What is it about a new year that makes us want to create a list of New Year’s Resolutions? Somehow, we’ve come to think of a fresh, new year as being the time to create a ‘fresh new you.’ But the sad truth is that despite the depth of our resolve, more often than not, these attempts are temporary and don’t last much past Valentines’ Day.
This blog post is not a booklet of promises and resolutions. Nor will it discuss those things you “should” do, like eating healthily and getting exercise. Instead of making a resolution that you may or may not follow for more than a month, we’ll take a look at how you can make lasting changes that might make this your Best Year Ever.
How? We’ll look at defining your year. We’ll ask you what you want it to be, and then you’ll be invited to dig into why you want it to be that way. We’ll look at the power of vision, in seeing the year the way you want it to be and how you want it to go. We’ll explore the benefits of focusing on one issue at a time, the concentration of effort to succeed.
In short, we’ll take a look at what matters most to you (as opposed to what other people may want for you. And then we’ll tie it all together with an action plan that works. You’ll find this approach much more useful and concrete than saying, “I need to go to the gym more” right?
Are you excited yet? Let’s get started!
It might sound like an infantile game of “Let’s pretend,” but the fact remains that we cannot do that we can’t envision. If you don’t believe you can accomplish something, you’re probably right. When you have a bias against accomplishment, you’ve already talked yourself out of it.
On the other hand, when you believe you can accomplish something, you’re probably right. Having a vision of your ideal end state in full detail is a fundamental aspect of success.
This vision isn’t something you can merely create from nothing. It takes time and effort to create. The good news is, you probably already have some idea of the direction you want to take, the general finishing line for the coming year. That is something that comes from your imagination, dreams, aspirations, and fantasies. When you visualize yourself in your ideal “future state”, you should experience both excitement and a sense of anticipation. You should feel inspired to get going!
Having a clear vision will carry you through when your commitment is flagging and the enthusiasm dwindles. Vision can restart a passion. Vision can bring back your willingness to push past the obstacles when that fades with time.
Perhaps the most challenging question to answer is the simplest: What is it you want? The answer may sometimes surprise you.
More than that, it can be intimidating to admit your desires. Those thoughts can be embarrassing: what will people think if you admit you want that specific thing? What will they say if you fail?
For some, it may be arrogant or selfish to have a specific goal in mind; for others, it might be too fanciful or impractical. Answering this question honestly, however, is essential. Improving your life isn’t going to happen by accident. It takes work, effort, and perseverance.
Start with the following questions. Write them down and save them. Then go over them again in a month, in six months, and then again in a year.
What matters to you? Don’t put down what matters to your spouse or your parents. What you’re working on isn’t their goal. What matters to you? When you stop paying attention to external opinions, you reduce the “should factor” “This should matter.” “That should be important.”
The question is, what do you think matters the most?
What do you want more of? What are some aspects of your life that you feel are lacking? What’s missing? What do you want more of in your life?
If money was no object, would you still keep working in your present job? What job would you do if money was not the deciding factor?
What’s your passion? Now, what’s the passion you don’t tell people about? What about your dreams? What are the deep, dark hidden dreams you don’t share?
Is there something that would bring joy to your life? Answering this question is tricky. A new TV or a new car would bring a certain amount of joy and happiness, but that’s surface level. The newness wears off, and the object that brought happiness is now merely another clutter item. Instead, ask yourself, what would bring lasting joy to your life.
Are you happy with your relationships? What’s missing? What do you need in a relationship that you’re not getting? How could those relationships be better?
What qualities would you like to have that are maybe missing in your life? What qualities do you have that you would want to strengthen? How could you go about gaining/increasing them?
What are your values? What are the things you care about? We’re not just looking at the causes you support. Instead, ask what your passions are, what you believe in, what matters most to you?
List your talents. What are the things that make you uniquely you? Skills, abilities, innate talents. You might be musical without ever learning an instrument, you might be mechanically inclined and have no training in automotive repair. What makes you stand out?
What would you most like to accomplish? What’s on your bucket list? What would you want to be able to say you did?
What kind of legacy would you leave behind? When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered and by whom?
Keep those responses and revisit them from time to time. Why? The answers to those questions will change over time, especially as you grow and change as an individual. As a result, the goals you set yesterday may no longer apply today.
Now, jot down these points for consideration:
For every question you answered, go back and add the why to them. Why do you want this? Why do you feel like that?
