It takes a lot of willpower to hold yourself to this standard – to promise yourself that you won’t revert to your old ways and instead, to focus on the new, positive intentions you’re setting for yourself.
Perhaps you’re trying to set new goals for yourself. Maybe you want to create a five-year financial plan. The important thing is that you’re ready to make a positive impact on your life. You’re gearing up for your most exceptional year ever. What more could anyone ask for?
Out with the old, in with the new.
Sometimes it’s hard to embrace the first part of the quote, “Out with the old.” We naturally want to have the best of both worlds: the old and the new. In reality, it’s hard to change your ways. You may have heard of people who say that when one door closes, another one opens.
We’ll take that a step further. To open that next door, you have to close the other one. You can’t have both doors swinging wide open when you’re trying to pave a pathway to success and happiness.
You’re at a point where you’re ready for that new door – the new chapter, the new year, the new goals. Whatever it is that you’re prepared for, it’s new, and it’s exciting!
There are all kinds of reasons for our motives. We’re not trying to pinpoint the cause for your motivations. That’s something personal. Instead, we can help you along the way so that you stay on track toward obtaining your goals.
As you look back on the past year and you think about the upcoming year, you should be both proud and excited. You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished and excited about what’s coming.
This eBook will take you through 6 rules for your most exceptional year ever, from setting goals to taking action needed to reach them. We will start with review, and then we’ll cover preview, prepare, set goals, take action, and adjust. Buckle up and get ready for all the good that is coming your way!
Are You Ready for Your Best Year Ever?
Take a minute and transport your mind back to your elementary school years. Think about the feeling you got at the start of every new school year. Back-to-school shopping, new teacher, the curiosity about your new classmates – it was an exciting time.
And somehow, the excitement was fresh and new each year. It didn’t matter how many years of school you had under your belt; it was the “new” that gave you so much energy and excitement. Maybe it wore off once you were in high school, but that’s normal! We’re focusing on elementary school for now.
That feeling isn’t inaccessible just because you’re an adult. You can still pump yourself up for a great year. You can get excited and prep your mind for something amazing.
To get to this point, you’re going to have to gear yourself up. You need to develop a mind-over-matter mentality, and you need to allow yourself to be goal-oriented about your year.
Keep in mind; this doesn’t mean you should be hopeful. Hopeful does not equal strategy. Your year is going to be great because you’re proactively working towards achieving great things. You can’t sit back and say, “I hope this year is better than last year,” or “I hope I find a great job this year.”
The fate of your year begins with you. It comes from your actions, your dreams, your hopes, and your goals. So, it’s safe to say that Step 1 is for you to believe in yourself. The next move is to get excited and be proud that you’re this far!
You’re about to embark on a journey that you created on your own. This journey is one that will bring rewards, joy, and accomplishments. It’s not a passive one. You will be actively working toward getting what you want to achieve, whether that means waking up at 5 am on weekdays or starting a side hustle. Whatever it is that you do, it’s part of your endeavor towards a great year – which is totally possible and totally in your hands.
Are you excited? We thought so! The following chapter discusses 6 rules that you should follow to gear yourself up for a great year. Add in your own personal touch or flair throughout the process – these rules are just here to keep you on track.
6 Rules for Your Greatest Year Ever
As aforementioned, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about preparing for a great year. It’s essential to start with you know, so we’ll start with the review, where we’ll discuss the importance of reflecting on your previous year and applying what you know to the upcoming year.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room. It’s not always easy to look back on something. It can be really emotional and sometimes painful. Most of us don’t like to think back on what has gone wrong or worse, what we’ve done wrong.
First, let’s get that idea (and that word) out of your mind. You didn’t do anything wrong, and your year didn’t go wrong. No year is the same, and we can’t possibly have control over everything that happens. As cliché as it sounds, some years are better than others. Life ebbs and flows.
Your first reaction may be to beat yourself up about it. Don’t do that! It’s natural to feel disappointed, especially if you didn’t have an all-star year, or you didn’t accomplish some of the things you wanted to achieve. But the last thing you want to do is be hard on yourself.
See, it starts a vicious cycle. Once you start talking down to yourself or beating yourself up about something, you convince yourself that you should always feel that way. Next thing you know, you’re engaging in negative self-talk daily.
