5 Essential Steps to a Successful New Year
As we embark on a New Year, many of us are focusing on what we want to achieve in the next 12 months and what we want to change in our lives or do differently. This is often referred to as making ‘New Year’s resolutions’
What New Year’s resolutions did you make this year? Like many people, you probably started off the year hopeful and determined to make changes that you desire – and you should be commended for that. However, studies have shown that as many as 91 percent of people give up on their resolutions in less than three weeks! We’re now just a few days into the new year, how are you doing so far?
Are you on your way to becoming part of that 91 percent, or are you determined to be part of the 9% that keep going past the end of January?
Most people promise this and declare that, but what is it that determines whether they get what they want? How can you make sure you stay on track? Is there any help out there? It can be hard to stay committed to even the greatest goals you set for yourself.
Follow these 5 steps and you’ll stand a much greater chance of getting the results you want this year. Read through each and then take some time to work through each step.
Step 1: Review – Look back on last year
Stop and pay attention to what has worked for you over the course of last year, no really stop and pay attention, and then write it down! However you feel last year went for you, take some time and take stock of all of the things that went well. List your victories and successes, no matter how big or small. They are all important!
Why? I here you ask. Because our past success are the fuel and motivation for our future ones. The challenge here is that most of us have a tendency to pay more attention to what hasn’t worked out, and this takes us away from all the delicious things that have.
In life we tend to get more of what we focus on, so make sure you start the year as you mean to go on! This year will be a brilliant year the more you focus on what works and then put that into action.
Step 2: Clarity – Get really clear
A great next step to moving beyond just thinking and hoping for all you’ve dreamed of is to gain a deeper level of clarity on what it is you truly want out of your life this year. This short exercise can help you do just that:
- Think forward to this coming Christmas… what would need to have happened in the previous 12 months for you to be able to look back and say ‘ WOW, that was a great year’?
- Then, from that perspective, write down list the outcomes you really want in specific areas of your life – not activities, but specific results that you are willing to work for. Be as explicit as possible.
- Once you have your list go through each item and ask yourself what you think you would gain if you achieved this. What would this give you? How would you feel? This will help you dig another level deeper and give you even greater insight into what it is that you really want. It also helps to make it really visceral.
Once you have developed a deeper level of clarity on where you want to go and what you want to achieve, you now have a really clear target that is written down and tangible. The next step is to begin to create a plan of action.
Step 3: Timing – Get the timing right
As you start to develop your plan of action, it is crucial to get the timing right. In my opinion, one of the main reasons many people fail in sticking to their New Year’s resolutions is because they do it at the wrong time of year – mid-winter. It’s very hard to stay motivated when it’s grey and cold outside, the days are short, and … Naturally at this time of year our bodies (and minds) are in slow-down mode, almost a bit like a semi-hibernation. In the natural cycle of the year it is a time of rest, recovery and renewal. So it’s hardly a surprise that so many of us fail when we try to charge off and make major changes. I recommend splitting your plan for the year into 4 phases:
Phase 1: January to March – Planning and preparation. Use this time to really plan and prepare for the changes you want to make over the next 12 months. By all means start the ball rolling, but take it one step at a time and don’t try and achieve too much. If you fall off the horse, don’t give yourself too much of a hard time. Just pick yourself up, recover, and then get back on.
Phase 2: April to June – Get into action. Now that the clocks have changed, the days are longer and brighter, and it’s getting warmer outside, it’s time to really swing into action. Spring is the best time to really kick off the changes you’ve planned for the year. Draw on the energy of the season, and really put some drive and effort behind your goals and objectives for the year and get some real momentum going.
Phase 3: July to September – Stoke the fire. As we come into full summer, it’s important to really stay on track and maintain the momentum you created during the spring. Keep your energy and commitment levels high and keep building on each achievement as a stepping stone to the next.
Phase 4: October to December – Harvest and reap the rewards. Now is the time to really begin to enjoy the rewards of your labour. If you’ve successfully implemented your plan to date you should already be able to look back and see some great progress. Enjoy it, celebrate, give thanks, and begin to wind down for the winter and plan to use that time to rest and recover, ready to repeat the cycle next year. I highly recommend adding the American ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday into your calendar!
Break your plan down into these four phases and have specific tasks, actions and accountability for each.
Step 4: Commitment – Make a strong commitment to your goals and plan
OK, here comes the toughest part for most of us – sticking at it! It’s time to really commit to making it happen – and you’ll need to re-commit over and over again throughout the year. It’s not just a one off process. We’re all human and we all waver. It’s not about implementing the plan flawlessly, in my opinion that is an unrealistic expectation. What’s important is to keep going. Don’t berate yourself for your failures and slip ups along the way, instead focus on recovery. Pick yourself up and carry on. Get straight back in the saddle so to speak.
My other key bit of advice here is to get help. Buddy up, get an accountability partner, hire a Move Beyond coach (shameless plug I know). Take a look back at my previous post ‘Flying Solo’. Going it alone is rarely the best approach to getting the results you want.
Step 5: Measure – Keep track of your success and keep it in perspective
As with Step 1 – keep focused on your victories and successes, not matter how big or small. Set yourself a reward structure for achieving milestones along the way – don’t hold them back until you’ve reached the finish line. You’ll need fuel along the way, so the breadcrumbs approach is best, little and often.
On that note, I want you to really think about what constitutes success, and what constitutes failure. I was chatting to some friends about this the other day and one of them confessed that last year she made a resolution to take vitamins every day, and sadly admitted that she was not successful. I asked her if she took more vitamins than the year before, and watched her eyes brighten as she enthusiastically said “yes” she did. Then it clicked in my mind. I was reminded that success is really all about our perspective. Are we failures if we do not reach our goals 100%, or are we successes because we did better than the year before? The decision is ultimately up to you, but in my experience few people achieve great things by focusing on where they’ve failed.
What’s important is not necessarily achieving every goal you set out to, but knowing that you will make some progress in all of them. And some progress is better than no progress, right? If we set goals and do better than the year before, then we have been successful. If we drink less, smoke less, eat less, spend less, save more, earn more, exercise more, and eat healthier, then we have made positive change. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
If you are certain you won’t achieve a goal because you have tried and tried again, and maybe you have even given up hope, don’t! Instead try setting a tangible, achievable goal to “do better” than the year before, and see how that goes. It just might turn out pretty good.