The Year of Meaning
A 4-part framework for becoming a better version of yourself
👋 Hello to the 834 Intentional Wisdom subscribers receiving today’s email. I hope you had a restful holiday break. Somehow myself and 24 of my favorite family members traveled to and from Jamaica without contracting COVID. We’re counting our blessings. Now, I’m back in the saddle and ready to attack 2022. This week, I’m sharing the framework that I’m personally using to (I hope) dramatically improve the odds that 2022 will be the best year of my life. Is that too aggressive? Maybe, but some year has to be the best one, right? Why not this one? Let’s see if I can give you at least one small nugget of information that will help you do the same.
I know. I know. I know. You’ve already listened to three podcasts, read five articles—and for those on Twitter—scrolled through 5000 threads—on how to get your new habits to stick in 2022.
It’s well-trodden territory. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make this quick, to the point and ACTIONABLE. You take what’s helpful, and let’s forget I ever wrote the rest.
Before we get started, I have to note that I’m obsessed with the idea of MEANING at the moment. And more specifically making this year a meaningful one—in my relationships, in my career, in my fitness and in the content I create. I'm becoming even more convinced that the really good stuff in life is about quality not quantity. More on that at the end of this article, but I just wanted to give you that context upfront. Let’s get into it.
A 4-part Framework for becoming a better version of yourself
Right, so here’s the idea. We all want to improve. Our careers. Our health. Our relationships. You name it. But life throws us curveballs. And we let stuff slip. And that progress we were so fired up to make? It slips, too. How can we change this dynamic? This 4-part framework is the best idea I have. I’ve illustrated it with examples from my own 2022 plan to help bring it to life.
#1: Establish Your Purpose
Sounds kind of lofty, don’t you think? Well, maybe it is. But we all need a North Star—an answer to perhaps the most difficult question of all:
What the hell am I doing here?
Of course, only you can answer that.
And that answer, I suppose, is not one that is fixed but rather one that evolves through life.
I sometimes admire the clarity that those who are deeply committed to their religions have on this question – their answers often involve service to a higher being in some way, shape or form.
I like this idea of service. In fact, at 43 years old, I’m feeling a greater pull toward service than I ever have before. I’ve long known the theory that happiness/fulfillment/contentment… whatever you want to call it… comes more from service to others than from selfish pursuits.
But theory and reality can be two different things. For me, I think something clicked this past year. And I now find myself deeply drawn to service. I’m sure that I’m late to the game. I probably should have felt this at 23. But here we are.
So my purpose, the one that I feel deeply in my bones, is this:
To use my skills and resources to positively impact the lives of others.
When I say “impact the lives of others” I’m thinking of this in a variety of ways. I’m thinking of impacting lives in my workplace, in my audience of readers and listeners, in the physical community where I live, and in my own family. With the right focus, I think I can have a greater impact on these lives.
That “focus” part is critical. Because having a greater impact doesn’t mean committing myself to more—it means focusing, again, on quality over quantity. On being more intentional with every action I take.
With regards to leveraging skills and resources, I’ve recently been thinking that our lives can be characterized as having two acts:
Act 1: Finding and developing the skills that best enable us to serve others
Act 2: Using those skills (and acquired resources) to do exactly that
And by the way, I think we can and probably should keep repeating Act 1 over and over (aka developing new skills) for our entire lives. If you don’t believe me, read this piece on Late Bloomers and let’s see if I can convince you.
For me, the skills that are most honed today happen to be writing, podcasting and after 20+ years in finance, probably knowledge of financial markets. I think I can positively impact lives if I wield these skills effectively.
How about you? It’s worth spending some time thinking about your purpose at the highest level as your commitment to actually taking the tactical steps needed to make improvements in your life will be much stronger if you truly believe in that overarching purpose.
Once we figure that out, we take it down to the next level…
#2: Establish Your Desired Identities
We all serve or aspire to serve many different roles in our lives.
We’re accountable to many people for many different things and we’re accountable to ourselves.
We’re more likely to stick with our desired behaviors if we believe we are the “type of people” who would practice such behaviors. In other words, instead of thinking about yourself as “someone who needs to start running,” think of yourself as “a runner”—basically the more we can internalize these identities the more likely it is that we’ll “cast votes” each day that confirm them.
Here’s where I’ve landed with the identities that I will be trying to confirm every day in 2022.
A great dad
A great husband
A successful, independent creator
An effective leader & executive
An extremely fit man
What are those identities for you? Again, it’s worth going through the exercise of setting these out explicitly as they, in turn, will drive what you do at the next level: Actions.
#3: Identify the Actions to Take (and Avoid)
Once we’ve established our overarching purpose and the identities that we are aiming to live up to, we need to identify the actions to take (or not take) on a daily basis to get us there.
These are the “votes” that we’ll cast every day to use Clear’s terminology. They are basically the habits that we are looking to foster.
