Two awesome traditions for New Year’s: the polar bear plunge and updating your User Manual

By this point, most of us have at least thought about mapping fresh goals for 2018.

I’m a big believer in the process of taking a moment to reflect on our shortcomings and charting a way to improve. Developing the User Manual has taught me many wonderful things, and a cornerstone finding is that most of us haven’t cultivated the self-awareness to know what we actually need from a partner.

So an annual reflection mapping out personal goals to fill in our weaknesses–and operationalize with next steps? Perfect!

But the new year is a chance to reassess not only how we want to change, but also how we’ve already grown over the past year.

One of my favorite research projects has found that we turn into completely different people over the course of our lives. Forward along that one the next time you come across someone who flatly states that people never change!

Change isn’t just possible–it’s inevitable. Even if you may not immediately recognize it, you’ve already grown boatloads, even in the last year.

But how is your partner supposed to know the ways in which you’ve grown–or how to handle it?

Analogy alert: Every year,¬†our favorite programs and apps trot out updates. They’re almost always better: they save time, add power, look cooler, etc. But they’re always annoying to get used to at first.

You can help your partner through your core code changes by updating your User Manual.

Aim that annual pondering not just at what you want to change, but also what has already¬†changed. Drill in on specifics–and what that means for your partner.

Case in point: One pivotal moment for me a few years ago was sitting on a cliff in Santa Cruz, watching a horde of 20-somethings scurry around a massive volleyball game. There was a time when the sight of any massive game demanded my participation; I relished the physical activity, the competition, the showing off, the new skills. In those days, standing on the sidelines irked every bone in my body. But on this blustery August day, sitting with a friend and playing my ukulele, I knew I vastly preferred the view from the cliff to the hustle of the game.

I crossed off my User Manual instruction to “always get involved” and replaced it with “avoid rushing.”

What if you don’t immediately recognize how you’ve changed in the past year?

We all get stumped sometimes

First, think about the ways you’ve changed. Put down your phone, click out of Facebook, and give it a good five minute ponder. Let it percolate over the course of a few days. Revisit major events and how they affected you. Something will surface.

Second, ask your team of trusted friends the simple question: how have I changed in the past year? Start with your partner and add BFFs as appropriate.

Their impressions of your evolution may surprise you–and that perspective can reveal new tendencies you hadn’t noticed yourself.

Here’s to a 2018 full of laughter and joy–and here’s hoping the User Manual can be a valuable tool in your journey this year and beyond!