What will your 2020 story be?

The last few years have felt like I was trapped in Pokémon hell. Running around chasing SMART goals – tracking my weight, sleep, steps, food, spending and dog poops – and juggling productivity apps like a circus freak. It’s been exhausting. And it’s not working – for me, anyway.

I understand that we need goals to change our stories. That data makes decision-making better. That checking things off lists can be insanely satisfying. But I’ve realized that setting goals without having a purpose, without knowing what – in the big picture – I want to change, can result in busy work that may or may not create impact. So I’m trying something new – a story-based approach to improving my life that includes a problem, quest and resolution.

This year, I’m going to find my niche. That’s it. That’s what my story will be all about.

What problems will that resolve for me? It’ll help me focus my work, as I’m currently trying to be too many things to too many people. It’ll help me find my ideal customer – and improve the impact I can create for her. And it’ll strengthen my sense of belonging – something that’s become an issue since I recently moved to a small town and started doing remote work.

What will the quest look like? Well, instead of SMART goals, I have three ideas or strategies that I’m going to test out.

Show up – Be present. Give generously. Take risks. Take the lead.

Be true – Play to my strengths. Trust myself. Be authentic. Do good.

Love – Practice empathy. Forgive and accept. Ask for what I need.

Why take this approach? Because I’ve learned that, just like a great story, life rarely unfolds according to plan. By spending time getting clear on my purpose, I can come up with strategies that might help me achieve it, while still being flexible enough to allow me to respond to the plot twists I know will occur. If I really wanted to add some SMART goals to this, I could. It’s easy enough to set targets for the number of events I’ll attend, podcast episodes I’ll produce, talks I’ll give, ideas I’ll research, and clients I’ll serve. But unless I do those things in service of a bigger purpose – to find my niche – I’ll fail to generate any kind of meaningful impact.

You have an entire year ahead of you. Before you burst out of the blocks to start chasing your goals, take a few minutes to make sure you know why they matter. What’s the story you want to tell 12 months from now?