It’s ‘new year, new you’ season. There are thousands of blog posts out there that are discounting the value of setting New Year’s Resolutions and thousands more discussing the best strategies for doing so.
Whether you’re an advocate for New Years’s Resolutions or not, December is an awesome time to rewind, reflect, and reset.
As I’ve written on this blog before, dreams are designed in downtime during December (say that 5x fast). As 2018 comes to a close, I urge you to sit down this weekend with a cup of coffee. Bring out the journal (the subconscious mind absorbs information more effectively when you write notes out by hand) and think intentionally about who you are and who you want to become next year.
As for how to do that? Here’s the 6 step process I’m following this year to prepare for the 12 months ahead:
Think honestly (on paper) about what you did, who you became, and where you dropped the ball this year. Without an honest reflection and assessment of where you’ve been, it’s hard to design a plan for where you want to head.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
What brought the most joy into my life in 2018?
- In what ways did I grow and change?
- What critical lessons did I learn this year?
- What impacted my business the most—positively and negatively?
- Which clients did I enjoy working with? What brought in the most income? Who or what caused the most stress?
- What habits or baggage should I leave behind in 2018?
- What is something I did well this year, something I can be proud of?
Apply learnings from past failed and successful New Years’s Resolutions.
Most of us want to change everything about ourselves all at once, hence the ‘new year, new you’ slogan. The thing is—researchers estimate that only 8% of people actually stay true to their resolutions. Why? What are we doing wrong?
Perhaps, it’s not resolutions themselves, but in our approach to them.
Think back on what has worked for you in the past, and what hasn’t. Have you stuck to diets in the past–of the social media or nutritional kind? What systems have you set up as fail-safes? How might you maintain motivation for your 2019 goals?
The research presents a few key learnings for how to design and stick with NYRs (so you can be one of the 8%, or even raise the average!):
- Don’t bite off too much at once. We only have so much attention, focus, and time to go around. Trying to accomplish 1,000 things, all with the same level of priority will render all of your experiences and outcomes mediocre. Try narrowing down your list to the critical few. For as Tony Robbins says, “people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.” The authors behind The Four Disciplines of execution recommend that you only set 1 or 2 Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) per quarter.
- Section off your life into categories. While everything in your life might fall under the bucket of “life”, it’s helpful to section off into smaller categories such as health, exercise, work, mission, relationships, etc. This makes setting goals more manageable. Just beware of setting too many conflicting goals across categories. Also know that not all categories are simultaneously a priority at all times.
- Be specific; create milestones. You need ways of measuring your progress immediately. This often means boiling big goals down into daily, weekly, or monthly habits. Take for example that you want to experience more peace of mind. Perhaps, you decide to facilitate that through meditation. The goal you’ll write down is—“I want to meditate on 75% of the days in 2019 for 15 minutes per day, documented by an ‘M’ on my planner calendar.” You were specific, and have a way of tracking it. Now, you are just missing one more thing…
- Externalize punishments and rewards, or at the very least accountability. We all need to be kept accountable, by incentives and other people. So few of us can sustain motivation over long periods of time on our own. We need a mix of, as psychologists would say, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. That is, we need to have a deep, driving sense of purpose that comes from within, and without. With a high level of purpose, drive, and necessity – passion, combined with real-world consequences – we have a much better chance of sustaining the energy needed to keep going long after the excitement of a new year has faded. So, call on your tribe or find a community to join that will keep you accountable.
- Make it fun and meaningful. It’s important not to take this process of self-improvement and goal-setting too seriously. Make it fun, and deeply connect with why this is all necessary and important to you. You don’t want to have a boring 2019, do you?
NYR’s aren’t just about conquering or achieving great feats; they should reflect the ways we want to feel, what we want to experience in the following year. For example, many people are going to sit around and say they want to ‘make more money’ or ‘get in better shape’ in 2019. Those goals are practically universal, even for the wealthy and the fit.
Why do we want these things? It’s pretty clear isn’t it–that we all think a couple extra zeroes and a six-pack are going to make us happy?
In my own life, I understand that my business is a vehicle for experiencing more of life, contributing at a higher level, and bringing more joy into my own life. The strategies that I’ll put into play for growing my mission and business in 2019 will drive those things forward, as well as my revenues and impact.
So, make sure, as you are starting to lay out what you want to do, be, and have that you are also going a few layers deep to understand why you want those things.
Identify your key goals in each area of your life.
Self-explanatory given what we have already discussed. This is your time to set measurable, tangible goals in each important area of your life. Especially in your business. Beware of the tendency to draw up too many resolutions!
Design a strategy.
As I’ve written about extensively this year, once we know where you want to head, it’s a fairly easy process to backtrack from there and figure out what steps you need to take today and for the next twelve months. The hardest part is generating the degree of clarity necessary to keep you on the path.
So before you start thinking about HOW you are going to achieve your goals, make sure you are clear on WHAT those goals are and WHY you want to accomplish them. I’m repeating this because it’s the step that most people skip.
If you generate this deep level of clarity now, you will have a much greater likelihood of staying on the path.
As for designing the strategy for achieving each of your goals, it’s critical that you take all of the factors into account, make sure that your goals are complementary, not conflicting. Then, you are going to break down each goal into the component parts (smaller milestones) and place each of those into your calendar.
Let’s say you want to write and sell a book to a formal publisher this year. What is that going to take? Conducting research. Writing an outline and sample chapter. Designing a book proposal. Building an audience. Pitching and hiring an agent. Identifying and pitching publishers. Etc. Each of these steps can and should be put into the calendar so that you are clearly progressing towards your end goal of writing and selling a book this year.
This is the degree of clarity you are going to need on how things are going to play out, although plans are sure to change.
Execute, measure, and reflect.
It’s not enough to come to the drawing board once per year and dream up all that you want to do. You need to execute for 12 months straight. And look, your micro-strategies may change a bit, but the overarching strategy shouldn’t. If you set a goal today, it should be one that you are prepared to achieve.
Before January 1st, identify what few things you will do in the first month and quarter of 2019 to move forward each of your goals forward.
Then, I suggest scheduling time on a weekly and monthly basis to review the resolutions you’ve set for yourself and to measure your own progress. The best way of doing this, I’ve found, is working with a coach or joining a mastermind group. This forces you, not only to review what you’ve done and what you’ve dropped the ball on but also provides that level of social accountability that’s needed to keep you going week after week.
Just remember, every day–not just January 1st–is a new beginning. You have 12 months ahead of you, 52 weeks, 365 days. Each of those is an opportunity to become better, to grow your business, to do whatever you want to do and become whoever you want to become.
Imagine what would be possible if you dedicated yourself to improving in all the key areas of your life just 1% every single day. Who would you be? What would you have? What would you be doing?
I know, because you read this article all the way through, that you’re well on your way.
Cheers to a wonderful, fun, exciting, and impactful 2019!
Cannot wait to share in this next phase of the journey with you.
P.S If you’re looking for a planner that will help you keep your goals on track, I’ve designed just the journal for you here – The Modern Alchemist Planner.