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Instead of 2021 Goals, Write A Manifesto: 3 Easy Steps to Meaningful Change


I recently wrote an article about why, before setting a bunch of New Year’s resolutions, we should all take a moment to acknowledge how challenging 2020 was and that it’s ok to feel unmotivated and uninspired.

But after writing that piece, I started asking myself a second question… Maybe instead of writing out specific goals for 2021, I would be better off writing an overarching manifesto for myself?

Goals are always so specific, maybe too specific. Running a marathon is a clear “goal.” Reaching $X in revenue with your business is a “goal.” But after a year like 2020, I’m less interested in locking into goals (god knows last year’s goals were totally unrealistic given the fact that the world was turned upside down).

I do have some specific areas I want to push and explore for 2021: more fun, more creativity, improving the operations of my agency, more peace of mind (and more). These are themes versus tangible goals and I’m actually excited and inspired by them.

So, how can I capture these without feeling like I need to write down a list of potentially unrealistic goals?

What about a manifesto?

Instead of a list of unrealistic goals, a manifesto provides direction and guidance for big changes.

It’s a way of giving yourself a North Star without forcing any unattainable specifics. You don’t need to define any milestones. You don’t even need to have clarity around what you need to “achieve” by the end of the year. A manifesto more of a mission statement and a guide for how you want to show up, what you want to focus on, and what you want to feel.

  • What gives you energy?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What are your values and what standards do you hold yourself to?
  • What is important to you?
  • What makes you feel good?
  • Etc.

If you’re like me, tired of throwing darts against the wall at a time when nothing is predictable and we have so little control, perhaps a more holistic approach is for you.

Here’s how.

Step 1: Shift your thinking from being externally focused to being internally focused.

Before you can start writing your manifesto for the year, you first need to get yourself out of “outcome mode.”

Remember: a manifesto is not a checklist of goals. This isn’t about our normal Type-A “how fast can we achieve our goals and cross the finish line.” This is about the journey and how we want to act, think, and feel along the way.

Typical measurement tools don’t apply. You can’t count dollars in the bank, weight lost, number of new clients you’ve brought in, etc. Put all of that aside.

Think bigger.

Step 2: Connect emotions to the various responsibilities you have in your life.

When do you feel happy?

When do you feel unfulfilled?

When do you feel inspired?

What do you dread?

What fuels your energy?

As Marc Anthony said, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That starts with understanding what it even means to do what you love. We think our happiness is dependent upon how much money we make, our job title, where we live, whether or not we drive a nice car, etc., but in reality, our happiness is always rooted in how we feel doing whatever it is we’re doing.

And this means looking at your emotional journey throughout the day, through different interactions, different parts of your work, you name it.

The key to writing a meaningful manifesto and giving yourself a North Star in life is to connect emotions to actions. “When I am doing X, I feel Y.”

Then, you’ll know which areas you want to invest more time and energy: the ones that make you feel great!

Step 3: Create an accountability plan.

A manifesto is only as good as your action plan to “manifest” it into your life.

For obvious reasons, now may not be the best time for us to micromanage our lives and create hyper-effective productivity schedules for ourselves.

That said, there is benefit in coming up with a way to consistently check in and make sure you’re at least trending in the direction you desire. Maybe that means reading your manifesto to a friend and asking them to help hold you accountable, and call you out on behaviors you’ve pinpointed as working against your happiness. Maybe that means reading your manifesto aloud to yourself each morning or night. Whatever it is, create a habit around this new manifesto so you can put it to use and bring it to life.

By the way, I’m certainly not against the idea of goal setting. Of course I can’t run a business (or my life) without a constant evaluation of goals and targets.

That said, when it comes to this annual tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions, we can get more out of a new approach for the long term. The biggest reason why I’m excited about this new type of “planning” for 2021 is because it allows us to focus on the big picture and feeling good. What’s more important than that?

In spite of the uncertainty of 2021, let’s focus on moving forward, feeling good and showing up as our best.

Amy Stanton is the founder and CEO of Stanton & Company and co-author of "The Feminine Revolution."

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