It’s helpful to segment them by identity. So for instance, to confirm my identity of “an extremely fit man,” my actions are going to include:
Eating a low-carb, high-protein diet
And I want to avoid:
Drinking (especially to excess)
Once we have an idea of the actions we want to take or avoid, we bring it to the final step: Rules.
#4: Establish Rules to Ensure Adherence
I wrote recently about how we can use rules to optimize our own behaviors and I’ve got a podcast episode coming your way in the very near future on exactly this topic.
For me, willpower simply does not work on its own. I need those guardrails. I need specific, non-negotiable rules that I commit to and operate by. While some may balk at the idea of rules, I have personally found them to be much more reliable than willpower.
Once a rule is committed to, the decision is done. There is no internal negotiation about “just a little bit” or “just this once”—no, it’s a rule. And if you commit to following it, you save your willpower (a limited resource) from a constant barrage of assaults. That, by the way, helps you to make better decisions elsewhere in your life when you may need to draw on those limited willpower resources.
So rules, to continue the example above around my identity as “an extremely fit man,” look like this:
I workout 6x / week
I track my macros (carbs, protein, fat) and stay within set limits
I do not mindlessly snack
I do not drink more than 3 drinks ever
Is that strict? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m committed. Why? Because I feel strongly about the purpose I’ve established for myself at the highest level all the way down to the rules that will actually get me there.
What gets measured gets done, right? For me, without having some kind of strategic and tactical plan in place, I’d feel like I was floating aimlessly through the year (and my life). This approach gives me a way to take some control and (I hope) heavily influence the outcomes in every area of my life.
In case it’s useful for you, here is a spreadsheet that includes my identities, actions and rules for 2022.
To keep it reasonable and achievable, I’ve limited it to just a few rules per identity. Also, just to mention, this is an evolving document and one that I expect to keep changing as I change and get better ideas and more experience. But this is where I am and what I’m committed to today.
So that’s the framework. To recap, it’s:
#1 Establish Your Purpose
#2 Establish Your Desired Identities
#3 Identify the Actions to Take (and Avoid)
#4 Establish Rules to Ensure Adherence
I hope you find it useful in your own planning for the year ahead. If you try it, let me know what works and what doesn’t.
A final note on meaning and goals
I mentioned the idea of meaning upfront and how it’s been on my mind quite a bit recently.
Along these lines, last year at this time, I laid out some quantitative goals for myself, specifically for the growth of this newsletter and my Twitter account.
Both saw really encouraging growth—which I’m tremendously grateful for—but I came up short on my ambitious goals. Here’s what the final #s looked like:
I learned a lot by pursuing these quantitative goals but ironically, I think one of the most important insights I’ve come away with (yet again) is that quality matters much more than quantity.
I have been fortunate to connect with so many of you on a personal level over the last year—to hear your stories and ideas, to receive your words of encouragement and your (equally appreciated) constructive criticism. And that, I have come to realize, is much, much more valuable than the numbers on a screen.
So in 2022, I do plan to continue growing both here and on Twitter, maybe with a little YouTube thrown in for fun, but what I really want to do is develop and invest more in real, MEANINGFUL connections. And back to my purpose, I want to truly impact the lives of those I interact with in a positive way—including yours.
So that is my theme for 2022. A Year of Meaning. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
See you in
two weeks (actually one week as I’ve got something special coming your way) – and if you haven’t yet subscribed to the Intentional Wisdom podcast, you might want to do so now as the first episode will be dropping next week! Links to subscribe on popular platforms are below.
Thanks for reading.
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Photo credit: Clay Banks @ Unsplash.com
You know, I listened to a lot of podcasts over the holidays—some just for enjoyment and some for research on upcoming projects I’m working on—but there wasn’t anything so great that I felt warranted sharing with you here today. Instead, I’m sharing three episodes that are in my current podcast queue that I am fired up to listen to. I’d give these excellent odds of being great listens.
Rich Roll & Tim Ferriss — Worlds collide with two of my favorite podcasters in one place. By definition, it has to be an excellent conversation. If you don’t know Roll’s story, it’s incredibly inspiring. He went from an overweight alcoholic at 40-years-old to a top endurance athlete (and now podcaster and author) just a few years later.
David Sinclair & Andrew Huberman — Sinclair is one of the world’s leading experts on aging and so-called ‘life extension.’ Apparently, these two get into the specifics of Sinclair’s recommended routines for staving off aging and the science behind it.
Gary Vaynerchuk, Sahil Bloom & Greg Isenberg — After having just been in a bidding war (and losing out) on an NFT I was hoping to buy I’m really interested in hearing these three discuss the state of NFTs and where we go from here. Spoiler alert: I have an awesome NFT-focused guest coming up on my own podcast in the next month.
That’s it. I hope added just a little bit of value to your life today.
Have a great week.