“January 1 signifies a new beginning. However, each day allows for a new beginning, and hence it is a reset.” – Dr. Roberta Anding
We, humans, are quite odd creatures.
Year in, year out, just like clockwork we get this urge to reinvent ourselves.
Some, consciously decide what they want to pay attention this year (priorities). While others even though they do not make a conscious decision what are their priorities for the year, it lies somewhere in the back of their head.
For some reason, we love the idea of a new beginning. A New Year is just like a checkpoint in a game, and it makes us think that things can be different now. They can, but they usually aren’t that much.
We love the idea of improvement, and this motivates us, but most people are not ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.
According to research (by Statistic Brain Research Institute), most common New Year Resolutions are:
- Lose weight/healthier eating
- Better financial decision
- Quit smoking
- Do more exciting things
- Spend more time with family/close friends
- Work out more often
- Learn something new on my own
- Do more good deeds for others
- Find the love of my life
- Find a better job
However, the surprising fact is that just 8% of people achieve their New Years Resolutions by the end of the year.
The interesting part is that most of these resolutions tend to be identical from the previous year.
Only the last digit of the year changes.
Here are the five reasons why people do not follow on their New Year Resolutions:
1. Operating on a short-term mindset (wanting results as soon as possible)
2. Not having action plan
3. Focusing on too many things we want to change
4. Starting with a habit that is too big
5. Thinking of New Year Resolutions as things we do, not things we are
Okay, but how do we fix it?
Now, that is the right question.
Below is a simple five-step plan that will help you conquer your New year resolutions:
1. A Year In Review
2. Mindset Shift: Whom do you want to be in a year?
3. A Theme For The Year
4. Keystone Goal
5. How to Follow Through
Sounds good? (or to be more accurate, looks good?)
Let’s take just one at the time (like you would do with your New Year Resolutions).
First, let’s reflect.
1. A Year In Review
The great philosopher, Alan Watts once said:
“…tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.”
To make sure you have the right priorities for the year ahead, first, you should see how did the previous year go, and reflect back on everything you have experienced, achieved and discovered so that you can create a perfect closure.
Here are the several points you should reflect upon.
General reflection about the year
If you had to describe these previous 12 months, in a sentence, what would that sentence be?
Ask yourself, what one event, big or small, that happened is something that you will still talk about in 5 years?
What single achievement are you most proud of? Moreover, why?
Challenges you encountered
What were the challenges you have faced, both in personal, and professional life?
What are the most important lessons you have learned in 2016? Not only that but how did you grow? How did it make you wiser?
Who were your go-to people that you could always rely on?
Most common mental state this year
What was it? Excitement? Curiosity? Enthusiasm? What triggered them? When were you euphoric?
Me on the 1st of January 2016 vs. me right now
How would you describe yourself now, compared to the beginning of last year?
What, or who, are you most grateful for?
2. Mindset Shift: Whom do you want to be in a year?
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you have ever played a game, you know that to go to the next level; you have to do what’s in your power to make your character better.
Of course, you do not have to. You can proceed to the next level, but it will be more challenging, like playing on a hard mode.
Every year of our life offers the same opportunity.
The first step is to gain clarity on whom do you want to be.
This way every action you take, will not be something you do, but something you are.
Finish this sentence:
By the end of this year, I am….
Now, let’s take care of how will you become that person.
3. Set A Theme For The Year
“The days are long, but the years are short.” – Gretchen Robin
Once you have an idea whom do you want to be in a year, you should define a theme for the year.
This will serve you as a guiding star.
Imagine if this year you continue doing everything you normally do, but your health becomes the primary focus, and you do everything in your power to bring it to an optimum level.
Next year, you add another theme, maybe learning a new language, like Spanish. However, you keep up with the habits you had established in a year before when health was your theme.
By doing this, in a couple of years, your health will be at an ideal level, and you will be able to speak fluently in another language.
Just imagine how many opportunities that will open once you are energetic, vibrant and confident with your body, plus you can communicate with over 300 million people with your newly acquired skill in Spanish.
If this can be done in 2-3 years, imagine what can be done in a span ten years by repeating this strategy, compared to trying too many new things every year, where progress will be minimal.
Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, is probably one of the best examples of how this can work.
One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” She answered, “I want to be happy”—yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness.
In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. The result? One of the most thoughtful and engaging works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject.
