I love New Year’s Day. A fresh start, a clean slate. It is like opening a new diary, that very first blank page that you can use as a canvas to create something new and unique.
But at the same time I like traditions and routines and I do believe that some of these routines are really helpful in making a fresh start.
For example, our typical first day of the new year includes a traditional nature walk. We usually have two places we can go to, depending on the time of the day and the weather. Some years we drive out to Lough Boora Parklands if we get out earlier in the day and the weather doesn’t threaten with any watery surprises. Other years we just go downtown to the river banks and do a loop there – if the weather turns nasty, we can run back to the car. Today we chose the banks.
But this walk to us is a fresh start. We clear our heads, we do something that is good for the mind and body, and most importantly, we spend time together as a family. Isn’t this a beautiful way to start the year?
Another thing I like to do on the New Year’s Day is gentle yoga and meditation. I have been practising these two deeply rooted traditions over the many years now, and the first day of a new year without them doesn’t feel complete.
And then, of course, I like to set intentions for the year ahead. It’s been a while since I last set New Year’s Resolutions. They somehow feel inadequate to really set us for a successful year. That’s why over the years, I have come up with a different approach to planning for a successful year. If you have goals that you would like to achieve in the new year, please stay with me. I’ll show you how it works in just a moment.
This post is a revival of my last year’s “A Better 2021” series. I felt that simply re-sharing last year’s posts will not suffice as a year ago I was a completely different person that I am today, without the precious experiences and lessons learned in 2021. It also seemed like cheating reposting something that was labelled as 2020 and 2021 throughout. I could edit the dates out – I have considered that, but it did not seem relevant as well. However, the ideas and content of those little manuals are still very relevant today, so I will gladly share them with you today in this post. I hope you find it valuable and enjoy it.
Why do New Year’s Resolutions never work?
Well, they actually do and they don’t. The success rate of new year’s resolutions largely depends on the ability to set specific, measurable and achievable goals that are relevant and realistic, and time-bound. This is called SMART goal setting. However, not everyone has heard of this strategy, and even if they have, not everyone knows how to set these kind of goals, and this may lead to failure.
While the exact statistics of success and failure rates vary greatly from year to year, country to country and even generation to generation, a study from 2014 found that 35% of failed resolutions were attributed to unrealistic goals. 35% also didn’t track any progress, which makes the achievement less likely. 23% of participants simply forgot about their resolutions, and 1 in 10 of people who failed at resolutions stated that they set too many resolutions. All these interesting statistics from various years you can find here.
But if we were to sum up while New Year’s Resolutions do not work the way we want them to, this is simply because we do not give them enough thought and planning. Planning seems tedious, and tedious is not something we want to start the New Year with. That’s why instead of setting resolutions the traditional way, I like to offer something different, something that will give you the required understanding of the need behind your goals and the intention to achieve them. Then you may use these techniques alone for planning your success in the new year, or you can further boost them with the SMART goal setting.
How to Set Yourself for Success in Three Simple Steps
As I mentioned above, this is a revival of the last year’s series but in one post. If you would like to read more background on the original steps, I will hyperlink the posts for each of the three steps. You can also find all of them under the category Manifesting a Successful New Year. But now let’s begin as 2022 will not be waiting for us forever!
Step One: Reflect
No matter how fast the year has flown by, it was a full 12 months, and 12 months is a long time. A lot has happened during those 12 months. Even if you don’t feel it, today you are not the same person as 12 months ago when ringing into 2021. You’ve had experiences that taught you and shaped you as a person. Those experiences, even bad ones, are valuable teachers, but sometimes we need a little nudge to realise that.
So the first step is to set some time aside to sit down and reflect on the past year. Reflect without excess attachment, without judgement and without focusing on the negative.
Before writing reflections, I highly suggest going for a mindful walk, preferably on your own, or sitting down to meditate.
Whether you choose to walk or sit comfortably in a quiet place, start by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes. Try not to cling to any thoughts that may arise. Just acknowledge them by stating in your mind that you are thinking of whatever it is, and move on. The idea is not to silence your brain – that is impossible. The idea is to detach from the thoughts and feelings, accepting them for what they are.
Acceptance is a very important step here. Accept the situation as it is – what has happened, happened; you cannot go back and change anything now, so there is no point in ruminating that. Now, without attachment, start looking at the facts of what has happened during the past year.
Once you are ready, take a piece of paper and a pen. You may choose to write your reflections in a diary style, or in a factual, bullet point style. Either way, I want you to look at the following questions in particular:
- What went well in 2021?
- What actions did you take that have contributed to the success?
- What didn’t go that well?
- Why do you think it didn’t go well? What could you have done differently if you were to go back and do it again?
- What can you learn from your successes and, more importantly, from your failures?
When you have this picture painted on the paper and your mind is on board with it, you’re ready to move onto the next step.
