Setting Goals for Your New Year
Ahhh, New Years. Fireworks. Parties. The Ball dropping. What a wonderful way to celebrate the end of the old and the beginning of the new.
With the new year fast approaching, many of us are looking forward to making major changes in our lives and especially want to put 2020 firmly in our rear view mirror. It's been a tough year for most of us with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc with our jobs, our family life, and our sense of community. I'm sure that for most of us, we'd like nothing more than to look forward into the new year and hope that things will get better. Well, the truth of the matter is that if we're going to make our lives better, it's going to take more than wishful thinking to make that happen. It's going to take a lot of hard work and focus.
The Failure of the New Year's Resolution
New Years Resolutions have become a fad over the years but how many of us actually stick to them. Usually by the time February rolls around, they've faded from the forefront of our minds and have drifted back into the “Oh yeah. I forgot I wanted to accomplish that” part. What causes that to happen? I think what it comes down to is a few key factors which I'm going to show you how to fix. By the time we're through, you're going to be equipped with the tools you need to accomplish more in the upcoming year than you ever thought possible.
The first failure we need to overcome is in how we view the goals themselves. Setting goals is something that many people do without much thought. They just jot down a wish list of changes they want to make in their lives without giving much thought to how they're going to accomplish them. There's nothing wrong with wanting to change, it's just that without a plan in hand, you're much less likely to accomplish anything. How are you going to make that goal happen? What's your deadline? What tools do you need to help you accomplish it? And most importantly, why do you want to accomplish it? What burns inside of you that drives you forward? Answer these questions and you're on the right path to making your goals and dreams a reality.
The Benefits of Goal Setting
Accomplishing goals gives you a sense of direction and purpose. Instead of wandering through life, they can show you a path which can take you to heights you've only dreamed of. Here are some of the benefits of setting goals.
Provides You With Direction
Here's one of the first questions you need to ask yourself when it comes to setting goals: If you don't know where you're heading, how do you know you're on track? Picking a goal is like picking your destination. With that destination in mind, you can choose which road you're going to take to get there.
Gives You a Clearer Focus on What's Important to You
Close your eyes and take a moment to focus on your goal. Dig deep down and find out why achieving your goal is so important to you. Sometimes the reason you think is driving you isn't the real one. Once you have an answer, then ask yourself why that's important to you. Then ask yourself why that's important to you. Keep digging and asking why until you get to the real answer. You may be surprised by what you find.
Helps Clarity Your Decision Making Process
Once you know the real reason why you want to accomplish your goal, now you can make wise, informed choices on how to achieve it. You can eliminate paths that won't get you where you want to go and you'll reach your goal even faster.
Gives You Control Over Your Life
Have you ever laid you head on your pillow at night and wondered what you did all day? I know I've had days like that. It's usually when I didn't keep my goals in mind. I'd just drift through the day letting outside forces determine my destination. Well, setting goals and focusing on them can keep you on track and allow you to control the outcome of your days, your weeks, your months, and your years. You'll lay your head on your pillow knowing that you did what you planned to do and made progress that day.
Provides Motivation for Moving Forward
Have you ever woken up in the morning, snuggled down into your nice warm bed, hit your snooze button a couple of times, and then eventually woken up hours later. Odds are that if you have, you didn't have an urgent need to get out of bed that day. You may have even dragged yourself through the rest of the day without much energy behind you. Having a goal and purpose behind you, though, can help you wake up full of energy and motivate you to get your butt out of bed and take on the world.
Gives You a Sense of Fulfillment
Whenever you've started working on a new skill, have you ever been frustrated. You work on it and work on it and it seems that you can't quite get the hang of it. But then, one day, everything just clicks in your mind and what previously seems difficult now seems pretty easy. You've mastered the skill and that feeling of accomplishment is oh so sweet. That's what accomplishing a goal feels like. It's the moment when you say “Yes! I did it!”
Make them S.M.A.R.T.
One great way to clarify your goals and put a plan together to achieve them is to make them S.M.A.R.T. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. If you can write down and describe these five characteristics of your goals, you're well on your way to making them happen.
