The new year is upon us and this is, scientifically speaking, the best time to plan and prepare for what you want to achieve for 2016. The fresh start effect takes hold and allows you to more easily engage in high-level thinking about where you want to go in life, areas you want to improve, and goals you want to achieve.
The reason this time of year is so great for strategic and aspirational thinking has to do with how we view our past, present and future selves. The Wharton School conducted a study and found that the new year operated as a distinct period of time that allows our brains to more easily separate our past self from our future self, thus naturally increasing our motivation to create and pursue goals.
Life has a way of distracting us and taking us off target. Your goals should act as a compass for where you want to go in life. When you don’t create goals and a plan for where you want to go, you make a decision to be a passenger in life and allow your external environment to dictate what you will achieve.
Decide right now to become the driver and creator of your life and create a vision for your 2016.
The process for making 2016 your best year yet comes down to a few key principles.
Step 1. Reflect on 2015 and identify what went well and most importantly, what didn’t go well.
Our mistakes provide the best opportunity for growth. It is in our mistakes where we can learn, adapt, and ultimately accelerate our improvement. Without reflecting on the past you cannot identify where you are stuck in life, and make the proper course corrections.
TIP: I always keep a journal throughout the year to identify struggles and
TIP: If you don’t have an easy way to reflect on your past year (no journal), then I recommend you skim your calendar for the past year to help you recall some of your big moments. Once you have done that, spend 10 minutes answering the following 2 questions: What worked for me in 2015? What didn’t work for me in 2015?
Most of us tend to avoid reflection and in particular, we avoid becoming aware of our weaknesses and mistakes. It is uncomfortable to look at our weaknesses, or to acknowledge and take responsibility for our mistakes. But in doing so, you will find a certain beauty in your mistakes and weaknesses; because within in each mistake is the potential for growth, the potential to become a better version of yourself.
Step 2. After you have reflected, you need to give a grade for your core areas of life.
This exercise will help you focus on areas of improvement. You may find that most areas of your life are amazing and there are only a few that need work, or you may be surprised that you are neglecting several areas. Take the time and reflect and be honest about where you are so you can get to where you want to go.
Family, Friendship, Finances, Career/Business, Spirituality, Health
For each section, identify on a scale of 1 to 10 your current level of happiness/satisfaction in this area. Once you identify the number, you need to spend at least 3 minutes free writing on why you chose that number. Just set a time and start writing. Some questions to guide you on your free write:
- Why did you not pick a lower number? This question will focus you on identifying what is working.
- What didn’t work?
- What can I do to do improve this area? This focuses and forces you to take responsibility. When your problems are outside of yourself, it takes your attention away from what you can do, and simply makes you a victim of your circumstance.
Step 3. Once you have gone through each of your main areas of life and evaluated them, your next step is to write your 2016 vision statement.
DO NOT SKIP THIS. It will likely be difficult but the exercise is meant to be natural and easy. You are not forcing anything.
Part A: What does your ideal life look like in 5 years? We are using 5 years because anything can be achieved in 5 years. Think big, don’t limit what is possible for you.
Questions to help you get started are as follows: What will your average day look like? Who have you become? What are habits that you have adopted? What are your relationships like? What kind of income are you making? What will you be spending your time on?
TIP: Don’t make this an essay. Set a timer for 10 minutes and free write. Do not stop writing until the timer is up and don’t get caught up in formatting. If you don’t know what to say, then literally write “I can’t think of anything else” … just keep at it, inspiration will come to you as long as you continue writing.
Once done, read and make sure what you wrote resonates with what your ideal life would look like. If it doesn’t then add anything you think is missing.
Part B: Now, what are you going to accomplish by the end of 2016 that is in alignment with your 5-year ideal life? Again, this is a free write. Who are you going to be at the end of 2016, what is your life going to look like? How much money will you have in the bank? What will you be doing with your time? What will work be like? How are your relationships going to be?
TIP: 1 Year Vision needs to be realistic. If you are making $50,000 a year and want to make 1 million by the end of the year that is not very realistic. This works for your 5-year Vision but not your 1-year Vision. You want to THINK BIG but you want to take small incremental action to get there.
Step 4. Create Your Theme for 2016.
You have now written your 5-year ideal life statement and your 1-year ideal life statement. I want you to review your 1-year statement and highlight or underline any words that jump out at you. These will be powerful words that really resonate with you and get you motivated. Also, identify any words that keep showing up.
Once done, write those words that you highlighted on a separate page and create your 2016 Theme. Ideally your theme will be 1 sentence. If you do not want to do this manually, you can copy/paste your 1-year ideal life statement into Wordle.
Example: My theme for 2016 is as follows: The Year of Action, I Will Finish What I Start. The words from my 1-year ideal life statement were: Action, Beholden to Emotional State, Sustained Focus, Finishing, Distracted.
You now have your theme for 2016 and know where you want to go. Make sure you remind yourself of your theme every day (morning and evening). Write it down, put it on a sticky in your vehicle, have it as a reminder on your phone, write it on the top of your journal.
There is a second part to this blog that will be published later this month about identifying your goals and creating plans to make them a reality.
Recap of Steps Involved:
- Reflect on 2015
- Grade Core-Life Areas
- Create 5 Year Vision Statement
- Create 1 Year Vision Statement
- Identify Theme For 2016
I hope this article was helpful, as always I would love to hear about your experimentation with it. Feel free to email me.