I love new starts, new years, and everything about resolutions. But I’m here to tell you a secret. If you haven’t made any life changing goals for 2015 yet, you aren’t destined to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. In fact, you may be setting yourself up for your best year ever.
According to the source of all modern wisdom (the internet) 25% of people who’ve made New Year’s resolutions won’t keep them through the first week of the new year. If you’re part of this percentage, don’t worry—you don’t have to wait another 51 weeks to try again.
I’ve been a serious New Years goal setter for as long as I can remember, but it took me awhile to realize that everyone is not like me (yes, you are different! And you are amazing!). Goals are good, and there’s a good chance that the practice of reflecting on the year gone by and setting an intention for the year to come will help set you up for success this year. But the process doesn’t work the same for everyone.
If traditional New Year’s resolutions haven’t worked for you (or if you just haven’t gotten around to it yet this year), here’s a few things I’ve discovered that may still help you on your goal-setting way in 2015:
- December 31 isn’t the most important day of the year for goal setting.
A few years back I totally gave up goal setting in tandem with the New Year. The truth is that holidays exhaust me: I lose all routine, I’m overwhelmed with the acute awareness that life doesn’t live up to my expectations, and I find that I’m often dragging myself out of December in survival mode. I can’t think of a worse time for myself to make ambitious goals which challenge myself for the year ahead.
The goals that we make during the exhilaration and/or exhaustion of the holidays are commonly the ones that quickly fall to the wayside because they aren’t based in reality. Then one year it occurred to me—what if I just wait a week for my life and my brain and my work schedule to go back to “normal”? Since then I’ve scheduled to set aside January 10th to think about and write my annual goals–it’s still close to the new year, but far enough removed that I feel re-grounded. If it jazzes you to set your goals in tandem with the countdown in Times Square, go for it. If you’re need another week to come out of your Christmas cookie coma, feel free to wait a week or two. Or pick a day that means something to you—birthday, summer solstice, or even Chinese New Year.
2. Trust your own process
Just like you get to set the day, you also get to set the rules for your goal setting. There are as many tools out there for new years goals setters as there are self help books–but it doesn’t mean that any of them will fit your personal style. Pick whatever tool helps you, or make up your own (goal setting is not rocket science). If you’re a creative type, draw pictures of what you want your life to look like in a one year, make a dream board, use your camera, create a playlist of songs that remind you of the things you hope to work on in the months ahead. If you’re a left brain goal setter get giddy with logical planning—use Gantt charts, logical frameworks, and spreadsheets to keep your year in line. Make one goal, a whole list of them, or don’t make any goals at all. One year, I had a goal to not set any goals (because what I needed was to give myself a break instead of a to do list). Do whatever is right for you, do it with intention, and don’t judge yourself based on someone else’s annual plan (remember: keep your eyes on your own paper).
3. The reset button works all year round.
Believe it or not, every year has 365 days (and some years you even get a bonus day). If you forget about your goal or mess up on your intentions a bit, don’t get too worried about it, you can always restart no matter what day or month it is. I try to revisit my goals at the start of every season and again on my birthday in October (that’s when I set my fun goals for the year). When I revisit my intentions I can reevaluate what I’d planned in the context of the life changes that inevitably happen throughout the course of the year. This isn’t a cop-out, it’s an intentional realignment with reality. Sometimes I even realize my goals should have been bigger and this gives me a chance to ante-up.
4. Don’t underestimate yourself.
I like to check things off of my to do list, and for a long time I was afraid to add goals to my annual plan that I might not be able to achieve. Although I did this to set myself up for success, the reality was that I was setting myself up to fail at my bigger intentions. The purpose of a goal is to stretch yourself to a new place, not to solely complete a bunch of tasks that you know you’ll be able to do. Big thinking is where magic begins and if everything on the list isn’t checked off in 12 months, the reset button works for next year too.
5. Work now = Success later
Most of us like instant gratification and the whole concept of setting and sticking to year-long goals is a bit contrarian in the age of the iPhone. News Flash: If you set a big goal this month, you probably aren’t going to achieve it by next month (sorry). But the good news is this: if you actually spend a whole year working on that project or your dreams- you will get results. If you commit to the work, this year’s intention will be next year’s reality.
It isn’t about wandering aimlessly through another year. It’s about setting your own path and intentionally choosing your steps. Do it now, and do it as often as you dare.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” ― C.S. Lewis