This isn’t a pass-fail system. This is your year. Keyword: Your. This is about you and no one else, which means there’s no room for comparison or negative self-talk.
Once you’ve gotten past the fears of looking back on your year, you can go at it with a clear mind. Looking back on last year can be objective. Take some time to think through every month of the year. It may help to make a journal or open up a Word document on the computer so that you can list everything out.
As you look back, examine each section of your life. Here are some suggestions:
- Overall health
- Eating habits
- Personal growth
While you’re reflecting on these, be sure to think about all aspects of them. Think about what went well; what could have gone better. Think about how you handled things and how you would have done things differently if you had a do-over. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- What is the most significant risk that I took that I’m proud of?
- What is a risk I assumed that I wish I didn’t take?
- What is something I wish I handled differently?
- What is an accomplishment that I’m especially happy about?
- How did I tackle my goals? Could I have addressed them differently?
- What was my biggest disappointment?
- If I could summarize the year in three words, what words would I use?
- Did I feel happy, productive, and excited about life throughout most of the year? If not, how did I feel?
Instead of reflecting on last year with a sense of pain or doubt about it, reflect with intentionality. Think about these things, write them down, or record yourself giving the answers – do whatever you need to do!
The preview goes hand in hand with the review – no wonder why they rhyme! Reviewing is crucial because it gives you something to base next year off of. It’s hard to improve or make changes without a starting point. Reviewing is your starting point.
From there, you’re able to launch yourself in the right direction by previewing the upcoming year. No, that doesn’t mean coming up with unrealistic expectations and hoping that it will go according to those expectations. Remember, hope does not equal strategy.
Previewing is about visualizing your life – putting a name on your goals and deciding how you’re going to achieve them. This is also the step where you’ll be deciding what is realistic and what isn’t. It’s all part of the preview of your life movie.
Begin by sorting. Sort out the habits you want to keep and the habits you’d like to get rid of. Sort through the friends that make a positive impact on your life and the people that don’t. Focus on the changes you’d like to make.
When you’re sorting through all of these things, what you’re really doing is separating last year from next year. You’re viewing them as two separate years and getting excited about all of the changes you’ll make for the upcoming year to make it the best year yet!
In a nutshell, the sorting process is about dividing the things you want to carry into the next year from the things you don’t. This requires time and focus, so make sure you set aside some time to give it your all. It’s an essential step in the process.
The next part of the preview step is to visualize the upcoming year. This visualization will serve as a primary source of motivation for you.
Let’s paint a picture for you. It’s January, and you have two primary goals for the year: Save up enough money to buy a new car and run a half-marathon. Day in and day out, you save some money. You run 2-3 miles every day. Eventually, you run 4 miles every day. And then 7. Meanwhile, you’ve been really adamant about saving money, and you’re starting to build up a cushy savings account. You feel like you’re really on track for your goals, and it’s a feeling, unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
Fast forward to June. You’re driving home from your half-marathon in your brand new car. It’s a tremendous feeling, and you’re looking back 7 months to the day that you decided these would be your goals. It feels incredible to achieve them.
That is a picture that will come to mind every time you think of quitting. Every time you hit “pause” on the treadmill, you’ll think about this visual. When you think about going on a major shopping trip, you’ll think about your car. Maybe your vision is something different, like teaching your child how to ride a bike or learning how to paint.
The point is this visual is here to help you.
While you’re coming up with this preview to your year, go the extra mile by coming up with a real, tangible, attainable preview. Attach something concrete to it. Add numbers, like a certain amount of dollars saved or miles you may run.
This is how you’ll hold yourself accountable. Going into this year, you’ll have a support system, but they are not your buddy system. They’re not there to hold your hand and hold you accountable to these goals. That’s all you, so it helps to create something in your mind that will keep you accountable – and your imagination is pretty good at coming up with this.
Now that you’re in the mode of looking forward, the next step is to start preparing for it. Preparation is key. If you don’t prepare, you’ll just be stuck with a visual of how your life could turn out, but it will be hard to get there without some preparation and motivation.
