Happy New Year! This is the time for fresh new beginnings and for looking ahead with vision, focus, and hope. It is a perfect time to set new goals for the year ahead.
We’re not talking about resolutions. We’re talking about goals. Resolutions usually fizzle and die in January, but goals are the difference between achievement and stagnation. They are the difference between victory and failure. You simply will not get where you want to go without goal-setting.
Use this comprehensive, evidence-based guide to achieve tremendous success in the coming year and arrive triumphant at the destination of your dreams.
A year can change so much. Think about where you were a year ago. How was your health and your body? Where were you financially, in your career, in friendships and love? What was your home like? How did you feel deep in your soul?
Think about the growth you’ve made, the things you’ve achieved (include non-tangible achievements like confronting and healing past pain, or taking an emotional chance on someone) what you’ve learned, and the adventures you’ve had.
Reviewing the past year helps you celebrate and be grateful for your accomplishments, and allows you to visualize how long a year can be.
This past year, I had a lot of big goals. When I sat down to review it, I was thrilled to see how much I accomplished, and how much fun and adventure I had! I used the system I’m sharing with you here to achieve your greatness!
You can check out my personal review of 2015 here. I never would have been able to accomplish these things if I had not used these steps to get there.
Review your last year with regard to Finance and Career, Love and Friendship, Living Environment, Spirit, Body and Health, and any categories that you feel are necessary. You could consider parenthood, family, travel, learning, giving, and creativity. Write down as many successes as you can think of.
After looking at what you’ve accomplished, write down the things that didn’t go as well. The reason is to learn about the things you want to improve upon or avoid this year.
TAKE YOUR AIM
After the review of the last year, it’s time to dream up the progress you’ll make in the next year. You get to close your eyes and envision who and where you dream of being in rich, colorful detail. Goal-setting should be fun and exciting. It is a hopeful activity in its essence.
We are starting with big, limitless dreams, but remember that GOALS are not WISHES. A wish is a feeling. A goal is a result. While a wish is intangible, a goal is a real outcome. No matter how much you wish something for yourself, it will not happen if you’re just wishing.
What YOU Want
Consider each category (Finance and Career, Love and Friendship, Living Environment, Spirit, Body and Health, etc.) and really muse about what you want. Make sure your dreams are truly what YOU WANT.
It doesn’t matter here what you think you should accomplish or be, just what you want to accomplish or be. It also doesn’t matter what your parents, your friends, or society wants you to accomplish or be. These are aspirations for YOU and your future.
Your goals should be big enough to scare you. They shouldn’t be so big that they are unreasonable or unattainable, but they should require you to push outside of your comfort zone. Don’t set goals that you’re sure to achieve just so you're sure not to fail. That’s a waste of time that does not serve you.
These are not resolutions that will be broken by January fifth. These are aspirations turned concrete, realistic plans for the year ahead. The well-known goal-setting acronym SMART is the perfect framework for developing these goals.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound. When you turn your desires into goals that meet these requirements, they become much more effective.
For example, if your goal is to lose extra belly fat, make it into a SMART goal.
So, rather than “I want to lose extra belly fat,” which is a nebulous, vague idea, the goal is now specific and measurable. We know it can be attained, and it is relevant, which makes the goal meaningful. It has a deadline and a sense of urgency because it is timebound.
This is the most effective means of goal-setting.
Power of the Pen
It is so important to physically write down your goals. Research has confirmed that writing down goals increases the likelihood that they will become reality. I can’t stress this enough. Write down your goals!
BREAK IT DOWN
The greatest, most extravagant accomplishments are achieved by a series of mundane tasks. After setting your goals, take each one and break it into small, simple, steps that move you toward it.
This is where your goal goes from a big dream to an achievable agenda. These short-term goals are clear, detail-oriented, progressive, and support the long-term goal.
Big goals can often feel overwhelming, so looking at the small steps it will take to get there takes the pressure off, and reduces big goals to what you can do RIGHT NOW to move toward your goal. You’ll be motivated to do these small acts when you know exactly where they are leading—straight to the life you want.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Now it’s time to take action. There is evidence of the effectiveness of accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals. Now that you’ve written them down, you have to COMMIT to the goals. You are pledging to your future self. It is your sacred obligation to demolish these goals.
Stay on Top of It
Every badass has a strong sense of responsibility and accountability for his or her own behavior. As evidenced in the study linked above, accountability is one of the main characteristics of a successful goal-setting process. This is the difference between committing to your goals and making them happen.
Ideally, you could have a partner or social group to whom you can report your progress. Check in with them weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on your timeframe. This makes you feel responsible to someone else for your achievements, and it creates an additional sense of urgency.
You can use social media as your social accountability. It’s a great accountability tool!
If you don’t have a supportive social system, then at the very least, hold yourself accountable! Check in with yourself on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis to assess your progress and results. Consider what changes you might need to make, behaviors you might need to avoid, and the next steps on your journey.
If you do not periodically assess your progress, chances are, the weeks and months will go by without you even noticing that you are not progressing toward your goals. Don’t let yourself realize in July that you haven’t even started yet!
Milestones and Rewards
Set milestones that represent difficult feats or success that were hard-won. When you evaluate your progress and find that you’ve grown, made progress, or moved in the direction of your dream, celebrate! Studies show that small wins along the path toward a large goal invigorates your efforts, and taking time to celebrate them positively affects achievement.
Learn from Setbacks
There will always be setbacks and failures. Expect them so you are not thrown off course when they occur. Maybe you've heard that failure is not the opposite of success, it is a part of the process. So be prepared by learning from your mistakes and using them for inspiration. If and when you do not meet one of your short-term goals, remember that it is not a failure until you give up!
REFLECT AND CELEBRATE
When the year is over—and it will be before you know it!—take some time to reflect on the entire year. Reflect and evaluate your progress on all of the year’s goals, and look back over all other aspects of the year. Take out a big sheet of paper and write down every success, moment of growth, or adventure you’ve had that year.
Share your accomplishments with everyone, in person, on the phone, or via social media. Reward yourself for all that you’ve done. Schedule a massage, dine at a fancy restaurant, take a trip, or throw yourself a party!
*Please note: It is NOT RECOMMENDED to choose rewards that set you back, such as going on a shopping spree if your goal was to practice smart spending habits and save money, or a night of cocktails and greasy bar food if your goal was to lose fat and eat clean.
Celebrating your accomplishments with a definitive reward encourages and reinforces your own progress. Think of it was training your subconscious to associate pleasure with hard work. Or just think of it as celebrating. Wooohooo!
A goal can start as a big, extravagant dream. But goals are not dreams or wishes. It doesn’t matter how badly you wish for it. The only thing that matters is what you do about it.
You are capable of so much. You might surprise yourself—just don’t allow the possibilities to slide away from you. You CAN accomplish incredible things. Use this science-based process designed to help you access all of your badass potential.
Let’s make this year the best of our lives!