5 Easy Steps to a Successful New Year
It’s that time of the year again: the beginning. Day one.
With a resounding cheer (or a loud snore if you chose not to stay up late) we’ll wave goodbye to last year and say hello to the new one.
Then after picking up all the champagne bottles off the floor, it’s back to business as usual.
A new year can mean many things depending on your perspective. For some, it’s just a day like any other day - except you might need to put up a new calendar. For others, it’s a chance to look back on all the excitement and memories from the past year.
I enjoy using New Years an opportunity to plan out what I want to do with the next 365 days of my life. It’s not that there’s anything special about the day per se, it’s just a neat and tidy way to divide “past way of doing things” and “new way of doing things.”
It’s easy to groan at the notion of New Year’s resolutions - they get a bad rep, and perhaps deservingly so. The idea that one can write down your dreams on a sticky note and magically wake up the next day as the exact person you need to be to make those dreams happen is completely ridiculous.
It takes hard work to change your life because it means investing time and energy to become a better version of yourself. Or put another way…
That’s why New Year’s goal setting shouldn’t be about hitting arbitrary targets, or checking to-dos off a list. It’s about mapping out the stepping stones that lead to the life that you want.
Since you’re now probably wondering where to start, here are the steps you can follow to set yourself up for a successful new year.
Step 1: Create a vision board with your affirmations.
A vision board is a central hub for helping you plan and track your goals. You can create one any way you like - some people enjoy having a physical cork board with pinned up index cards, while others may prefer keeping a journal to document their year.
I use a super handy app called Notion. It works a lot like a virtual cork board - with lists and digital cards that I can drag and drop. I started by planning out my “lists” which help organize my “cards” by focus.
My first list contains my affirmations, which are written statements that I read every morning to help generate the self-belief that I can be the person I want to be.
For example, I sometimes feel like I’m an awkward mess at social events. I feel like I have nothing interesting to share, and I just sort of stumble through parties while constantly eyeballing the exit. Moving forward, I don’t want to believe that I’m awkward, because that causes me to act in ways that re-affirm that belief.
I wrote a counter-statement to help combat that belief which says “I feel confident when I spend time with others because I am interesting, fun, and enjoyable to be around.” I read it every morning when I plan out my day, and sometimes say it out loud to myself in the mirror. It may sound hokey, but this method works and is backed by research in the field of positive psychology.
By affirming every day who I want to be, and using my vision board to picture what that will look like in the future, I move a little bit closer every day to becoming that person I want to be.
Step 2: Ground your goals with commitments.
Abstract goals like “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by July” are meaningless if they don’t have an action and a plan behind them. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, but you continue to do the same things you do today, there’s no basis for believing that you’ll make any progress whatsoever.
If your goal is, instead, something actionable such as “I’m going to work out for 60 minutes three times a week so that I can lose 20 pounds” then you have a commitment to keep yourself accountable. If you reach the end of March and you haven’t made any progress towards your goal, you can revisit that commitment to see if you’ve stuck to it or if it needs revising.
I like to define my goals by quadrant, so they are categorized into health & wellness, relationships, wealth, and business goals. Here are some examples:
I want to be able to run for an hour without feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus.
That means I need to commit to running 2 - 3 days a week and increasing my distance.
I want to go to social events with my partner without feeling like the walls are closing in.
That means I need to commit to going even when I’m feeling socially anxious, and to push myself to engage with others even if the thought terrifies me.
When you’re ready to set your goals, write down what you’re willing to commit to doing in order to become the person you want to be.
Step 3: Work backwards from your goals with milestones to measure your progress.
For anyone with a more analytical brain, this is your time to shine. Once you’ve nailed down the “what” and the “how,” you need benchmarks to measure your progress.
I find it’s easiest to start at the end and work backwards. If what I want is to be able to run at a good pace for 60 minutes, then I can figure out what milestones I need to hit. In September, I’ll need to be able to run for 45 minutes, 30 in June, and in March, 15.
This is particularly useful if you run your own business and would like to set revenue goals. If your target is to generate $100,000 over the year, you’ll need to hit $75,000 in Q3, $50,000 in Q2, and $25,000 in Q1.
By having these milestones, you can track your progress and see if you’re on the right path, or if you need to adjust your targets.
Step 4: Boost your odds of success by outlining your motivations.
The what and the how are very important to defining what success looks like, and what actions you’ll take to get there, but a frequently overlooked aspect of goal-setting is “why.”
And here’s why the “why” is important: it’s what will carry you past the honeymoon stage of your New Year’s resolutions. The reason that most people fail to follow through on their commitments isn’t necessarily that they lack willpower, it’s that they lack clear motivation. In order to do anything difficult (and most things that are worth doing tend to be), you need to know deep down in your gut why you’re pushing yourself.
Your motivations may take time to define (it’s one I’m still working on as I write this article), but it absolutely shouldn’t be ignored.
In order to help you get started, here are some probing questions that can help spark your “why,” put together by Melody Wilding:
What do I love?
What am I good at?
What does the world need?
What can I get paid for?
It’s been helpful for me to define my “whys” as I pivot my life in the direction I want it to go, and to encourage me when things get tough. They look a little something like this:
I am head over heels in love with my partner, and I want to create a wonderful life for the both of us.
I want to grow in wisdom and confidence so that I can be a guide and mentor for others.
I want to lead an unforgettable life that positively impacts others long after I am gone.
Step 5: Gather inspiration.
This is the fun part. As part of my vision board, I have a “list” filled with quotes, art, and articles that inspire me. Whenever I’m feeling gloomy about whether or not I can achieve my goals, it really helps to look at encouraging quotes from mentors that did it, or look at art that inspires my creativity.
These are a few of the quotes that are currently at the top of my list:
“If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.”
— JIM ROHN
“Just because you think that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean you should just grin and bear it [...] even if you’re little, you can do a lot, you shouldn’t let a little thing like little stop you.”
— MATILDA THE MUSICAL
“DO THE WORK!”
— BIANCA BOARD
When your goal feels out of reach, calling on what inspires you can be just the ticket for getting back in the game.
Here’s to you, your families, and your success. May you have a happy and wonderfully exciting new year — whatever that looks like for you.