This step is something we’re all familiar with. If you grew up playing sports, you knew the importance of preparing for your most significant game of the season. In school, you knew that preparation was the key to success in getting good grades. When you want something to eat, you need to prepare the food.
You probably get the picture by now. It’s hard to have a successful outcome without preparing for it ahead of time. Preparing shouldn’t be a chore – it should be exciting. This is a step before you reach something great. It’s part of the journey.
At this point, you know what you want to get out of your upcoming year. You’ve reviewed last year, you’ve created a preview for next year, and you’re getting ready to prepare the necessary steps to make those dreams a reality.
Preparation is not meant to be stressful. It should be strategic and intentional, so don’t forget to take time to really think it through. It’s one thing to say, “I want to save money. I’ll prepare for this by opening a savings account.” That’s great, and that’s a necessary step in the process, but it’s not the only thing you should be doing.
Let’s keep up with this example. One step is to open a savings account. Another step is to decide how much you want to save and how often you want to save. You’ll also want to think about your ultimate goal – in other words, when will you feel like you accomplished it? You’ll need to prepare by making a monthly (or weekly) plan, deciding where you’ll cut down on spending and how you’ll make/save more money.
All of these details may seem like the nitty-gritty, but in reality, these details are huge components of your plan. By doing – or not doing – these things, you’re solidifying your intention to have a great year. Of course, this example is a microcosm of the great year plan. You’ll probably have several different goals you’re working toward, and the same strategy applies to those. Preparation is a necessary ingredient in the program for success and reaching your goals.
Ready to start preparing your vision? Begin with these steps:
1. Think About Your Current Situation
Just like you might prepare dinner, you need to take inventory of what you have right now. Begin by thinking about your current situation – what’s going on at this very moment. Ask yourself questions about your capabilities, your knowledge, your interests, etc. You first need to figure out what you currently have to know what you need.
2. Reach Out for Support
Although you’re working hard on your own, you’re not on this journey alone. You can certainly have a support group or a mentor to help you throughout the process. Talk to some friends and tell them about your goals or reach out to your family and ask for advice. It’s always a good idea to connect with others when you’re trying to set big goals for yourself. Not to mention, human interaction is something that adds happiness to your life. This will boost your spirits and your mood for the year!
3. Write it out
Make a list of the things, skills, and tools you need to work toward your goals. Do you need to learn a new skill? Would it be helpful to buy a new laptop? These are just a few examples, but the list could go on and on! There are all sorts of things you may need to do to get on track for your goals; list it out so that you can stick to them. Here are a few things you may want to consider:
Most accomplishments require skills. When you’re working toward something new, you’ll probably need to acquire skills along the way so that you can accomplish that goal. Think about soft skills and technical skills you may need to develop to get where you want to be.
Connections are important. As you prepare for your journey and your great year, think about the types of people you want to be surrounded by. You may be surprised at how much of an impact your peers make on you – it’s a big deal! Take some time to think about this ahead of time so you can decide what kinds of influences you want to have around you.
Sometimes you need to acquire tools or resources to position you in a place to reach your goal. Let’s say you’d like to write a book by the end of the year. You may need an editing tool or a new computer. It’s not the easy way out to look for tools that might help you along; it’s merely part of the preparation process.
To get from Point A to Point B, you may need to do your research. Depending on your intentions for the year, there might be some cerebral preparation in store for you. Don’t be afraid of this – knowledge is key. Celebrate it and view it as a learning opportunity.
The preparation step is a lot of sorting things out. This is when logistics come into the picture, and that’s a great thing. Without logistics and planning, goals wouldn’t be remotely feasible. We need some kind of number or value attached to our goals.
Some people feel pressured by this step, but don’t let that get in the way of anything for you. Preparation is half the fun! Once you feel adequately prepared and ready to put things in action, the next step is to set goals. Setting goals is piggyback on the preparation step, so you may want to work on these around the same time.
Congratulations! You’re more than halfway there. That’s a massive accomplishment in and of itself, so you should be proud of yourself and excited about what’s coming.
While goals are exciting, they can also seem impossible at times. There’s often a focus on “Go, go, go!” and “Do, do, do!” which can be intimidating. We’re going to take a different approach. No, that doesn’t mean we’re going to tell you to sit back, relax, and hope for the best. But we’re not going to pile on the pressure to get everything done quickly with your goals.
