A friend shared this quote on Facebook on New Year’s Day, which I also thought was the right optimism to start the year. Over the last two weeks, I hope you found some time to reflect on the past year and think about your values and strengths. Now is the time to decide on where you would like to be by the end of 2014. To do this, find a favourite space or activity where you do your best thinking and answer the following questions.
What is the one thing that you will be most excited about if it happened?
For some, there is only one answer and it will come to you right away. If not, don’t worry. Write down everything that comes to mind, even if it is really rough. This can be either personal or professional because personal dreams may help you make professional choices. If you are comfortable with working toward a long term vision, this could be something you want to happen in five or ten years. Otherwise, focus on 2014 and look at your list and decide on what is the one thing that gets you the most excited when you think about the possibility. For some of you, this might be the tough part – choose only one of the items on the list. This will be your main focus for the year. The item should be a result: an event in your life that happens from the choices you make, the opportunities you follow, and the time and energy you invest. For the greatest chance at success, this item should reflect your values, strengths and your passions. If you are having trouble choosing just one item, grade each of the possibilities against these three factors.
What do you need to do to make it happen?
Here is where you need to be specific. Answer(s) to this question need to be realistic and you know what action you need to take. If there are many things you think you need to do, write them all down. If you don’t know or cannot define exactly what you need to do, then the first item(s) should be about learning what you need to do. Examine the list. Are there any dependencies between the items? Are there any linchpins? If you do these things, other items on the list will either happen naturally or as a result of succeeding at the linchpins. If the list is long, knowing your dependencies and linchpins will help you focus on the key things you need to do to start your journey.
Is there anything preventing you from doing these things?
This may the toughest question. Be honest. Is there anything stopping you? Are you stopping yourself? If so, why? Ask yourself what you need to do to get past any blockers and add that to the list. The answer(s) to this question should be at the top of your list.
What is the timeline for doing these things?
As Steve Smith said, “The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline.” Now is the time to make choices. Pick one to three items you can start today. What you choose will depend on you. You may prefer to pick something easy so you can build momentum. Or you may prefer to pick something challenging on which to focus your new year energy. Either way, keep this list as short as possible. Give yourself a timeline to complete each item so you can put a timeline on each of the items. If any of the items involve creating a new habit, give yourself 30 to 40 days for the habit to sync in. Whether you take the start-slow-and-build-up approach or the conquer-the-big-one-first, remember to pace yourself. Pair up easy items with hard items, so you can have some quick victories in between the well-earned ones.
Are you open to unexpected possibilities?
As you start your work towards your goal, other opportunities may come your way. Evaluate each one and determine whether or not it will help you achieve what you want. This is where you need to be open to possibilities because it may not look exactly like you had envisioned. Does the opportunity excite you? Is it along the path to your goal, even if it looks somewhat different? If the answer is “Yes!”, then be open to it. This is where the “better than you ever imagined” can happen.
How do you set your goals for the year? Are there any questions you ask yourself or thought process you go through? Do you keep your New Year resolutions? Please share your thoughts in the comments.