieved sooner or later. Your action is clear evidence of your commitment. However, any goals that go neglected day after day, week after week, with no action taken to bring them to fruition, are not real and should be removed from the list, without shame or guilt. You are far more likely to achieve goals motivated by willful self-love, not forced obligation.

A few years later I read another book, Esteemable Acts: 10 Actions for Building Real Self-Esteem by Francine Ward, and came to understand the difference between what you say you want and what you show you want, via your actions, when it comes to change and personal growth. In other words, there is a critical difference between resolving to do something and actually doing it. “Often we think if our intentions are good, we will get the result we want,” says Ward. “No doubt good intentions count for something, but ultimately the way we feel about ourselves [emphasis added] and the way we show up in the world is more about what we do, rather than what we say. It’s about the actions we take—the esteemable actions—that enable us to truly move out of the darkness into the light of our own being.”

It was after reading Ward’s book, that I decided that goals had to be tied to something else to be both achievable and beneficial to myself and others—acts of esteem. Of course, Ward’s concept of esteemable acts dovetails perfectly with the values of H.E.R. (Honor, Esteem and Respect) fundamental to the Grown Zone. So, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I invite you to set esteemable goals to work toward, using the following as guideposts for deciding what you will commit to for the year to come:

Goals must be esteemable. Those that are not esteemable—which do not add to your sense of self worth, your positive perception of who you are and what you are worthy of—are rarely met. In order for decisions to stick, you must genuinely believe they are good and healthy for you, you deserve that goodness, and achieving them will bring you, as my life and business partner Zara Green says, H.E.R.: Honor, Esteem and Respect.

Goals must be rooted in pragmatic self-love. If you do not truly believe that achieving a goal is good for you, you will not accomplish it. More importantly, if you don’t love yourself enough to accept absolutely nothing less than what is good for you—you will be easily dissuaded from it by others, or by your own doubts and feelings of unworthiness. Furthermore, if your goal is rooted in the need to please or earn the love or approval of anyone other than yourself, you will either fail to achieve it, or doing so will bring you not esteem, but rather emptiness, disillusionment and even resentment. Needless to say, these are disincentives to you remaining faithful to your commitment. The pursuit of an esteemable goal must be out of love, not guilt or obligation.

Goals must be about choosing what you want, not merely removing what you don’t want. I read somewhere that worrying is praying for what you don’t want. Focusing on what you don’t want—stress, poor health, strife, conflict, poverty, mistreatment—only brings you more of what you don’t want. That’s why, for example, a person who resolves to end an unhappy relationship, in the absence of a clearly defined standard for a happy one, will find themselves in one just like it, with a different person, repeating the cycle. Effective goal-setting—again, as an act of esteem and self-love—is not about getting rid of what you don’t want, but being clear about and focused on what you do want in your life, on a daily basis.

Goals must be specific and measurable, not vague and open-ended. This is not news to you productivity and efficiency experts out there. To show the difference, here are a couple of examples (along with comparable, common resolutions): I will lose 12 lbs and reduce my body fat to 19 percent (not, “I will go back to the gym and exercise more); I will take vacation and reserve a hotel suite in February for a writing retreat to finish a manuscript (not, “I will work on my book”). It is impossible to look at a list that specific twice daily and not get it done—unless it’s not meaningful to you and you experience no thrill at all in anticipation of how great you will feel when you do. The more detailed your esteemable goal, the more likely it is that you will take action and organize your daily living around advancing toward it.

If you go week after week, month after month, without getting any closer to a goal, be honest enough to take it off your list, perhaps reserving it for future consideration. Either you don’t really want it (it’s nice, but not necessary), it’s not truly esteemable (it’s more about what’s important to someone else than what’s best for you), or you don’t love yourself enough to claim it for yourself. If it’s the third reason, you need to commit to self love and personal growth not as goals or resolutions, but a way of life. Hopefully, you’ll grow in self love and personal resilience enough to recommit to that esteemable goal in the future. In fact, Zara says it will likely require you to change your relationships with yourself and the people and things in your life—usually an esteemable goal in and of itself.

In the meantime, you can focus your energy, time and attention on those goals you do take consistent, daily action toward, without being burdened by guilt over what you’re not doing. Fewer commitments equals more simplification, greater focus and a higher likelihood that goals will be achieved. Less is, indeed, more.

Deciding what you want to achieve takes honesty, compassion, and faithfulness (especially with and to yourself), not just idealism and hopefulness. Too often, resolutions are about what we hope happens some day. Esteemable goals are about what will happen, based on the choices you make and actions you take today and every day. Begin by choosing Grown for this and every New Year.

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