Benjamin Franklin said, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” As one year comes to a close, it is natural to think about what is next for the following year. What are the personal and professional goals for the next year? It can be an exercise that generates wonderful energy. Even more can be created if we do our due diligence – making sure that we complete the current year and recognize what it takes to actually make a change, even a good one, for the new year. Done poorly, we enter the new year with an avoidable hangover.
The first step is to take stock in this year – what was, or wasn’t, accomplished, and what are you satisfied, or dissatisfied, with from this year? Have you said what you need to say in order to let go of any lingerers? Since it takes space to create for the new year, anything that is unresolved robs that same space, creativity and energy. Especially detrimental are the unresolved conflicts – whether they be with yourself or others. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and really think about the past year. What is left to say, write, or do so that I can handle anything unresolved and cleanly leave it in 2015 with no hangover?
Once the cleaning out is done, it is time to think about what changes I want to make and what is next for the new year – goals, opportunities, skills improvements, etc. It is easy to think about what ‘should’ be improved, but I always have to be clear on what I am ‘committed’ to improving and sustaining. This takes honesty with myself. Am I really, really, really committed to losing that last 10 pounds? Am I committed enough to do whatever it takes to increase business by 20%? The universe cooperates with a made-up mind, so getting the mind clear and made-up is key to success.
I also have to recognize the emotions that go with the changes I am planning. These emotions are like ripples and waves from a boat’s wake across a lake. Some of the ripples are seen and felt above the surface of the lake, some are just below the surface, and some are deep beneath the surface. If I actually get the change that I am planning, even if it is a good change, there will be an emotional reaction. If not expressed, these emotions will decrease my effectiveness and productivity. And these emotions are usually a mixed bag – excitement about the possibilities stirred liberally with a ‘holy cow’ if the possibilities all come about at the same time. Many times we spend little to no time thinking about the emotions of our planned changes and dive right into the doing – thinking that we are saving time. However, if not acknowledged upfront, these emotions can show up as unresolved conflicts in the middle of my change – taking additional time and potentially stopping me short of my goal.
The last step, after clean-out and planning is execution. For me, this builds on my commitment and takes disciplined behavior. Tony Robbins says, ‘For changes to be of any true value, they’ve got to be lasting and consistent’. What are the behaviors that support the change, including any changes in myself, that overcome obstacles to get the new goals consistently and sustainably? My behavior begins by setting the priorities and boundaries for the new year. For example, I put the things on my calendar first that I am choosing to do and don’t want to miss – family events, time with friends, self-development, and other significant events. Secondly, I add in the client engagements – my commitment and boundary on work is to make work fit with my life vs. the opposite.
For setting up goals for a new year, there is no secret sauce and no silver bullet. It takes thoughtfulness to skip the hangover. But, by resolving this year, determining new commitments, planning out the changes (including acknowledging changes for you), and setting the priorities and boundaries – you will have a head start at getting, and sustaining, what you want for the new year.