When we think of the New Year, we often think of resolutions. I want to lose 20 pounds. I want to start my book. I want to get a new job. Sound familiar? Ask yourself this: how many resolutions have you started and kept? How many have failed? Do you know why?
Let’s start with the initial premise: New Year. There is nothing special about the New Year other than the fact that it marks the beginning of an arbitrary, cyclical calendar. In fact, the calendar and the New Year is different for many cultures. This means you can choose to start this process any time! More importantly, there is no “New You”. The person you are today is the same person you were last year and the same person you will be next year. This is about becoming a “Better You”, or to put it another way, “Your Best Self”. This should be incredibly empowering because everything you need to improve is already within you. You just need to access it.
The reason we often fail with our resolutions is because they are results based rather than process driven. We are focused on the what rather than the how. While it is important to have goals so that we can gage our progress, refining the method by which we pursue our goals provides the real value. There are some simple steps we can all take to ensure we bring out the best in ourselves and follow through.
Step One: Get Specific.
The first step in refining your goals is to clearly and specifically define your goals. What does “get in shape” mean to you? Lose weight. Okay. How much? Reduce body fat? Okay. What percentage do you want to achieve? The more specific you are with defining your goal, the easier it will be to create a process for pursuing it.
Step Two: Establish a Plan.
Once you have specified exactly what you want to accomplish, it’s time to make a plan. If your goal is to get a new job and you have taken the time to decide the type of new job you want, the type of environment you want to be in, the type of responsibilities you want to have, etc., it now comes down to execution. How will you best market yourself? What is your timeline? Do you have an exit strategy for your current work? What resources will you employ? How much time each day will you devote to the process and in what capacity? Having a specific plan allows you to stay on task, use your time efficiently, and hold yourself accountable.
Step Three: Ask Why.
We often make resolutions and set goals without asking ourselves why. Why do you want to make this change? Why do you want to accomplish this goal? When you ask why, what you are really asking is how this resolution will result in a better me. Will it make me happier? Less stressed? Will it create better work-life balance? Will it provide me with a better sense of self-worth? The why is essential because it becomes the motivating force behind the effort. When we become frustrated, intimidated, or otherwise deterred, we can rely on the why to get us refocused.
Step Four: Keep a Record.
When you have a plan in place, you have a blueprint to follow. Sometimes you need to change course. And that’s perfectly okay. But you should take 10 minutes at the beginning of the day to address your goal and what you plan to do that day to accomplish it. You should also take 10 minutes at the end of each day to reflect on how the process went for you that day. This allows you time to objectively gage your progress and consider any modifications to your process.
No matter what day it is, you can always start a path to a better you. It begins with one step. And if you have already started, you can engage these steps to keep you on track. Remember that becoming a better you — Your Best Self — is entirely within your control.