The keyword is Intention.
Your goals should be strategic and intentional. They are stepping stones along the path to success, happiness, and, ultimately, a great year. The thing about goals is they take time. You can’t just plow your way toward a goal; you need to be patient and work toward it.
There are several ways to come up with attainable goals for yourself this year; here are 4 of them:
1. Start with What You Know
Remember the first exercise we did where we reflected on what we’ve done in the past? We’re going to do something similar to that again. Before you can begin to brainstorm goals for the coming year, you should pinpoint some noteworthy goals you’ve set for yourself in the past. This can mean goals that pushed you off in the right direction and goals that didn’t go so well. Either way, you can use them as references.
Try to think about the good things first. Think about something you achieved because you created a goal for yourself. Walk yourself through your process. What was the goal? What inspired you to come up with this goal? What steps did you take to reach your goal? Is there anything you would have done differently?
This is important for two reasons. First, it instills in you a self-generated source of confidence. It’s a reminder that you’ve done it before, and you will do it again. The other thing this does is it gives you a sense of structure. Only you know how your mind works; only you know how to motivate yourself. When you reflect on milestones and achievements from the past, you’re able to tap into that and use it as you begin to tackle new goals.
2. Listen to Your Dreams
Before you define your goals, let your mind wander. Take some time to be quiet. This is the calm before the storm – but don’t worry, it’s a good storm. Your storm is going to be filled with energy, excitement, and motivation. To really maximize the way you live this year, you might find yourself always on the go. That’s why it’s a good idea to relax before that. Open your mind to all of the possibilities ahead of you and let this serve as your inspiration.
It’s crucial that you listen to your dreams and don’t just let them pass by. It’s easy to let dreams just be fun ideas and then move on with life, but sometimes you need to open your mind to a world filled with possibilities. This active listening could mean writing it down, or maybe it means saying your dreams aloud. Don’t skip an essential step like this – it’s a big part of your endeavor, so you owe it to yourself.
3. Define Your Goals
It’s hard to believe that it took us so many steps to get to this point! That goes to show how much goes into something like this. You’re setting yourself up for a year of success – not just one or two triumphs here or there, but an entire year of success. That’s no trivial thing, so of course, it took us a lot of steps to get to this point!
When you define your goals, apply the S.M.A.R.T. principle. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive.
It will make your life a lot easier if you’re able to get specific with your goals. Rather than, “I want to read more,” you should say something like, “I want to read at least one book every month of this year.” When you don’t set concrete, specific goals for yourself, you may fall into the trap of making excuses. One excuse may seem harmless, but it could lead to a slew of “I’ll do that tomorrow” or “Maybe next month” statements that derail you from your goals.
Piggybacking on specific objectives, your goals should also be measurable. Put a number on them! This holds you accountable more than anything. When you need to check in on your progress, a number is a great way to define it.
It’s good to let yourself dream, but when it comes time to define your goals, you should make sure they’re achievable. Otherwise, you’ll continuously set unrealistic expectations for yourself, which will bring you down – and you might end up getting discouraged from pursuing your goals altogether. When you put a number on your goal, make sure it’s a number you can reach. If there’s a timeline associated with your aim, check-in with yourself to be sure it’s feasible.
Big goals aren’t always realistic goals. Before you invest time and effort into your big plans for yourself, take some time to make sure your goals are realistic. Ask yourself, “Is this something I should aim for? Is it something I think I can realistically achieve?”
If you don’t put a timeframe on your goals, how can you trust that you’ll fit them into this great, big year of yours? You need a timeline to keep track of your progress and to make sure you’re working towards something with a steady pace. At the same time, you need to make sure your timeframe isn’t too fast; otherwise, you may burn yourself out. Set a realistic timeline for yourself, and if you get it done quicker, brownie points for you!
4. Be Held Accountable
Notice how we didn’t say, “Hold yourself accountable.” You should do that, too, but the overarching idea is that you need to be held accountable in some way. That may mean talking to a friend about your goals and asking them to check in on you. It may mean documenting your progress on your calendar or your iPad. Perhaps it means hiring a fitness trainer or a mentor that will motivate you when you need the extra push.
