The beginning of a new year is a special time. For some, it is a time to reflect on the past. For others, it is a time to plan for the future. Most would agree that it’s the perfect time to begin implementing positive changes in your life. There’s just something about the change in a year that signifies a fresh start – a clean slate. The New Year is the year where anything is possible…
But the sad truth is that although so many of us begin a new year with enthusiasm and vigor as we pursue new ambitions and implement new routines, most of us fall back into our old habits within a few weeks. The all too familiar daily grind of life returns to us, and the person that we might have been is overtaken by the person we were last year.
To avoid this fate, you must set yourself up for success. You must recognize that change is uncomfortable, even when it’s for the best. Don’t set New Year’s Resolutions without first setting up a strong foundation for actually following through on those resolutions.
Here are 10 ways to make this year your best year ever:
1. Learn from the past, but don’t repeat it
Take some time to think about all of last year’s experiences, and more importantly, hold on to all the lessons you learned from those experiences. Understand that everything that occurred last year was simply a result. Don’t get caught up in labeling those results as good or bad – as successes or as failures.
Know that results are just feedback. Learn from any mistakes you made and make a commitment not to repeat them. Learn from your successes but don’t let yourself get too complacent or overconfident. The actions that made you successful last year may not be the same actions you need to take this year. Be open to new approaches.
“The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.” – Steve Maraboli
2. Get rid of the old, make room for the new
It’s hard to plan for the future when things from the past are still pulling at you. If you’re starting off the new year with unfinished projects from last year, you need to clear those projects from your plate as soon as possible. By getting rid of the old, you make room for the new. Start by listing everything you have not finished, at work and at home.
Once you have that list, go through it slowly and for each item on the list ask yourself whether you absolutely must finish it yourself (and if so, set a time frame for getting it done), whether you can delegate it, or whether you should scrap it entirely. You should also clear your workspace and your home of any unnecessary clutter. Physical organization has a tremendously positive effect on mental organization.
3. Put your goals in writing
Anything that is worth achieving is worth putting in writing. Make a list of the major goals that you’d like to achieve this year. Each of these goals should represent a significant milestone in the long term vision for your life and/or business. For example, if you eventually want to publish a book, a major goal would be to finish your first draft.
If you want to become a professional speaker, a major goal would be to speak at a local event. If you would like to start your own coaching business, a major goal would be to create a curriculum for your coaching program.
Once you have your goals in writing, put them in a place where you will see them every day. Give each goal a specific deadline (or at the very least, a chronological order of achieving them), and begin breaking down each of those goals into actionable steps you can take on a daily or weekly basis.
“If you think someone or something other than yourself is responsible for your happiness or success, I’d guess you’re not that happy or successful.” – Rob Liano
We all know that regular exercise is fundamental to our overall health and well-being, and yet so few of us do it regularly. For many people, the start of a new year provides the motivation they need to adopt an exercise plan. If you stop by your local gym in January, you’d be lucky to find a parking spot.
Go there again in February, and you will find plenty of spots available. The unfortunate truth is that exercise is the one thing everyone knows they should be doing regularly, and it’s often the first habit they drop when they get “too busy” with other things.
Exercise is not something you “have time for”. It is something you make time for. It is also the one thing that provides you with strength, energy, and vitality to be more effective in all the other areas of your life. Exercise is an investment in your health, your life, your longevity, and your productivity. If you think of your daily grind as cutting down a tree, then exercise represents taking a moment to sharpen the saw.
5. Build new relationships
The people you know and work with have helped you get to where you are. To get to a new level, you will likely need to surround yourself with some new people. Make it a priority to cultivate new relationships with positive people both inside and outside of your industry.
Offer to help others in any way that you can, and in exchange you will find that others become more inclined to help you however they can. Successful people know the value of a good network. They spend years building and cultivating their network, and as a result, they are presented with fruitful opportunities, and better positioned to take advantage of them as they come.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis
6. Learn new skills
New goals require new actions, and new actions typically require new skills. Take a moment to identify some of the skills you would like to acquire this year, and begin looking for the people and resources that can help you acquire those skills.
Whether it’s a local class, an online course, or a seminar, remember that all skills are learnable. Don’t make excuses for not learning new skills. People who stop learning new skills are the first ones to become obsolete in the marketplace.
7. Dissolve relationships that don’t support your success
Unfortunately many of us are surrounded by people who do not support our success. Whether they are friends, colleagues, or even relatives, some of these people may try to belittle your ambitions, hold you back, or convince you to quit once you get started.
Understand that you become the average of the people you spend the most time with. If the attitudes, philosophies, and behaviors of the people around you are not aligned with those of the person you intend to become, you must begin dissolving those relationships.
Cutting people out of your life abruptly is likely to cause resentment. In some circumstances this is the best approach, but in many cases it is not, especially if those people are your family members. Instead, it is wise to gradually decrease the amount of time you spend with them, while simultaneously increasing the amount of time you spend with people who support your successes.
8. Make balance a priority
If this next year is truly going to be your most successful year yet, then it must be successful in all the areas of your life. You don’t want this to be the year where you get a big promotion at work but your relationship with your spouse goes down the drain. You don’t want this to be the year where your business thrives at the expense of your health.
You want this to be the year where you can have your cake and eat it too. Balance is about consistency. If you consistently invest in each area of your life – your career/business, your relationships, your health, your leisure, your spirituality, etc. – then these areas will thrive. If you consistently neglect any of these areas, they will suffer.
Just like with getting exercise, you don’t “have time for it” – you make time for it. And remember that it’s not about the amount of time you give to each area, it’s about the quality of the time you give to each area. Some areas require several hours per day, and some will only require a few hours per week.
9. Create a personal development plan
As is true of all living things in the universe, they are either growing or they are dying. There is no stagnation. If you are not continuously learning and growing, you are falling behind. Creating a personal development plan means committing to nourishing your mind with new, empowering information on a consistent basis.
By reading books, listening to audios/podcasts, or attending workshops and seminars, you expose yourself to philosophies, concepts, and ideas that fuel your creativity, spark new ideas, and help you to see things from a new perspective.
10. Hold yourself accountable
The last but perhaps most important point to ensure you make this year your best year is to hold yourself accountable. Lack of accountability is one of the single greatest reasons for failure. If no one is holding us accountable for the consistent implementation of new habits or behaviors, we are more likely to fall back into our old patterns.
The secret to holding yourself accountable is to have a system. Without a system for tracking your daily and weekly activities, and then measuring those against the new standards you’ve set for yourself, failure is almost inevitable. What gets measured gets improved.