When it comes to changing into the person you want to be, you have a leg up on evolution because you can be intentional. Evolution is random and messy, but you can think, plan, strategize, and succeed with an end in mind. You’ve made progress on some of your life goals this year but you’re not convinced that you were all that you could be. If you’re like me, you had work goals, health goals, life goals, relationship goals, hobby goals, etc., but only a few came to fruition. I’ve had a better than average year thanks to focus and planning, so here are some methods I encourage you to try. I hope they make your planning more effective.
- Write a year-end summary… from your December 31st, 2014 self.
Who are you going to be a year from today? Make some quiet time to sit down with a pen and paper (or computer if you prefer) and think of the version of you that exists in one year. I’m sure you’re eating better, exercising more, and making final edits to your forthcoming novel. That’s all great but how did you get there? Where did you struggle along the way? Who helped you? Why are you feeling better about yourself now (future now, not now now). Remember back to the future of what made the better version of you possible. Use this frame of mind when you…
- Record your goals.
People really dislike writing down their goals but it is simply a must. For best results, keep them visible or in an online document medium like Google Drive or Evernote. You should refer to them a few times a week and record progress as it happens.
- Make your goals detailed, measurable, and meaningful.
The best goals are specific, can be measured objectively, and are important to some aspect of your life for a good reason. For example, a personal one of mine for 2014“I will read 2 books each month, one non-fiction and one fiction. This will broaden my knowledge and imagination, and will strengthen the quality of the content I produce.”
For this example, I have already planned out each of the books I hope to read. The fewer decisions you have to make “in the moment”, the better your chances of success.
- Limit your goals to no more than 10.
You know this one already. Way too many goals makes for chaos. People can remember only about a dozen things at once, so the fewer goals you have, the more likely you are to always be working towards all of them. Also, the fewer you have, the easier it is to incorporate the tasks into a routine. You will always be able to lose weight more effectively if a morning run becomes as much as your routine as that shower and cup (mug, Big Gulp, gallon, fuel frigate, whatever) of coffee is.
- Take a steps outside of your comfort zone.
We learn this in science over and over again: performing the same experiments we’re used to rarely changes any result. The new, exciting findings come from being creative or having the courage to try the experiment you’re not convinced will work. Good is the enemy of great. You cannot make “being comfortable” a goal if you’re hoping for more out of your life.
- Find a goal buddy/accountability partner.
What have you been afraid to do but you would if you had someone pushing you? You know there are a few action items you’ve been meaning to do but need encouragement and someone to hold you accountable. Find someone you trust: a best friend, a partner, a trusted co-worker and share some of your goals with him or her. See where your partner’s strengths and weaknesses can complement your own. Have her push you to keep you commitment; force him to write that networking e-mail he’s been dreading. If you stay honest with one another, you’ll make huge strides.
- Take advantage of the New Year’s energy.
Finally, hit restart. When your inbox has 5,000 messages to be read, sometimes you just need to delete them all and start over. With the new year comes a new energy that can keep us going for a little bit but it is up to you to keep up with your future self. Don’t try to steamroll goal after goal, instead use the concept of evolution. Build upon the successes, don’t hold on to what’s not working. If you have a “tiny goal” work on that first to feel the dopamine release you deserve. Remember what that feels like? Good, now work on goal #2-10!