Start with the standard set of questions every great investigator uses to uncover clues to a mystery. These are Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. With these answers under your belt, you have the foundation for a great plan going forward.
How are you going to measure your progress towards accomplishing your goals? What milestones have you set for yourself? Without some way to tell if you're making progress, you could find yourself going off course or even stopping on the journey.
Can you really see yourself accomplishing your goal or is it just a pipe dream? Do you see it falling within your grasp? Do you see yourself crossing the finish line? Does knowing that you can reach it inspire you to accomplish it?
How is accomplishing this goal going to impact your life? Will your life or the lives of those around you be better after you've completed it? Does accomplishing this goal align with your values and your sense of self?
Can you accomplish this goal within a reasonable amount of time or is it something that you may never achieve? Have you set a deadline for it yet? By the time you accomplish this goal, will it still be important to you? Will it still fit into the life you're building?
Once you've defined each part of your S.M.A.R.T. Goal, see if you can wrap it all up into a sentence or two which summarizes the goal. If you can make it easy to describe, you can make it easy to remember and keep in front of you every day. That's going to make accomplishing it much easier.
Make them Automated
Do you know why most habits fail to take hold? It's because they're hard to do. There are roadblocks in place that take a habit from something that takes only a moment to do ... to a task that's harder to start than the task itself is to perform. Take for example saving money each paycheck. If when you get paid, you need to go to the bank, cash your paycheck, then transfer money into your savings account, are you going to want to do that for every paycheck for years and years? Or, would it be easier if your pay was directly deposited into your bank account and a portion of it directly transferred into your savings account? It's the second one, right? That's called automation and that's how you can effortlessly and painlessly grow your emergency fund. It's what makes saving money simple and an 'out of sight, out of mind' process.
The same goes for investing. If you have your employer take a portion of each of your paychecks and invest it into a 401k account for you, isn't that pretty easy? Once it's set up, there isn't much for you to think about other than to check on it once a year or so to see if it needs tweaked. That's automation and that's what makes growing your retirement fund so easy.
Be Accountable to Someone
Sometimes shooting for your goals can be a lonely road. You're fighting against people around you who are distracting you, you're fighting against your environment, and most importantly, you're fighting against yourself a lot of the time. What if you had someone who was running the race along that road with you? Accomplishing your goals can be a lot easier if you grab a Goal Partner to work with.
Find someone who's also working to accomplish that same goal in their life. It might be somebody who wants to build up their Emergency Fund, save up for a vacation, or maybe pay off some nagging debts. Then, share your goals with each other and keep each other accountable for making progress towards them. It can be as easy as texting them when you make a deposit or asking them if they've made theirs yet. Just having the thought in the back of your mind that someone is going to call you to check on your progress can be enough to keep you on track. Also, it's great to have someone to share your victories with!
Celebrate Your Milestones
Everyone loves a party even if it's just a cupcake with a candle on it. Well, what if you made each successful step along the way to accomplishing your goals a celebration? It wouldn't need to be anything huge or extravagant, just something that says “Yes! I'm on my way!”
Keep a list of small things that you love such as going to a movie, treating yourself to lunch at your favorite restaurant, or maybe just taking some time for yourself with a walk in the park. Then, when you accomplish one of your mini-goals, you can treat yourself as a way to keep yourself motivated and on track.
Keep the Next Mini-Goal in Sight
Too many people quit when they reach a goal because that was the end-all be-all of what they were focused on. But winners have a string of goals they want to accomplish and always keep the next one in sight as they're working on their current one. That way, once they celebrate their success, they're already thinking about how they're going to go out and win again. Break down your goal into smaller bite-sized pieces and set deadlines for accomplishing them. When you accomplish one of them, cross it off your list. Pretty soon you'll be able to look back at all the progress you've already made.
Now that you have a game plan for your New Years' Resolution, it's time to put it into action. I like to use a calendar to track my progress and to set a deadline for reaching my goal. As I go, I jot down my milestones along the way and check them off as I reach each one. This keeps me motivated to keep going and not give up. It also keeps my goal in the front of me instead of letting everyday life slowly push it out of sight. I've used this method many times and it's surprisingly easy and effective.
Let's make 2021 our breakout year!