As this year draws to a close, it’s the time to start focusing on the new year. So many times, you will set a new year’s resolution to improve your life in some aspect but rarely do we follow through. Usually, this results from a lack of proper planning, reflection and mindset. In this article, I’m going to show you 8 tips I’ve picked up from learning from some of the masters of self help and goal setting. If you read this list and actually follow through, you should be able to achieve massive improvements in all aspects of your life in the new year (and stop creating new year’s resolutions that you’ll never actually see through). Ready? Here we go!
Reflect on the past year
Take the last week of the year (or last day) and spend some time thinking about the events of the past year. A lot of very successful people keep a journal throughout the year because remembering what you accomplished in January at the end of December can be tricky. Tony Robbins, world famous businessman, author and philanthropist keeps a journal where he collects his “accomplishments and magic moments.” “At the end of the year I go and review them all,” he said. “I look at the area of our businesses, our relationships, finance, and family [to determine] what do we really want to make happen in the following year.”
Journals are very inexpensive to purchase but, properly used, are immensely valuable when used like this.
It’s important that starting the new year is like starting a new life. Mistakes made and opportunities lost are best left in the past. Using a journal, like Tony Robbins does, to record “magic moments” puts you in a great frame of mind to remember the fantastic things that happened throughout the year. Sometimes it’s hard to remember but most people have more great things happen to them than negative things. However, people tend to focus on the negative things more often and what you focus on, you attract more of.
If people wronged you, forgive them. Not because you agree with their interpretation of things but because whatever they did isn’t worth distracting you from becoming the positive force you were created to be. Purge your heart of anger and animosity towards people or situations and you will be in a great position to attract more positive things into your life in the coming year.
One of the great things about Thanksgiving is it brings families together and encourages them to express gratitude for the blessings in their life. Use this time until the New Year to start to capture all the things you are grateful for. Then, use the first month of January to start a 30 day gratitude challenge. Every single day in the month of January, reach out to someone you are grateful to have in your life and share your feelings with them. They say it takes somewhere between 21 and 66 days to create a habit so start with a 30 day challenge and then do another one.
You will find that which you appreciate, appreciates. If you appreciate the people in your life, you will find more and more people to be grateful for. This dovetails nicely with #2 above. If you are grateful, and actively work to making a habit of gratitude, you will always maintain a positive attitude.
Fortunately, my business, SendOutCards, has a very easy system to be grateful for people. By sending one heartfelt card every single day, I have a positive attitude for the rest of the day and I send gratitude in the form of the written word (and sometimes a small gift) to someone I love. By appreciating others, others will appreciate you. Gratitude has an amazing affect on our ability to achieve our goals.
If you spend time reflecting on the activities of the past year, you will undoubtedly find activities, goals and commitments that are not serving your higher purpose. Some of these things are goals you set that you never really achieved (nor have any desire to do so anymore). Some of these are just time sinks like watching television.
Now I’m not suggesting everyone will be able to cut out watching television (I know I can’t) but if there are shows you aren’t excited about and watch out of habit, stop. If there are activities you do, but don’t like to do, find someone to do them for you. Maybe it’s chores for your children. Maybe you hire someone to clean your house. Could it cost you money? Sure. But if you properly invest the time you save into activities, projects and commitments that serve your higher purpose, you will find the money is an investment – not an expense.
You could also look for bills you pay that you no longer need. Can you cut your cable bill by reducing the number of channels you get? Could you cut down your grocery expenses? What about finally calling to see if you can save money on your auto insurance? Take that money saved and invest it in hiring someone to perform a task you don’t want to perform so you can take your time saved and perform a task you do want to perform.
Set Compelling Goals
Setting goals for the new year isn’t enough. Notice the word “compelling?” You have to have deep reasons for the goal. Dave Ramsey, author, radio host and motivational speaker says this: “I have to intentionally stop and dream again. What can I work on next year that makes me smile?” It’s not enough to have the goal to lose weight in the next year. You have to have a compelling “WHY” you want to lose weight. Is it to find a partner? Your health? Is it so you can live long enough to see your children get married? You have to search deep in your heart to find a reason that gets you emotional. Once you have that, you have the beginnings of a compelling goal. These should be documented in your journal.
As you reflect on the past year, what did you achieve and what did you enjoy? That can help you formulate what you want to achieve and want to enjoy in the next year. What kind of person do you want to become in the next year? Think about your business, your finances, your health, your spirituality — all aspects of your life. Write down who you want to be next year this time. Nothing is off the table. Whatever you want, as long as you have a compelling reason for wanting it, is achievable.
Break It Down
So now you’ve got your compelling goals written down (you DID write them down, didn’t you?) How do you accomplish them? Break them down into smaller, manageable chunks. I highly recommend you check out the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This book has been beyond valuable to me when it comes to getting complex goals broken down.
Is it a monster goal that will take you a long time? Break it down into seasonal, monthly, weekly goals. If you want to lose 60 pounds by summer, set a monthly goal to lose 10 pounds a month. Then, set a goal to lose 1 pound every 3 days. Then, set a goal based on how many calories you need to deficit your body by on a daily basis to reach that goal.
Want to take a vacation? Step #1 of any vacation goal is to put it on the calendar! Pick the date for the vacation and write it on the calendar. No vacation happens unless it’s scheduled. Something about putting the vacation on the calendar sets your subconscious in motion to bring it to reality. Set a goal to do the research on the venue, the activities, the costs, etc. Next, set a goal to set aside a certain amount of money out of every paycheck. Also, you can set a goal to order the tickets by a certain date.
Whatever your goal is, define the next physical action you need to move towards the goal and set a date to achieve that next physical action.
Schedule The Year
You’ve spent all this time reflecting on the past year, committed to a positive attitude, writing down things you’re grateful for and things you want for the next year. These are all strategic long-term strategies. Now it’s time to get tactical and put your plan together on how to accomplish all of these amazing things.
Nothing gets done if it’s not put in your calendar. Use your calendar in your phone, go buy a day planner, a white board, it doesn’t matter. Find something you will use to schedule things and then use it. A day planner you don’t use is just wasted money. If you are committing to the purchase, commit to the activity.
Writing something in your calendar puts a stake in the ground and it’s those stakes that make the magic happen. It’s perfectly fine to write something in your calendar and move it if the situation arises but make sure it’s a compelling reason to move it. Don’t reschedule something simply because you don’t feel like doing it. If it was important enough for you to write it in your schedule, it’s important enough to do it. If you feel compelled to reschedule it, consider just not doing it. Maybe it’s not important to you any more.
Unplug For A Brief Time
This is the most difficult for today’s modern worker, but it is also the most important. You have to unplug for a brief time. Some of the most successful people in the world recommend a minimum of two weeks to disconnect from the matrix and take a vacation. If your situation won’t allow that, you need to, at a bare minimum, schedule 3-4 weekend getaways throughout the year.
These are essential to improve your life throughout the year and make sure you are able to focus on what’s important and reflect on your progress thus-far. Pick two weeks (or several weekends) on your yearly planner and just mark them off as “vacation.” You can pick something extravagant or something simple but you have to commit yourself to not checking email, not returning phone calls, and focus internally on you.
Grab a book and sit on a beach and read, if that’s your thing. Go visit friends and family and be present in the moment with them. Whatever is important and personal to you, schedule it.
If you are able to put these 8 things into play for the upcoming year, you will be setting yourself up for massive success in the new year. The key is learning to be able to leave the past behind and learn from your experiences.