Making changes requires more than setting a New Year’s resolution. Too many of us start the New Year with plenty of enthusiasm, only to have abandoned our resolve and our new behaviors before February rolls around. According to one study, only 15% of people who make New Year’s resolutions manage to keep them. A resolution is not the same as a plan for success, AND a plan for success needs to take into account our goals, the lessons we’ve already learned, and our unique challenges and needs.
The beginning of a new year can be an effective and inspiring time to make enduring changes. The last week of the year is always a time when I relish the opportunity to pause, breathe deeply, and do some planning to prepare for what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Before you plan though, it’s helpful to take inventory.
After you celebrate the accomplishments of the past year, here are four key questions that can be helpful in charting your course for the next twelve months and beyond.
Make a list of everything you can think of that is creating static in your life. Don’t problem-solve–just make a list. What are you putting up with, making do with, or pretending not to notice? What are the thing, routines, or relationships in your life that disrupt your flow? These might include big things like a job you hate and they might be small irritations like the dirty dishes that get left on the counter. Write them all down. Acknowledge them. You’ll be amazed how this one small step will lead you to make some changes down the road.
One of my mentors recently told me that she regularly sets a theme for her year. I love that idea, so I’m adopting it and suggesting it here. In 1-3 words, identify the theme or the spirit you want this year to have. Prosperity? Health? Follow-through? One client chose “Play and Fun.” My mindset / theme for the year: Thriving. You’ll be hearing a lot about that from me. Post your theme somewhere where you will see it often to remind yourself of the tone you want to set.
Pick two or three concrete, measurable goals. Write them in a sentence: “By January 1 of next year, I will . . .” Now, start to test each goal by breaking it into chunks. Take each goal and divide it into steps you will achieve by one month, three months, six months, and nine months. Do these look achievable? If so, you are on the right track.
Don’t ignore the tough stuff. Knowing where you want to go isn’t enough. Make a list of anything that occurs to you that might get in your way. What do you need that you don’t have (don’t forget–that may include SUPPORT). What has derailed you in the past? What do you want / need to do differently this time around to give your efforts more momentum and to create lasting success?
Everyone’s path for creating effective change is unique and their own, but knowing yourself is critical to being successful. Now that you’ve taken the time to take stock, don’t ignore the information you have gathered (you’d be surprised how many people do). As you plan for the New Year, take this list with you. Refer to it often and challenge yourself to incorporate the information you recorded into the life you are mapping. If you hit a speed bump or get stuck, look at your lists and see if anything you noted explains what’s slowing you down. Is your energy being drained by something that isn’t working? Do you need to do some strategizing around a new challenge? Have you lost track of the mindset you wanted to honor?
Effective change is a PROCESS. Hopefully, these four questions will help you get the process off to a strong start.