The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Best Year Ever
This is a time of year when many people make New Year’s Resolutions. The success rates are not awesome – statistics show we fail to keep our resolutions 92% of the time.
Why do we suck at this?
I believe most people are using New Year’s Resolutions as a list of dreams, not actual goals. The missing ingredient? Action, baby!
Action is how you will make this year your best year ever. Here’s the ultimate, actionable guide to turning resolutions into results.
The end of the year is a natural time to think about the year gone by and set goals for the next year, but you can and should do this multiple times throughout the year. Take the time to reset your priorities and make sure your goals are things that will get you closer to the person you want to be, and the life you want to have.
Here is a very simple framework for how to establish the most important goal in your life right now, and create action steps to accomplish it:
Step 1: Reflect on last year’s progress
It is critical that you review the time since your last goal-setting session. It’s imperative to focus on the progress you have made rather than what you didn’t get done.
Often times we are focused on perfection, which is unattainable. We look at where we are now and where we want to be, then we focus on how far that currently seems.
The great Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach refers to this as “The Gap.” We need to take more time to appreciate how far we have come in the last week, month, year, decade, etc. You are a high achiever and will continue to set the bar higher and higher.
That won’t go away if you take time to appreciate your progress. It will actually allow you to put the past in perspective and clear your head for the new goals you want to attain.
Action item: Write a list of seven things you accomplished in the last year and why they were important.
Step 2: Determine your One Goal
Brainstorm 10 to 15 goals for 2015
If you want to eat healthier, make more money, get more organized, or build a new relationship, just write down all your ideas. Make sure these are specific, measurable and have a time component.
Rather than “lose weight” as a goal, try “Lose ____ pounds by _______”.
Action item: List 10-15 goals you have for next year. Don’t worry about getting this perfect, just get into a flow and make a list.
Then, reduce it to five
Which are the ones that get you the most energized and excited just by reading them out loud?
Which are the ones that will have the most impact?
Action item: Cut down the list until only your five best remain.
Write down your “WHY?”
This is such an important part. It is not enough just to have goals.
Chances are good you’ll fail to reach your goals if you aren’t clear with yourself about why the goal matters. Anything worth doing is going to be difficult, and in order to be able to push through the difficult times, you’ll need to know why it is important to you.
You need to know what’s at stake if you don’t accomplish it, and what’s possible if you do.
Action item: Under each of the five goals, write down why it matters to you.
Decide on just ONE
The book “Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength” has a great section about this:
“Above all, don’t make a list of New Year’s resolutions… Because you have only one supply of willpower, the different New Year’s resolutions all compete with one another. Each time you try to follow one, you reduce your capacity for all the others. A better plan is to make one resolution and stick to it.” – Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
My take on that is, yes, we should set multiple goals, but we should be okay with focusing on just one of them at a time.
After we complete the current goal, I think it’s okay to re-evaluate all the other goals and decide which one is best to focus on next.
Action item: Choose one goal.
*Pro Tip: One thing I like to do is set varying levels of success for a goal. You can set a minimum target and an aspirational target for your goal. This creates an entirely different paradigm because you establish different degrees of success rather than a simple yes or no. This is covered in the next step; but for me, the actions are more important than the goals. Having different targets shifts the focus to the actions rather than the goal itself, and consistent action steps will lead to better habits or acquired skills.
Step 3: Create Action Steps
Goals, like resolutions, are themselves just aspirations unless there are specific action steps attached to each one.
How action-over-outcome makes me a better person
I am not an outcome-driven person. I like to concentrate on actions.
When I think about my goals, what gets me energized is the thought of acquiring a new skill or formulating a new habit. It drives our founder, Nick, crazy because there is an absolute necessity for tangible goals in business – for the company, employees and investors.
But I’m always considering the actions we need to take vs. the outcomes we want to achieve. Ultimately, we are working toward the same thing, we just go about it differently. It is one of the many interesting dynamics that take place in the “marriage” that is a business partnership.
I want to focus on what I can control, and that is the actions I will consistently take in order to accomplish my goals. If I do that, I will form habits and skills.
Habits and skills have benefits beyond the outcomes: they will make me a better and more interesting person as well as provide the desired outcome (if they are the right actions).
Therefore, I spend quite a bit more time working on the actions I will take rather than the goals.
How to get action-oriented
If you want to “Lose 15 pounds by May 15, 2016,” what is your plan of attack to get there? What action(s) will you take, and with what type of frequency, to help you achieve that goal?
You can start small and readjust along the way if you want, but I think this is where the SMART framework is more important.
“Eat one healthy meal per day five times a week” and “Run 1/4 mile three times a week” are a couple of action steps you could take in order to lose 15 pounds.
Those are actions you can control and hold yourself accountable for. How to set SMART goals starts with: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely expectations.
Many times this requires the help of others.
For instance, if you don’t know what healthy food is, you could set an action step to learn about nutrition for 20 minutes every day. Or learn about exercise if you are new to the gym. You should always be using the vast resources around you to help you achieve anything in life.
Action item: Make a list of 3 action items you will commit to on a consistent basis in order to accomplish your goal.
Doing these actions steps will build consistency, which builds habits and confidence. Eventually, you’ll see the results. If you dedicate yourself to achieving your goal by creating the right action steps, you’ll be able to accomplish anything.
Step 4: Visualize Success Regularly
By visualizing your success, you can positively influence your subconscious mind. This is a common practice among elite athletes for a reason. If you imagine what it will feel like to accomplish your goal, you will begin to expect that outcome.
- Action item: Every morning when you wake up, take a couple minutes to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. Experience what it feels like and how your life is different because of it.
Step 5: Decide
You must decide that the goal you have set up for yourself is important or you will not do what it takes every day in order to achieve it.
Success does not come easy. It takes hard work, dedication and sacrifice.
Success is the early morning walk to the gym before anyone else is awake.
Success is overcoming obstacles that get in your way, large or small.
Success is one step at a time.
Success is yours for the taking.
New Year’s Resolutions don’t work because they rely on large, unsustainable changes. Small changes done regularly and personal accountability is what will make this your best year ever.
Now go take action today!