29 Dec 2016 16:22 IST

Make MAGIC-al New Year resolutions

Pic credit: Zenzen/Shutterstock

Dare to dream and dare to live those dreams, writes Leo Fernandez in LeaderSpeak

One of the tools I designed for myself when making New Year Resolutions and setting goals for the year ahead, is what I call the MAGIC tool. Here’s how it works for me.

I bunched my professional and personal goals in five areas:

> M — Make a Difference in somebody’s life, other than my own

> A — Act on a dream

> G — Give something away, give something up, gain a habit

> I — Invest in myself

> C — Clean a cobweb

M: Make a difference in somebody’s life other than your own

Often, we’re so focused on making a difference for ourselves — our exam scores, our placement prospects and careers, our teams, our pay checks, and our companies — that we miss out on receiving the biggest rewards that life keeps hidden: rewards that are unlocked by the generous act of making a difference in somebody else’s life.

It has been ages since we left college, but on our batch’s WhatsApp group, very often, someone always recounts a story of a classmate who took extra time off to help a fellow classmate, shared his subject notes or explained a difficult concept. These memories outlive mark sheets and college awards.

Don’t let this be your motivation, but what you will find is that the more you make a difference to others, the more you welcome abundance into your life. It is one of life’s ‘strange but true’ paradoxes. Like Ben Sweetland said: “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own”.

A: Act on a dream

There’s a great dialogue in the movie Knight and Day, when Cameron Diaz’s character reflects on her dreams; things she hopes to get done ‘someday’. Tom Cruise’s character gives her an impactful response — ‘Someday’ is code for ‘never’.

How many ‘someday’ dreams do we have that have somehow stayed relegated to the ‘dream’ list instead of the ‘done’ list, year after year. Can we find a way to actually get one of these dreams done now?

There are too many could-have-been musicians, writers, photographers and entrepreneurs who have let their dreams remain just that. Let’s not join their ranks. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to write? A website you’ve been wanting to build? A social community project you’ve wanted to start or a destination you’ve wanted to visit? This New Year, move that dream from the ‘I wish’ life to the ‘done’ list.

G: Give something away, give something up, gain a habit

A long-time friend of mine was an avid hunting enthusiast, and one of his prized possessions was the first shotgun he ever owned and that he’d held on to for 35 years.

One day, he woke up and decided to give it away to a friend. I could hear the liberation and delight when he shared this experience with me. How many things do we hold onto that could help somebody else, or serve a better purpose? How many things have we handcuffed ourselves to? And all it would take un-cuff ourselves from it, will be a decision to do it.

The movie Beautiful People has a great scene that shows how African native hunters catch monkeys. They put a sweet, round bait into a small hole at the base of a tree. Along comes the monkey and puts his hand in quite easily, but after grabbing the bait by his fist, he finds he can’t take his hand out.

The monkey screams in fear but refuses to let go of his prized catch. He stays trapped by his still-clenched fist and the hunter soon strolls up to claim his catch. How many things are we refusing to let go of that are holding us back, trapping us into being less than what we are capable of being?

Giving something up

One year, I decided to give up reading fiction in favour of reading non-fiction. In effect, focus on reading that would grow my learning. It was a difficult thing to do because I did enjoy a good novel, but I found that novels ate up quite a bit of time; time that could otherwise be invested in growing my knowledge and learning things that would make me more effective as a person and as a professional.

Gain a habit

Examples of this includes regular exercise, joining the Toastmaster’s club, writing a blog, ditching an unhealthy eating habit for a healthy one, meeting with folk we rarely talk to… the list can be endless. There’s nothing like a good, new habit to build leadership muscle.

I: Invest in yourself

Pick a project or skill or new learning to improve yourself. Mark Zuckerberg has been a famous role model of this resolution. In 2016, he had set himself a challenge to build a simple AI (Artificial Intelligence) to run his home. He called it the equivalent of Jarvis in Iron Man.

In 2015, he’d set himself the challenge of reading a new book every other week (“with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies”) and in an earlier year, he decided to learn Mandarin. In short, every year, he invested in himself.

Today, online learning courses have opened up a whole new range of subjects that we can learn at our pace, from where we are, and very often, completely free of charge. Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, one such MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) speaks of how his friend and he decided to throw open Stanford’s “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ course online for free. Within weeks, over 16,000 applications came in from more than 200 countries. While 200 students did the course on campus, 23,000 completed it online. Which one are you ready to sign up for this New Year?

C: Clean a cobweb

Try to sweep out something hanging around messily in your life. These are the small irritants that get to us, but somehow, we never get down to cleaning them up and throwing it out of our lives. Perhaps it’s a desktop cluttered with icons that make it difficult to find something; or a creaky door or shelf, a pile of unsorted papers, organising music, or even something as important as sorting out a misunderstanding, saying thank you to someone you always wanted to, but kept putting off, or a health check.

Cleaning a cobweb not only gets the irritant out of the way but also helps us see things more clearly. It shines a light on parts of our life we had started to ignore or leave untapped. Ask yourself what cobweb you will clean this New Year.

So, go ahead and make some MAGIC a part of your New Year.

With one more year gone by, each of us may feel a year older, but as Bill Clinton put it: “We only grow old when our memories are stronger than our dreams”. So, as we end 2016, let me wish for you, my dear young readers, fond memories from the year gone by, but stronger and more meaningful dreams for the year ahead.

Here’s to staying young by daring to dream and living those dreams.

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