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  • Sakib Jamal

Prioritization through Action: My Framework for New Year’s Resolutions

What does loving yourself really mean? People equate it with spa days, expressing kind words to oneself, and treating yourself in various ways — but when I tried going through this checklist, much to my disappointment, none of that changed anything internally past a short dopamine rush.

The Catalyst

Sometime in the middle of 2022, due to certain events and circumstances, I found myself in a spot where I was forced to confront loneliness and explore my ‘purpose’ in life. I found the process to be rather uncomfortable because it forced a ton of introspection on things like karma (accountability of your own actions from the past), childhood trauma (internalized but often irrational fear), what gives me energy vs. drains it, etc. But the ongoing process taught me many valuable lessons. The biggest one was grasping the true essence of a common term often used in the tech ecosystem (attributed to Jeff Bezos): a bias to action.

Many immigrants or people who leave their homes early in life can relate to a constant sense of insecurity. Although the word has a negative connotation, I’m convinced it’s the driving force for many a success story. The same feeling that brings about persistent anxiety about potentially not being good enough, is the same source of internal fire driving your engine of ambition.

Here’s a hot take: Despite this ‘fire’, I don’t actually believe in intrinsic motivation per se. Rather, I have come to appreciate a commitment to intrinsic discipline — and how shifts in extrinsic factors can affect your discipline.

But all this could be detrimental if you let the emotions consume you and do not direct them at the right things. How do we find the right channels to direct our fire towards?

2023 Theme: Asking Better Questions to Yourself

Between 2018–2022, as I was waiting for my H1B visa to come through, I essentially couldn’t travel outside the US. And it sucked. My friends were traveling to Cancun in the spring, Europe over long weekends, or going back home to see their family, and I was ‘stuck’ here…Yet I decided to turn this negative period in my life into something cool: to play the cards I’ve been dealt to the best of my ability — I decided I’ll travel to all 50 states in the US by the time I’m 30 — and I’m well on my way.

Something bad happened in my life; I sulked and cried for a while, but then I decided to do something about it.

And I wanted to take a similar approach to set my New Year’s resolutions this year.

I wanted to strip off emotions as much as possible and take a surgical, methodical way to approach my life here onwards. I figured the best way to figure out what loving myself would look like is to ask better questions to myself:

  1. Do I trust my own promises to myself? (Personal)

  2. Would I trust myself to manage my own money/invest in startups? (Work)

  3. Would I date myself or count on myself as someone’s best friend in my current state? (Relationships)

These are the core foundations of my values as a person. What if I applied myself to my own set of questions and standards I expect of others — and when I inevitably come short on some things, what are the set of actions I can take to make my situation better? Here are some more questions, one level of abstraction below:

  1. Do I have the desire/willingness to be better — mentally, spiritually, physically, and financially?

  2. Is my work something I love and am great at?

  3. Do I do enough for my own family?

  4. Do I look and feel good?

  5. Am I a responsible and reliable person to myself i.e. do I keep the promises I make to myself?

  6. Am I a good listener?

  7. Who are the people I should spend more time with?

  8. Do I spend enough time doing things that bring me fulfillment? E.g. working out, military history/movies, traveling within the US, South Asian Culture

  9. Who do I want to be like, and why — what do I admire about them?

  10. Do I check in with myself to see if I still have a bias to action — determination > talent

  11. Am I assessing/confronting my fears enough?

Then comes the most important thought exercise: what are the set of actions I can take to address each of these things?

Here are a few examples that may serve as inspiration as you apply the framework to your own life:

  • If it’s important to remember, make it impossible to forget: I promised myself I wouldn’t let more than 2 days go by where I haven’t called either my maa, baba, or apee/my nephew, and I have a reminder on my calendar — as a result, I made it difficult for me to forget.

  • If you’re unsatisfied with something and it’s important to you, do something about it (start) and hold yourself accountable (sustain): I’m generally fit but I felt terrible about my endurance and cardiovascular fitness: so I signed up, regularly train for and told everyone I’m doing a half marathon in March, even though I find it extremely challenging

  • Seek uncomfortable feedback: At work, I spent a lot of time bugging my boss about the things I need to do to ‘level up’ — and then find daily, actionable steps to do them (e.g. building technology tools to source better investments, being a better presenter, etc.)

  • I enjoy sharing my culture with friends in New York: I want to host more often on occasions like Eid, so I have time blocked to plan these events on my calendar in 2023

The list can go on and on, but you get the gist. The key to success with this exercise is to have it be unique to you and your priorities. Taking the time to first identify areas that are bothering you / that you are unsatisfied in life, and then structurally setting up actions to tackle them head-on, are a much better way to set your new years resolution than simply coming up with a list that subconsciously ties back to your goals.

When actions explicitly align with goals, and goals align with a clear sense of “why”, they tend to be a lot more sustainable and rewarding. It can be difficult to stay focused on the process and not the outcome, but this framework will allow you to see the bigger picture, and perhaps make better choices for a deliberate, purposeful life.

Thank you for reading, and feel free to DM me on Twitter/IG to share your thoughts (@skbjml) — Happy Holidays and New Year to you and your loved ones!

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