Accountability is important but often underrated. It’s like the cherry on top of your goal-setting ice cream sundae. Without some accountability, you’re not doing yourself (or your goals) any justice. Find a way to keep up with your progress so that you don’t let anything slip through the cracks.
Reflect and review? Check. Preview? Check. Prepare for all the good that is coming? Check. Goals? Check. It seems like we’re finished, right?
Not so fast. We still have more to cover. You’re aiming for the best year ever – we’re going to do this the right way. So hang on, we’ve got two more steps to cover! They’re worth it.
Now that we have all of these goals, what are we going to do with them? Put them into action, of course! It’s easier said than done, though, so there are some steps you can take that will help you along in the process.
1. Start Somewhere
You have to start somewhere, and when it comes to attacking your goals and aiming for a great year, that start is now. Don’t wait for January 1 to come and go. Don’t wait for someone to push you to go after your dreams. Remind yourself that this year is about you, and you are going to make it as good as it can be. Take that first step and start somewhere.
2. Stop Waiting
Start one thing, stop another. In this case, you’re starting a good idea and quitting a bad habit. Waiting won’t get you anywhere, so stop waiting and stop allowing yourself to wait. No one is going to give you a perfect moment to jump into your dreams and desires; you have to make that moment up on your own.
3. Don’t Give in to Your Excuses
We’re all familiar with excuses. Excuses are easy to make and hard to get rid of – that’s a bad combination! The second you find yourself making up excuses – and it will happen at one point or another – stop yourself. Those excuses are standing in between you and your success. They will do you no good, so don’t give them any power over you.
4. Embrace Failure
Failure is a scary word because it’s stigmatized as a negative thing. People fear the thought of failing because it seems like a dead end. Why do we think that way? Failure isn’t a bad thing, nor is it a dead end. If failure were a dead end, the world would be an entirely different place. Kids would stop walking after their first fall, people would stop looking for jobs after their first rejection letter, and inventors would give up if things didn’t pan out on their first trial. Let’s put it this way: if we gave up every time we failed, we probably wouldn’t have electricity or cars or Disney World!
This is where you can apply the concept of failing forward. You view each failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone, rather than a setback. Mistakes are only mistakes if you say they are. Why not call it a learning opportunity and keep moving forward?
In many ways, taking action is about your mentality more than anything else. A lot of times, when we hear “take action,” we think about jumping into something full force. It sounds intimidating, but it really isn’t. Taking action is simply the next logical step in your process, and when you get to where you want to be, you’ll be happy that you worked through these four steps and took action.
Out of all of these 6 rules, taking action is the “do” step. It’s the part of the process that focuses on going out there, chasing your dreams, and making it happen. In a lot of ways, it’s enjoyable. In other ways, it can be difficult. Sometimes people get discouraged at this step in the process because when “do” doesn’t render instant gratification or immediate success, it feels like a letdown.
We’re going to take that mindset out of the equation. Taking action requires some trial and error; it’s not something that just happens immediately. Sometimes, you’ll need to take action and then adjust accordingly, which brings us to our final rule: Adjust.
Goal setting isn’t a one-and-done process. You can’t set goals for yourself, hope it happens, and wash your hands of it altogether. It takes constant effort, which means you may need to check in on your goals and potentially tweak them over time. See, you may start with a set of goals and ways to achieve them – and as time progresses, that may change. You may find a better way to attack your goals or new goals to work toward. That’s why it’s essential to have an open mind and be ready to adjust when needed.
How Often Should I Adjust My Goals?
There’s no definitive cadence at which you should do this. Reviewing your goals and recalibrating is up to you. You must take the time to assess your progress, though, so you should set up realistic expectations with yourself from the get-go.
Begin with the goal itself. Is it a long-term goal that will need a lot of tweaks and adjustments? Or is it a goal that should be reasonably attainable in the near future? The type of goal will affect how often you need to assess it and potentially adjust it, so be aware of this when you first start setting goals for yourself.
Set a time frame in your mind and then document it. Often times, people say, “I’ll check in on this later,” and later turns into never. In order to get to a spot where you look back at all that you accomplished, you need to take some time to look at what’s left to be done. You may be 80% done with your goal, but without a check-in of some sort, that 20% will never get done.