Step Two: Gratitude
As much as it is important to look at and accept your failures, it is extremely important to be grateful for the things that worked, the things you learned. One of my favourite quotes states that Gratitude helps us see what is there instead of what isn’t. In addition, gratitude is a simple and very powerful tool to reshape your mind, form new neural pathways in your brain that can make you a better, happier person. Gratitude is best practiced every day, or at least on a regular basis, but if you don’t do that, there is no need to worry. However, I do urge you to complete this exercise as part of setting your new year’s goals and intentions.
Look at what you have written during the first step, and make a new list – a list of things you’re grateful for. If you are struggling to see anything positive, perhaps, you weren’t fully honest with yourself when completing the first step. Perhaps, your mind was still clouded with negative, perhaps, you haven’t looked at the full picture. In that case, I would suggest revisiting the first step and really leaving all your judgement.
Now, do the following:
- Write down all the things that you are grateful for in 2021. You should have at least three, with a goal of 5 to 10. If you have more things you are grateful for, that is amazing – put them down on paper.
- Choose 3 to 5 things you are most grateful for, things that mean the most to you that you would like to carry into the new year.
- Choose a few things you’re grateful for that are unique to 2021.
The last step is a a good exercise to reinforce the idea that the year cannot be all bad. It is very important to understand this and cure the blind tendency to focus on the negative. This tendency is very toxic to your mind, wellness and happiness.
Step Three: Priorities
Now to the different approach that I have mentioned – priorities.
As I have previously said, people who make resolutions often do not plan for their success. They are inspired to start something fresh, but as the time goes and the first few bumps appear in the middle of the road, their enthusiasm wanes. Tiredness and stress of daily life creeps in and they tend to give up.
People who are proactive and set goals, provided they know how to set SMART goals and are dedicated to achieving them, are generally more successful. But even then they can get off the track when they lose sight of their WHY and their priorities.
That’s why instead of setting rigid goals and not-so-thought-through resolutions, I like to get my priorities clear. When you know where your priorities are and understand the WHY behind them, it serves as a guiding star on the horizon. Even when you veer off the course, you can easily go back because you know what it really matters to you.
Now it is time to look at your Priorities.
To do this, first look at your reflections and your gratitude. Is there something that worked well and you wish to keep it up? Or maybe there is something that you didn’t quite achieve, but now you know why it might have gone wrong and what you could have done differently? Most importantly, reflecting should give you the understanding of why certain things matter to you more than others and help define your WHY.
Based on your reflections and gratitudes, choose what things to prioritise and what things to let go of.
Letting go of certain things will not be simple, but it is important to understand that you cannot do absolutely everything. Some things, no matter how desired, are simply not going to make it to your top priorities. They may linger in the background and resurface later, but for now focus on your true priorities.
If you are struggling to decide on some priorities, try asking these two question:
- Why am I doing this?
- How does it make me feel?
Try to determine if your goals and priorities have a strong why behind them, the why is crucial. This takes being completely honest with yourself for the best results.
Now make a list of your priorities.
Try to limit them to 2-3 items (and no more than 5!), as having more can interfere with your success. As already said, it is important to understand that you cannot do everything at once. But prioritising the most important thing and achieving them first, or bringing them to the state of a set routine, can free up mental and physical space to prioritise other things.
Once you have your priorities set, you are ready to start working on your success. Just remember your priorities, remember your WHY, and remember to be grateful.
Tips to make the most success
ONE – Set SMART goals
Break your priorities into small, achievable goals and measurable steps that would bring you there. Set realistic timeframes in which you would like to achieve your steps. Track you progress over time, analyse your failures and successes and revisit your why to help reinstate the priority.
TWO – Visualise your success
Visualisation is a very powerful tool. The famous saying goes, If you can see it being done, then it is possible. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. If someone cannot imagine the steps required to complete the goal, they will never succeed in it. But this is not to say that achieving it is impossible. It just takes courage to look outside the box and see the solution. If you can visualise it, you certainly can achieve it, no matter what the others say.
THREE – Vision Board
This tool can help you both with visualisation and motivation. Create a physical or a virtual board that would inspire you to act and serve as a reminder for your priorities. You can use cut outs from magazines and newspapers, various pictures and texts and pin them to the board. Ensure that they convey your vision and inspire you to act. I also suggest choosing a code word that would represent your priorities and goals for the year, and capturing this word on the board. For me, this year I chose two words: Restore and True. I will be sure to capture these on my vision board.
My New Year’s Gift to You
Finally, because it’s New Year, I wanted to give you a gift. Below I have included a FREE, downloadable, printable The Success Plan Workbook. No email subscriptions required. You can simply download the ebook by clicking the button below.
If you enjoy this book, please feel free to share this post with your friends so they can work on their goals and intentions too. However, I ask you to respect my full copyrights to the written plan and not copy or distribute it without contacting me first.