Are any of the answers negative? In other words, instead of answering “I want a car,” did you put down “I don’t want to drive a clunker anymore”? Focus on what you want, not what you don’t.
Allow yourself to dream. Dreams are what motivates and inspires. Dreams are the blueprint to achievement. You have to dream it before you can create it. Remember, you need to protect your dreams. Anyone that tries to shame you for your dreams is toxic, and you should avoid them at all costs.
Allow yourself to think outside of the box. Be creative. Think about things creatively and from different perspectives. When coming up with the strange and comical answers to your strategy, you might just hit on some new idea that you might not have had otherwise.
Go through the list again. If any of those are answers that are expected of you by others, cross them off, and try again. Remember, this is your list, no one else’s. These are the things YOU desire that YOU want. It isn’t your spouse’s wish list or your children’s or parents’.
So now you that you have some goals and some ideas to start on. Let’s take the next step and go one better. Instead of drilling down to the items, take a look at the person you’re going to be once you achieve the goals.
Why? You’re a different person now than you were five years ago. You’re almost unrecognizable from the person you were ten years ago. Experience changes you. It’s inevitable. The goals you’re striving for will change you too. Maybe that’s your goal, to be a more outgoing/confident/assertive person. You might already be focusing on whatever personality trait you want to have.
How will your life look? Where will you live? Will it seem different than it does now? How will your relationships look?
Again, here’s a list to examine. Write down your answers to these questions too. In six months or a years time, you can review your responses and see how far you’ve come.
First, give yourself credit for getting this far. What have you already done? How close are you right now? You now have a baseline from which you can see future progress.
How will you feel about yourself when you achieve these goals? Proud? Energized? Free?
What sort of people will be in your life then? How will you feel about them? How will they think of you? Are they supportive? Are they positive?
What does your best day look like when you have achieved those goals? Write out what your best day looks like, from the time you wake up until you go to bed.
How does your living situation look? Are you living in a house? An apartment? What city? What furnishings are there? City? Country? Be specific.
Are you working in the same field? If not, what will you be doing?
Are you alone or part of a family? A couple? A group?
What will you wear? Be specific about your clothing. How does it look and feel? How do you look?
How do you look physically? In shape? Healthy? When you think about your future self, how will you feel about your look?
Examine that person closely. Does the thought of being him/her make your heart skip a beat and make you anxious to get started? If it doesn’t, you’re probably not dreaming big enough. Go back over the questions again. This time, go for the gold, really dig in so that when you get to this question again, you’re looking forward to being that person.
Right now, you’re trying to get a handle on what’s to come. It’s too early yet to think about the journey. Your goal at this moment is to concentrate on the destination. Get a good vision of the person you’re going to become. Feel what that person is like, then revisit that every day to keep the goal fresh.
In psychiatric circles, there’s a technique called ‘act as if.’ This method encourages you to act like you already are this person. When you do so consistently, you will find that you slowly become that person.
How do you do that? It’s relatively simple. If you can get a good feel for what you’re going to be like, you should allow yourself to incorporate bits of that person into your day to day life. If your goals make you more outgoing, start to be more outgoing in your day-to-day relationships. If you see yourself as more confident, start making decisions without agonizing over them.
When we’re children and are given a maze to do on a piece of paper, we learn that it’s sometimes easier to start at the end and work your way backward. That can also be a benefit for planning out goals. It’s the point where we start looking at the how’s of a situation.
Imagine that you have already reached your destination. You’re standing in the winner’s circle looking back a year to where you are now. Answer these questions from the perspective of the person you’re going to be.
- What is the last thing that happened to achieve your goals?
- What’s the most important decision you had to make?
- What is the biggest lesson you had to learn?
- What significant actions did you have to take?
- What beliefs changed along the way?
- What habits or behaviors did you have to build?
- What support did you have? From who? Did you have to create that relationship?
- How long did you take to realize that you had arrived at your goal?
- What were the milestones you achieved to get where you are?
Now take that insight and compare it to where you are now. What’s the first step? Go to the future again and take the second to the last step, write that down. Narrow down the steps until you’ve bridged where you are with where you want to be.
It might be daunting, but it works. If you take this one step at a time, it’s achievable.
As a final note, remember that all of us are acted upon every day by external forces. Things change. Keep these lists handy and do this exercise again in six months. You’ll find that the next time you check your progress, that you’re a lot closer to your goal than you thought. Not only will things have changed in your current state, but your goals might shift too. What seems impossible now might be within reach in a years time.