It’s helpful to set up a chart or document with check-ins. These check-ins are mini-goals that line you up for success to get to your big goal. For example, your big goal may be to obtain a certification. The mini-goals would be check-ins to make sure you’re taking the right courses and practice tests to prepare you for the certification. In adjust mode, you’ll want to take a look at these mini-goals to make sure you’re checking them off and getting them done. If you’re not, you’ll step back, look at the big picture, and figure out a way to get yourself back on the right track.
While you’re setting up your document and deciding when you’ll check-in and assess how you’re doing, remind yourself of S.M.A.R.T goals. Remember those? These are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. When you’re assessing and adjusting, you’re going to be looking at the timeframe at which you accomplished goals and the numbers you’re hitting. You’ll be checking in to make sure your goals are still attainable and realistic, and you’re going to see if they’re specific enough or if they need more specifying.
In a nutshell, no one will hold you accountable as well as you can keep yourself responsible. There’s no straightforward answer because it depends on you and your goals, but one thing remains the same for everyone: You need to check in with yourself. You’ve come this far, so it would be a waste of time and effort if you didn’t follow through and stick to your overall goals. Make a plan, hold yourself accountable to measurable goals and mini-goals, and set up stopping points to evaluate and assess how you’re doing.
How Exactly Do I Adjust My Goals?
“Adjust” could mean a lot of things. It could mean small adjustments or significant changes. So, what does that mean for you?
In the context of your great year, adjusting is simple. It’s about making natural and logical changes to your plans to get to where you want to be. They may be significant changes, and they may be minor tweaks, but what matters most is that you’re aiming for an end goal that will help you accomplish your goals for the year.
This part of the process should be logical. You’ll want to reflect on what you’ve done while you simultaneously look into the foreseeable future and then apply that to the present moment. That’s something we do every day. Think about this scenario.
You go to the store to buy toothpaste. In the toothpaste aisle, you’re looking at all the options. You see some alternatives that you used in the past, and your mind begins to narrow them down. You’re thinking, “I didn’t like that one last time because the flavor was weird,” or “This one was good, but it was too expensive.” As you continue to scan through the options, you’re looking at new possibilities. Some of them are enticing; others seem like they won’t work out.
At this very moment, you’re reflecting on past choices and looking into the future. It’s a natural process, and those questions you’re asking yourself are naturally coming from your mind.
We’re wired to assess things so that we can make the best decision for ourselves. After all, we all want to be happy, right? People generally try to do what they think is the best decision for themselves. We may not always be right, but we’re trying.
This is how you need to frame your “adjust” process. It’s not some big, scary thing – it’s something we’re used to doing daily. When you look at a goal from a birds-eye view, you’ll be able to see what’s going well and what could use improvement. You’ll be able to see how it has impacted you, and you’ll be able to gauge if it’s worth the time and effort or not. This is where you are when you adjust. To help you out with reflecting and getting to the core of your goals, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I happy with my original goal, or do I want to change it?
- Do my goals inspire me?
- Is my original goal still realistic and attainable?
- Is my original goal measurable and specific? If not, how can I make it that way?
- Are there any roadblocks in the way of my goal or goals?
- Is there more that I can pursue? Are there bigger goals I’d like to set for myself?
- What, if any, failures have I overcome in this process so far?
There are tons of other questions you can ask yourself, but this is an excellent place to start. Adjustments are an inevitable part of life. They’re not meant to overwhelm you or make you feel like you have failed. Instead, they can really take your goals and visions to the next level – a level that makes your life bigger, better, and happier.
Bet you thought there were more steps in the process, didn’t you? Not at all! You’ve made it through the 6 steps to creating a fantastic year for yourself. That, in and of itself, is a step in the process. You’re showing up, holding yourself accountable, and aiming for success. Good for you!
As you embark on this journey, with success and excitement at the forefront, don’t just keep these rules in mind. You should actively be working toward them, tracking your success, writing about your daily life, and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t work.
At this point, there should be no doubt in your mind that you’re about to walk into the best year of your life – because you are! You’re making that promise to yourself, which comes with goals, ambitions, hard work, and a lot of rewards. Enjoy the process and keep your eyes on the prize!