The new year is packed with possibilities, including a fresh, new start. Still, many people scrap making resolutions all together, thinking they never work. This year, set aside time to figure out what you want to do and how you are going to do it.
Ask yourself these four questions to get started on your best year yet:
1. Look in the mirror: Where am I today?
Which parts of your life are strong and vibrant? Which areas are often neglected? Think about all facets of your life today:
- Career: Focus on your job and the pursuit of professional success.
- Family: Remember to balance your work life with your family life.
- Friends: Take time to consider meaningful relationships outside of your family.
- Spirituality: Focus on the values and beliefs that give meaning to life.
- Health: Don’t forget to take care of yourself, your mind and your body.
- Fun: Think about the activities and experiences that bring you joy and laughter.
Rather than going straight to your list of 2018 goals, first consider the areas that most need renewed attention or that have been unintentionally neglected. For example, relationships can have a powerful impact on happiness. If you are swamped with work or school, making time for relationships may feel like a luxury, but a recent study from Harvard concluded that those who kept close relationships lived longer and happier lives.
If you aren’t sure about where you are today, ask those who know you best. Look at how you spent your time in 2017 for clues. Did you hear subtle signals about an area that needs your attention? A doctor’s warning, lack of growth at your job or a best friend claiming they never see you anymore can all be important input for you to consider in 2018.
2. Repeat the past: What has helped me change before?
Of course you want to start anew in 2018! But consider exploring what has helped you change in the past and try it again.
How were you successful in a college course that challenged but energized you? How did you recover from a personal setback at your lowest point? What helped you make progress and reach your goals? Be very specific and use the strategies that have worked for you before.
The only way I can get comfortable with big decisions is through information. The bigger the decision, the more I need to know. I do plenty of online research, but I place a very high value on conversations with experts who can adapt knowledge to my situation. When I started my business, I spent quality time talking to those who had gone down this path to inform both my decision and my plan. All this information gave me the confidence I needed to get started.
3. Mind games: How can I get out of my way?
The mind is a powerful thing. We can do big things when our mind is convinced we can do it.
Know your go-to fears and how you can unknowingly sabotage yourself. I often ask my clients, “If anything gets in your way, what will it be?” Do you know the answer for yourself?
A recent client’s answer was, “I’m impatient and want immediate results, and this goal will take some time.” The obvious next question was, “What happens when you don’t get results quickly enough?” You guessed it: “I move on to something else.” If immediate gratification is your kryptonite, break your dream into tiny pieces to feed your desire to see faster progress.
Research says 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are over by mid-February. When the goal seems too big, too hard or too long, we go back to our old ways. Rather than be a statistic, break your goal into one-month resolutions. Focus on January one week at a time.
I was scared to start my consulting business over 10 years ago. I had been in big industry jobs, and this decision was a leap of faith. My brain hack was telling myself it was just a yearlong experiment. No big thing. I felt confident that at the end of one year, I’d know if this was the path for me.
4. Purpose: What is my why?
Most New Year’s resolutions are pretty predictable. The most common resolutions are usually things like get healthy and get organized. The key is understanding why these goals and others really matter in your life.
Commit to specific goals that fit the areas that need your time and attention, and have a bigger purpose. Know why making this change matters, rather than just wanting to lose weight or organize your office. Knowing your why will increase the likelihood that you will stick with it when it gets hard.
If your why is building in more time for relationships and fun to enrich your life, then keep that why on a note and stick it to your mirror. Start small. Downsize your expectation of what is required for having people over. Call friends to check in on your commute home. Be an asker and invite people to get together rather than communicating only through text. Twelve months of even small changes will have an impact.
Find what works for you. Find what matters in your life, and get started. All it takes is starting with January, and you can go from there.
This article was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated for freshness.
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.