How to Make 2024 the Year You Build the Life You Want

Article by Jamie Simpher|3 min read|Feb 2, 2024

Week 1: Identifying Your Values

Last January, I was working a job that had ceased to serve me, draining all my creative energy without challenging me or helping me to grow and learn. I was also recovering from a broken rib, which left me feeling immobilized and hopeless. I felt like life was passing me by.

It was time to make a few changes.

I started thinking about what I wished my life looked like and developed that into an action plan. I left the job that was sapping my energy and came to work at Boundless. I recovered from the broken rib and started exercising. I went kayaking on Lake Superior, visited the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico City, and toured all over Spain and Andorra. I used my Inspiration Fund to go on a writer’s retreat at the University of Iowa. I wrote 7 short stories and a graphic novel. I made a movie in the 48 Hour Film Project. I completed a project for the 3-Day Novel Contest. I published a poem. I rode a motorcycle, flew an airplane, and took a photography class.

In one year, I went from feeling trapped to feeling energized by building routines that supported the goals that laddered up to my core values. And because it worked, I plan to do it again this year.

If you’re always making New Year’s resolutions you can’t keep, or you’re looking for some techniques to help you achieve your goals, I offer you the toolbox that worked for me, along with my sincere belief that you can make your dreams come true in 2024.

Your Values Are Your Foundation

If you aren’t starting from a foundation of what matters to you, then any goals you set are just ticking things off a to-do list. You want to set the goals that are going to advance you toward where you want to go in life.

Once, a colleague of mine led a vision board exercise. This was suggested by my creative director, who was very excited about it—until he sat down with a piece of construction paper and a marker and realized the only thing he could think to put on his vision board was “Get an oil change.”

When I suggested he start with the things he values, his eyes got wide and the existential crisis truly set in because he found he couldn’t articulate his values. It’s a tough ask if it’s something you haven’t thought about before. So, to avoid the existential crisis, here’s a list of possible values (suggested by The Minimalists):

  • Relationships
  • Creativity
  • Service
  • Health
  • Growth

This is just a starting point. Add, subtract, and combine as you see fit. I added “Adventure” to mine, for example.

Am I Living a Life That Aligns With My Values?

Once you’ve identified what matters to you, it’s time to consider whether the life you’re living reflects the things you know in your heart are most important to you.

An impossible-to-source quotation that I first heard in a management class says, “Show me your calendar and I’ll show you what you value.” But sometimes, the things that are urgent overwhelm the things that are important. Here’s an exercise to help identify ways you may not be prioritizing the things you care most about:

I am currently struggling with… The opposite feeling would be…
   
An umbrella word or phrase to describe how you want to feel:
 
To feel this way, I need to:
Stop:

Start:

Don’t worry about it making sense to anyone else and don’t worry about grammar. This is what mine looked like before I made the decision to change jobs and come work at Boundless.

I am currently struggling with… The opposite feeling would be…
Trapped
Directionless
Grinding
Free
Purposeful
Inspired
An umbrella word or phrase to describe how you want to feel:
NANOWRIMO
To feel this way, I need to:
Stop:
Scrolling on Reddit
Getting stuck in my routine
Letting rejection affect my self-image
Dwelling on unconstructive feedback
Start:
Writing more often
Planning adventures
Submitting my writing for publication
Applying for new jobs

NANOWRIMO is short for National Novel Writing Month, during which the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. When I was feeling trapped and uncreative, I found myself daydreaming about the last time I’d participated in NANOWRIMO, several years before.

During that period, I woke up early every morning to do yoga, went to a coffee shop to get some writing in before the workday, and left work on time every day to go to a nearby wine bar and put in a few more hours of writing before an evening yoga class and cooking dinner with my partner.

During NANOWRIMO, I was making space for all the things that mattered most to me. I had created a routine that fulfilled me, keeping me inspired and creative. So, when I was feeling drained and stressed, this umbrella phrase helped me clarify what I would need to do to get back to how I felt during NANOWRIMO.

Bringing Your Life Into Alignment

Now that you’ve identified ways in which you may not be living your best life, and you’ve imagined what it would feel like if you were, it becomes a lot easier to illuminate the path to getting there. Next week, we’ll do a goal-setting exercise to envision concrete steps toward living a life that aligns with the values you’ve identified.

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