2017! It’s a brand-new year, and time to leave the past in the past and look forward to the future. If things didn’t go your way last year, rather than holding on to the past, consider looking forward to a better today and tomorrow. If you spend any time reflecting on the past year, do it in the context of “lessons learned” rather than what you did wrong. Learning from our mistakes is far more powerful than regretting our failures.
Many of you are probably familiar with the axiom that states:, “How you start your day is generally how you live your day.” The same axiomatic truth applies to how we begin our year. If we begin the year on a positive note, with clear, obtainable goals, we tend to do better throughout the year. Establishing goals at the beginning of the year helps us stay focused, provides clarity about what we want to achieve, and helps guide our choices about how and what we spend our time on.
We all have different ambitions in life, whether they are personal or professional, but we are often unclear about how to motivate and organize ourselves in a way that helps us translate our goals into reality. Unfortunately, many of us treat our goals like new year resolutions. Although they sound good and seem well-intended on the surface, many of us either don’t truly believe in what we have resolved to accomplish, or we don’t think through what it’s going to take to achieve them. Consequently, we often revert to our old ways, staying stagnate, or worse, backsliding. Many of us are afraid to make mistakes and fail, however we only plan to fail when we fail to plan.
I like to set clear, realistic goals that I would like to accomplish each year. It doesn’t always mean I hit every goal, but by setting goals, and organizing myself to achieve them, I strive to improve and usually come out ahead. Here are a few things that I do at the beginning of each year that have helped me:
- Clarify what matters to me most- I figure out what I want and why I want to do it. I believe that my personal and professional goals should be aligned with one another, however some people keep them separate. I begin the process by asking myself the following questions: “What is important to me? What are my life’s priorities? What I want to accomplish in 2017? Am I doing this for myself, my loved ones, for accolades, or financial gain? There are no right or wrong answers; what’s important is being honest with myself. The decision is up to you.
- Write down what I want to achieve: I keep it simple-no more than 3-5 goals, anymore can feel daunting, and by setting too many goals, I have found that I can be setting myself up for failure. I establish both personal and professional goals. I make them challenging but achievable. I don’t try to change the world; instead I focus on changing myself. I have found that if my goals are too easy to obtain then they are not big enough.
- Make an Action Plan- After writing down what I want to accomplish, I think about how I’m going to get there. I think about what I have to start doing, what I have to stop doing and what I must change. This becomes my recipe for success and it is unique to me. I also have a simple rule that I follow: I can always alter my plan, but I never change my goals. I look for things that I want to specifically improve in my life.
- Share my goals with others- Some people believe that their goals are private; that they should hold onto them like a birthday wish, never sharing them until they happen. I have found it is very helpful to share my goals with likeminded people; people who stand for my success and want the best for me. By sharing my goals with others, I am actually creating a clear sense of motivation and accountability, which I have found critical to my success in achieving my goals. I have also found that I cannot achieve happiness if I surround myself with negative people. When I share something that is personal to me, it helps me create a connection with others who want to the same for me.
- Establish Milestones– Goals are much easier when they are broken down into smaller, more manageable objectives. When I hit those objectives, I give myself a reward for getting to that point. By tracking my progress, it helps me focus on what I want to accomplish.
- Never give up – Circumstances and events that are out of my control can and do happen, but that doesn’t mean that I give up. I expect setbacks or breakdowns to happen. Breakdowns are inevitable when we are shooting for something big. I have found that a critical key to successfully achieving my goals is how well I detect and manage the breakdowns that I encounter. I reaffirm my commitment to my goals, and make revisions to my plan as needed to keep moving forward. At the end of the day, it’s all about making clear commitments, and then getting appropriately organized to fulfill those commitments. It really does work.
Now go out there and get into action by translating your motivation into transformational results!