I’m writing this post from the beaches of beautiful, sunny Punta Cana.
It’s been raining for 2 days now (so much for the sunny part), but I’m taking advantage of the weather to sit under the palapa and get some work done. There’s a bright side to everything right! Going down south during the holidays has become a tradition for my fiancee and I. The first year that we took our trip, we had no intention of making a tradition out of it, but it ended up being such a fantastic way to spend the holidays and start a new year that we were hooked.
For us, coming here is so much more than escaping the snow or having somewhere to celebrate the New Year’s festivities. Though, believe it or not it is also a great way to spend Christmas. We have found that slowing down and being present every day really allows us to enjoy the holidays with one another. But ultimately, this is truly our time to re-set, re-energize and plan for the year ahead. It allows us time to reflect on all of our accomplishments and everything that we’ve experienced over the past 12 months. Most of all, it’s the most precious two weeks we have alone together, with no interruptions and workplace emergencies. For two ambitious and focused professionals, this is a rare thing and so we are very conscious to enjoy every minute.
On our first trip, we put our goals in writing – our intentions for the year, not just resolutions which tend to be fleeting and short-lived. We were amazed at how many of them we achieved when reading them the following year. I was hooked! I had written goals before, but at different points of the year, very casually, and without a clear ritual. Now it’s no longer a 5-minute exercise that I complete and put on the shelf. For me, this has become a ritual.
You don’t need a beach or elaborate vacation either – just a pen, paper and some quiet time to focus and get clear on what you want. Create a ritual of your own – pick a day during the holidays where you can have some time to yourself – whether that be on the Dec 31st or on Jan 1st (as close to New Year’s as possible). Base it around something you enjoy. It could be a bath, candles, soothing music, or starting your day with a coffee or a few hours at Chapters. Get yourself into the mindset of intention and gratitude.
Once you’ve created the ritual, here are the specific strategies for creating a roadmap that is sure to generate momentum for your life and a spectacular 2010:
1. Start with gratitude.
Before you even start to think about everything you want to happen for you in the year ahead, begin with being grateful for what you already have received. Being grateful changes your energy. It allows you to be open to receiving. If you are only focused on the next thing you want, you are always in a state of chasing and wanting. Furthermore, at a most basic level, how can you expect to be blessed with more good things if you can’t appreciate what you already have? I recommend journaling about the year that just passed. Review the last 12 months in your mind and acknowledge and write down everything great that has happened, both the planned goals and the surprises, as well as the challenges that turned out to be important gifts and lessons. You will be amazed at how much you have to be thankful for and also how much you have to celebrate. We often take very little time to celebrate our own accomplishments. We’re so busy planning that we are off to the next thing and missing the blessings that are being given to us at every turn. There is no better mindset in which to begin a new year than with the gratitude and realization that your life is already pretty great and only getting better!
2. Write it down.
This is extremely important. Less than 3% of people write down their goals. Yet consider this…. When you read stories of extremely successful people who have done big, remarkable things and made an impact socially or professionally, many of them had at one point written down their big impossible fantasies on paper. This is something I’ve consistently found over and over again. And if you consider that less than 5% of the population occupies the highest income brackets, or the highest executive positions and most successful businesses, etc., you start to make the connection that if you want different results from what you currently have, you’re going to have to do something differently, something that most other people aren’t doing. Some might tell you it’s a waste of time, but be sure to look at their results and ask yourself if they are what you want. If not, you might want to listen to a different role model. Just a thought….
3. Set clear and effective goals.
I believe there is an important distinction between goals and resolutions. Language is very important, especially to our subconscious. Resolutions are associated with failed attempts and short-lived commitment. They imply that something is “wrong” with us and we need to “resolve” to fix it. Goals on the other hand are proactive, positive and disciplined. We set goals and we create a plan to achieve them. With resolutions, we say them once at the beginning of the year and then hope for the best. They also often have a negative connotation. For example, you can resolve to quit smoking or you can have a goal of being healthy and being able to run a 10K race, which is more motivating?
There’s a bit of an artform to setting goals – many of you may have heard of SMART goals. These are based on proven strategies that increase the likelihood of success. Here are some of those guidelines that I’ve found to be most effective:
- Be clear and specific. Your goals should be specific enough that you can measure them. For example, “to be more happy” or “have more balance” is too vague. How will you know you’ve achieved it? Most of us actually don’t achieve what we want because we don’t know what we want! At least not with great clarity. You need to define what happiness and balance means to you – is that time for a hobby, time with your family, more time with friends or maybe figuring out your passions?
- Have a deadline. Goals without a timeline are simply wishes and dreams. When we set a date we automatically make the goals more real in our minds and create a sense of urgency both consciously and subconsciously.
- Think big. Your goals must be motivating and I mean REALLY motivating! Most of us set goals with our heads, more like a “to do” list for ourselves rather than dreams that we want to accomplish. As a result, our so-called “willpower” starts to fade within a few weeks. To do lists are great and necessary, but they contain the “how” not the “what”. For the start a new year do this: PICK 5 GOALS. That’s it. Here’s something that works really well for me – it’s a strategy I learned from Robin Sharma and I have found to be very effective. Ask yourself: What 5 things need to happen this year to make it the best year ever? You can still have smaller goals and monthly objectives if you like but I found this to be a great way to thing big, get focused and get clear. Remember to set a date for each and ideally write them at the front page of your daily notebook, that way you have a constant reminder.
Every year we start the year with the best of intentions. Who doesn’t want to improve their life in some way? Whether that be getting fitter, being healthier, getting the dream job, dream house, dream mate, or achieving a long-time goal such as traveling to a particular country or running a marathon.
As we start a new year and a new decade, make a promise to yourself that this year really will be the best year yet! Start by approaching the usual New Year’s “resolution-making” a little differently this year. I hope that these strategies will be helpful and I’ll be sure to keep providing content through my blog, newsletter and programs that will keep you motivated and on track all year long.
I wish you a prosperous 2010!
To your health and happiness,