The end of one year and the beginning of another is a great opportunity to stop for a moment and think about where we are in life. The holiday season has just passed, and many people are indulging in retrospection and reevaluating some of their life choices New Year’s resolutions, Goals, and Plans.
It’s interesting that most people have to set a date that the “New Year” is another chance- another year, and the perfect opportunity for all those who have failed to start making the changes. Warning: Did you know that more than half of all resolutions fail? That means that 92 (or 88) out of 100 New Year’s Resolutions end in incomplete and utter failure.
Honestly, you really don’t have to wait for the new year to make a change but since it’s coming- try to consider making a more stable, long-term change, rather than setting up a list of resolutions- make a “3-5 year plan”. They may sound similar, but in my experience, the mindset and approach are different.
- Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.
- Goal: the object of a person’s ambition; an aim or desired result.
What’s a ‘3-5 Year Plan’?
When you are thinking about your goals, remember to always follow your heart and your dreams. No matter what life throws at you, anything is possible when you believe in yourself.
When it comes to the process of change it’s important that you understand that Change takes time, it takes energy, it takes effort and a lot of patience on your part. Sometimes you can give so much for very little return (at least that’s what it seems). And that’s where the value of patience comes into the picture. Patience allows you to commit to long-term results and outcomes, and not get discouraged by short-term setbacks.
A 5 Year Plan isn’t like a grocery list of goals, such as:
- Become a successful entrepreneur
- Lose Weight
- Earn more money
- Learn a new language
- Live in a new country
- Eat healthily
If you take a closer look- all of the listed plans above do not take place overnight, or in a month- these are long-term goals that leave lasting effects. It needs an organized work plan which includes sub-goals and set deadlines.
- Goals should not be rigid.
- Goals provide a direction to follow to achieve the desired outcome.
- Goals involve intention setting, planning, preparing, and taking REALISTIC action.
What you will need is a list of specific intentions, actions, and activities you will partake in on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. In other words, you will need to break down each of your goals into the smallest possible chunks through small daily actions, over an extended period of time. Eventually, you will progressively develop the necessary habits needed to achieve your plan.
Note that making permanent changes in your life will require that you get uncomfortable by doing things that create uncertainty which may very well manifest in fear. You need to be prepared for the roller-coaster ride you are about to board. Be ready mentally because achieving your goals will have more to do with your state of mind than anything else.
Step 1: Reflection
Ask yourself some hard questions like:
- What matters most to me?
- What is currently missing in my life?
- How have my experiences shaped me? How as a result have I changed as a person?
- What new skills did I develop? How do they now serve me?
- What valuable knowledge have I gained? How does that now serve me?
- How have I been of value to others over the past year? What insights have I gained?
- What valuable lessons did I learn over the course of the year that can now serve me moving forward?
- How would I like to positively change my life?
- How would I like to grow and develop as a person?
- What kind of person would I like to become?
- What’s one goal above all others that I would like to achieve this coming year?
Step 2: Outline Your Goals
It’s now time to turn your priorities and intentions for the coming year into clearly defined goals. This is, of course, best done on paper. A goal that isn’t down on paper is nothing more than a fleeting dream that you hope will materialize one of these days.
Make your goals “smarter”
Successful goals are goals that are well thought out and doable. Smart goals are specific, achievable, realistic, and timely.
Step 3. Create a System to reach those goals
Systems are arguably more important than the goals themselves. Changing behavior is the hardest part of a goal. Just as the system in a health goal would be to go to the gym 3-5 times a week or do meal prep on Sundays, you need to build a system for your goals.
Define the “How” to Make Your Goals a Reality
Identify what you need to make your goals happen. This will help you determine your system and approach.
Depending on your goal and depending on you, you are going to need a personalized way to make your aspirations a reality.
One way to make meaningful progress towards your aspirations is to shift your actual goals into smaller micro-habits that require less effort and mental strain, knowing they will collectively drive you closer to your end goal.
Author, researcher, and entrepreneur James Clear outlined a similar strategy in his highly-acclaimed and international best-selling book Atomic Habits. The book shares clear steps that anyone can take to gradually build good habits and break bad ones. If you continue to build a set of good habits that align with your goals, you will have a near bullet-proof path to achieving what you are setting out to.
You might also want to consider Parkinson’s Law. This adage refers to the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In the context of productivity and goal setting, this basically means that you can accomplish most goals within the time frame that you set, regardless of how much time you give yourself.
Step 4: Take Action
This is where many people often go wrong. With unbridled enthusiasm they just jump straight into the race in a massive sprint, never realizing that they have just entered a marathon. In other words, they take so much action early that they quickly get tired, burnt out, overwhelmed, and demotivated when they don’t see visible results. Then distractions seep in and, there is no longer that excitement and energy behind their actions. Slowly but surely the Goal goes on the back-burner or you just Quit!
Step 5: Maintain Consistency
It’s very possible that the actions you take may very well bring about inconsistent results. In fact, for a period of time, even though you are doing all the right things, you might see no visible results at all. This can, of course, be quite disheartening, and it certainly gives you a reason to quit. However, seeing no results doesn’t mean you are not making any progress.
Progress isn’t always measured in results, it’s measured by your actions. Therefore, when the going gets tough and results are hard to come by, it’s important to focus on the process required to achieve your goals.
Step 6: Keep Yourself Accountable
The final step to attaining your Plan is to hold yourself accountable for your choices, decisions, and actions as you make progress along your journey. Holding yourself accountable means being honest with yourself at all times. It means refraining from indulging in excuses that take you off track. It also means avoiding “All or Nothing” thinking.
Consistency is, of course, the key here. The more consistent you are the better your results will be over the long haul. Of course, it’s important to remain flexible in your approach. Leave room for magic!
Remember that this isn’t about reaching perfection. This is about creating sustainable change over time. And the only way to create sustainable change is by taking things one step at a time.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
A great follow up to read: HOW TO STOP LIVING A SMALL LIFE BY FACING THESE 10 FEARS