Here we are again, another year has gone by and a new one is set to begin. Amazing how fast time seems to go by anymore – feels like I was just enjoying my July girls’ weekend in Cape May only last week. But alas, it is the end of December and I am staring 2017 in the face.
It’s the time of year when most of us, intentionally or not, spend some amount of time reflecting on this past year. What all we did. What all we did not do, but wanted to. The good stuff and the bad stuff. The happy stuff and the sad stuff. It is also the time when we tend to make promises to ourselves about how next year will be different. We may even go so far as to make some New Year’s Resolutions surrounding the really big things we want to accomplish in the year to come. This is all common enough – reflection and goal setting are both admirable activities, but how many of us take it to the next level? How many of us actually follow through on the realizations from our reflection time and/or on the promises we make for the coming year? I think we all know the answer to those questions – not many of us at all.
For years I was guilty of that too. If I even bothered to reflect on a previous year or dared to suggest a goal for the coming year, it pretty much ended with those thoughts. In many cases those thoughts never even made it into the new year. I’d get up the first day of the new year and go about life as I always had. New Year’s Resolutions? What New Year’s Resolutions? And for those few times when I did take my New Year’s Resolutions “seriously”, by 2-3 weeks into January they had fallen by the wayside and it was back to the same old same old.
This pattern held true for me until a few years ago when I began to do things differently. Rather than haphazardly reflect and make a mental goal for myself, I actually sat down and intentionally set 4 pretty significant goals for myself in 2014 and then proceeded to break those goals down into small parts and gave myself benchmarks throughout the year to meet. And every Sunday evening I would take 5-10 minutes to review my progress on those goals. And so by the time December, 2014 rolled around I was delighted to see the growth and progress I had made with those 4 goals. I had completely achieved 3 of the 4 goals and was well on my way with the fourth one. That never happened before, ever. Before employing this technique I couldn’t even bring one simple goal to fruition. And happily I have continued to build on that success the past 2 years using this same format.
As I prepare to do my intentional reflection and goal setting for 2017, I share these tips with you in the hopes that you can also help yourself to make 2017 your most successful, productive year yet, personally or professionally…
Step 1 – Take the time (even if it is just 5-10 minutes) to reflect on the previous year
Give this task your undivided attention – you may be amazed at what you can learn. Here are some questions to consider asking yourself as a part of that reflection:
- What went well this past year?
- What didn’t go as planned?
- What made you happy?
- What made you sad?
- What would you do differently if given the chance?
- What were the obstacles that got in your way?
- How were you your own obstacle?
Step 2 – Choose 3-5 goals for yourself (personally and/or professionally)
These are the things that you absolutely love the idea of…the things that make you light up…the things that will make you feel the way you want to feel and help you to live the life you have always wanted to live. They can be as big or small as you want, but don’t sell yourself short – dream big! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want from the new year.
Step 3 – Establish benchmarks for each goal throughout the year
Work backwards from the end point and break your goals down into their smaller parts. (Whatever ½ way for a goal is should be done by the end of June.) Make them realistic but yet also push yourself a little as well. These can be realigned at any time (especially in light of major life circumstances that cannot be predicted), so don’t be afraid to push yourself on these.
Step 4 – Set time aside to check in on your progress toward each goal
Ideally you should do this once a week. You may not be able to do something related to each goal every week, but checking in helps you to keep track of your progress and to notice areas you are falling behind in. This time should be non-negotiable – the moment you start skipping this step you will have started down a path that will very likely lead to unmet goals in December.
Step 5 – Set yourself up for success
Make sure you have the resources gathered to help you achieve your goals. Those resources might be other people, time, money, or physical resources like books or other materials. Know your own strengths and weaknesses and go from there. Whatever you will need to ensure forward progress on your goals, make sure you have it at the ready.
Step 6 – Remove the obstacles, including yourself, from the equation
If you want to be successful at achieving your goals you have to be honest about the obstacles that stand in your way (and that includes yourself and your old habits). The best way to identify them is through the very first step above (end of the year reflection) as well as through the daily checks mentioned in #4 above. Call your obstacles what they are and give yourself permission to let them go, change them, remove them, whatever you need to do so they are no longer an obstacle for you.
Step 7 – Be honest with yourself throughout the whole process
Anything less will not net you’re the results you are looking for.
There are many resources out there that share best practices and tips for planning a successful new year. The things I share here are what have worked unequivocally for me. Using these tools I have accomplished more big goals in the past 3 years than I have in all of the rest of my adult life prior to using this technique. It is amazing. It is powerful. And if any of these tips speak to you, please give them a try and set yourself up for an amazing 2017!
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. – Tony Robbins