Moreover, the best thing about is, that focusing on her happiness, it not only made her happy, but it affected every area of her life, both personal and professional. Plus, it made her the best-selling author.
I read this book back in 2014 and decided to do the same thing.
Here’s how it looked like for me:
- 2014 – Theme: Health (reach optimal body state)
- 2015 – Theme: Financial Independence (become fully financially independent without debts)
- 2016 – Theme: Take Action Towards My Passion (start a project based on my passion and skills)
- 2017 – Theme: Financial Freedom (continue to build my business and reach financial freedom)
Of course, each year I had more goals, to travel, learn new skills and meet new people.
However, whenever I was in doubt, I would go back to the theme and start from there.
Moreover, once you move on to the next year (theme), the habits you have established in the previous year will become part of who you are, and your task is just to be consistent with them, and add the new theme.
To define your theme, ask yourself following:
What should be the theme of 2017 that will bring me closer to the person I want to become?
Give yourself a couple of minutes to reflect, and then write it down.
Next step is to specify this further, so have a clear path ahead of you.
4. What is your top focus for the year?
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” – J.P. Morgan
Once you have clarity on the theme for the year ahead, next step is to develop a strategy that will help you achieve results.
You should start off by setting your keystone goal for the year that represents the core of your theme.
Moreover, then define two-three projects you need to focus on to accomplish this goal.
Here’s how you set your goal and projects.
- I have lost 10lbs (5kg) by 5th of May.
- Test couple of diets until you find a perfect diet for yourself
- Find a physical activity that suits you (gym, yoga, jogging, and so forth.)
Once you define your goal, and projects. Next step is to identify what high leverage activities you need to focus on; that will give you desired results. Because not all activities bring you the biggest return on the investment.
To make this easier, I suggest you ask yourself:
Which activity in each project would get me closer to my goal?
Once you define these things, this will become your strategy.
Just, remember that we often go blindly towards our goals, without stopping to evaluate whether or not they are still right for us, and whether or not we need to shift our strategy based on new circumstances.
This will make sure that you remain on the right path.
5. How To Follow Through
“There’s a six-word formula for success: Think things through, then follow through.” – Eddie Rickenbacker
Here you will find certain principles you should have in mind; that will help you follow through your New Year Resolutions.
Making small continual improvement every day will be compounded over time, and give them desirable results. That is why you should focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1%.
There will be days where your circumstances will not allow you to commit to your goals, but you can still do just a small step to ensure that you remain consistent.
Even though we should strive not to depend on external validation, being acknowledged for your goals is crucial to sustaining your habits and gain motivation.
Let me give you my example.
My article “A 5-Step Plan That Landed Me A Promotion And 40% Raise…” got me 436 views in total.
I spent more than a week writing it. I felt so demotivated that it took me over two weeks to get back to writing.
On the other hand, my article: “13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful” had over 5 million views. Which gave me the biggest drive I have had in my life.
In between, there were more than ten articles that got me
Once you state your goals and projects publicly to your family and friends, in the moments when you want to quit or postpone something, this will keep you going, because you will not want to go back on your word. However, it should not be the only thing you rely on.
To set yourself for success you need to let people close to you know that you will need their support. It is like having a spotter in a gym. Someone who will make sure you are accountable for your goals.
Evaluate and adapt
As mentioned earlier, stopping every once in a while to see where do you will help you see whether or not you are on the right track.
Ideally, you would want to do this once a week, to see progress towards your goals.
We live in a dynamic environment, and because things move rapidly, we do not stop to see what have we are accomplished. That is why
No matter the positive or the negative things you encounter on the way, it will shape you.
For the positive, you should be grateful for, for the negative you need to find a way to learn from them because they might be a blessing in disguise, which will you help you in the future goals.
No matter where you are right now with your New Year Resolutions. Whether or not you are still on track, or you feel like you failed, it does not matter.
As the quote in the beginning by Dr. Roberta says each day allows for a new beginning, and hence it is a reset.
So today you can decide to start over again, and now you have a strategy that will help you set yourself for success.
Focus on the present, and what you can do today to get closer to the person you want to become, and the goals you want to achieve.
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Author: Zdravko Cvijetic
Zdravko Cvijetic, the founder of Zero To Skill, creates practical content, ranging from articles, e-guides, and courses, that will help you become a top performer, by gaining clarity on your life path, mastering your habits and becoming 3x more productive. With a degree in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning, he was able to create content that has influenced more than 100.000 people.