Ditch the Resolutions. Make 2015 the Year of the Motto.

LeapOriginal collage by Bob May (Creative Commons)

Lose Weight. Get Fit. Eat Healthy. Have you ever made any of these New Year’s resolutions? Yeah, you and just about everybody else. For me, none of the vague promises I made to myself on the evening of December 31 ever resulted in a dramatic shift in behavior. But, a year-long motto changed my life.

Um, not exactly. Photo: Ben Stephenson

Um, not exactly.
Photo: Ben Stephenson

Just a few hours into 2013, I sat around with three of my close friends. Champagne bottles were empty. The party was over. We chatted about what might happen in the next year. One friend explained how, working in the tech industry, the phrase “take risks” was often batted around the office. Risk-taking was encouraged and even celebrated.

It struck a chord with me. About six months earlier, I’d started working out for the first time in my life. It was scary and hard and I didn’t always like it. (Translation: I never liked it.) But, I could tell it was improving almost every aspect of my life, including what I thought I was capable of. It made taking risks seem like something I could try.

This sign gives terrible advice.  Photo: Ben Ward

This sign gives terrible advice.
Photo: Ben Ward

So, each of us decided to “take risks” for a year and see what happened.

Having a motto created a new framework for thinking about all aspects of life. In hippy-dippy talk, this could also be called “setting your intention.” Whatever you call it, the important thing is that it actually worked! If something made me uncomfortable (in a good way), then I knew I shouldn’t ignore it. The more I took small everyday risks – picking up a heavier weight in a workout or making friendly elevator chit-chat with a stranger – the easier it was to take the big ones. By the end of 2013, I’d run a half marathon, moved to a new neighborhood, and quit my desk job. Even more telling, all three of my risk-taking friends made career changes too. Two accepted promotions and one went back to school to study a new field.

Stay puft

It’s good to put reminders of your motto around the house. For the record, this is not mine for 2015… but it could be yours.
Image: poppet with a camera on Flickr.

I picked that motto at the beginning of 2014. And I’ve got another lined up for this New Year. I went so far to add a reminder to my calendar every Monday (nerd alert!) so it’s always on my mind. How can you forget about changing your life if your phone is always telling you to?

What about you? Have you ever lived by a motto before? If I’ve managed to convince you but you’re not sure where to start, here’s a short list of mottos to get you thinking. Sure, they sound cheesy. But they just might change your life.

“Make your own good.”
“Do what’s important.”
“Why not love?”
“Show up and put in the work.”
“Think big.”
“Be your better self.”
And of course – “Take risks.”

What’s your 2015 motto?