Making 2016 resolutions that will work


The year 2016 is finally here and as is the norm many of us will be working on lists and resolutions we hope will take us through the next 12 months.

I am one of those who use each New Year as an opportunity to re-organise. I start this process during the holiday period preceding each year end when I evaluate how I did over the last 12 months. I then use January to set up a work plan for the next 12 months.

The primary reason why I have been able to succeed in staying on my annual plans beyond the normal two months most New Year resolutions last for, has everything to do with an encounter I had 14 years ago with a public figure, on television!

I was two years married, two years into my first fully-owned business, and many years into the struggle of annual planning. Somehow despite my focused planning I could never manage to stick to a plan beyond three months!

Then one day I watched a news clip of one of the NARC political campaigns and there was this old man dancing on the podium wearing colonial khaki shorts, knee-high socks and a large cowboy hat! It was one of the most ridiculous outfits I had ever seen; but somehow this old guy wore it with such ‘swag’ it actually looked good! One also got the distinct impression that he did not really care what anyone thought about what he was wearing; which helped add to the attraction of how he wore it.

The old man was ‘Uncle Moody’. In 2002 Arthur Moody Awori was 75 years old and one of the wealthier members of Kenyan society. He came from a family that had vast interests in business and politics in Kenya and Uganda. Uncle Moody was also at that point serving his 20th year in Parliament as a representative of Funyula Constituency.

I have never met the man who was to later become Vice President under Kibaki but every new year since then, as I re-organise myself for another 12 months I visualize the picture of Uncle Moody as I first saw him; the blue khaki shorts; the red shirt; the school-boy knee-high socks; the walking stick and the cowboy hat sitting at a cocky angle on his head; above twinkling eyes and a genuine ever-present smile. This picture is the essence of self-actualisation as far as I am concerned and when I am 75 years old I want to be that self-actualized; maybe minus the shorts!

This image of Uncle Moody introduced big-picture thinking to my annual planning. It made me start contemplating life beyond the 1-year; 5-year or 10-year plans that I was using to plan my life. It helped me ask myself where and what I wanted to be when I was 75; and how each day, month and year was helping me get there. It helped me frame my life backwards, starting at 75 years old and working in reverse to where I was then; which was less than half his age.

This goal is what dictates my plans for each New Year. Every year I must make sure I am moving forward from the year before as well as creating something that will fit into what I expect the next year to look like, as I work towards my 75-year ‘Uncle Moody’ look.

It is amazing what visualizing yourself as a 75-year-old does to a lot of the things you think are important today. At 75 you will not be as interested in the hustle; the celebrity status; the fast life; or the fast cars. At 75 what will be of interest is your family; the state of your estate; your health; your capacity to take care of those you love; and your ability to influence the society in which you live. Once this perspective sets in, planning; for 2016, 2017, 2022, or 2030; becomes just but a small part of a larger picture that stretches forth several decades.

Big-picture planning is especially crucial for the young people who are starting out after finishing either high school, or college. You are starting your first year as an adult and there is immense pressure to create a life-plan. However first spare some time to define what your big picture really looks like. Life is a series of connected dots; make sure they are leading you to where you ultimately want to end up when your life is done.

My 2016 plans are within the context of a life-plan that goes back 14 years and that has at least 35 years ahead, God willing. This context does amazing things to how I understand my successes and failures so far; and in determining what I need to do today, this month, and this year.

Happy 2016!

(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates; a political consultancy)

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