Some people finish the year disappointed that they haven't achieved more, many also seem personally affected by global events and deaths of celebrities. Perhaps they're a reminder of our own mortality and how important it is to make the most of each day that we're given.
So, how to make the most of next year? Start by knowing what you want, then engage your focus, imagination and intent to make it happen. Here's how:
Reflect on your year that's past
- What went well and what didn't go so well?
- Which areas of your life were most successful, and which ones weren't? Think Spiritual, Emotional, Financial, Intellectual, Physical, Social, Environmental.
- Don't get hung up on what didn't happen, just ask yourself why it didn't happen?
- Resist the urge to blame anyone or anything - if you had a major life event change your priorities know that's a valid reason, not an excuse.
- Focus on what did go well. Why did it go well? What made those things achievable?
Ponder what you want to achieve next year
- Not all goals need to be physical, tangible things. Your goal might be to be kinder to a particular person (yourself maybe), or to listen more attentively.
- Pick a few different areas and aim for small improvements in each, e.g. build more exercise into your day, increase the amount of fresh food in your diet.
- For each of your goals, get clear on the 'why'. Think about why achieving them is important - to you. You won't be motivated to achieve something you don't personally value.
- For the things you did or didn't make happen last year, check in to see if you were clear on the 'why'.
Consider what needs to be done to make it happen
- Changing behaviour requires a few things:
- a trigger - tying a new habit to an existing behaviour helps (e.g. when I leave to catch my bus I'll walk an extra stop);
- something easily achievable to begin with - success will keep you motivated (I'll do 5 push ups before my shower and increase by 5 a day);
- a reward - so you feel it was worth it (initially it might just be a big glass of water and a pat on the back).
- Build on your success. Let your small change in habits lead to a bigger goal. Building a bigger reward into the goal is more likely to bring success (when I can do 100 push-ups I'll have a surfing lesson, when I'm meditating 30 mins a day I'll buy a meditation stool). Choose rewards that reinforce the good behaviour.
- Write down your goals - it's been repeatedly shown to increase the chance of achieving them. Consider making a list (with the 'why') and putting it somewhere you see each day. This will keep your mind focussed on them and can also be a good sanity check to see whether you're taking on more than you can realistically achieve.
Most importantly, try to make it fun. Play with the steps, play with the triggers, motivators and rewards. If you miss a day don't beat yourself up, congratulate yourself on noticing and wanting to continue.
Understand that self improvement is an iterative process. Like the turning of the earth, or its rotation around the sun, it's cyclical and we pass through stages.
Remember, your life is your major work and every new day (not just every new year) you're given another opportunity to create a masterpiece. Embrace it!