It’s that time of the year when we take a break from our routine, celebrate the holidays, and get social with family and friends. It’s also the time we review our year and start looking at the new year with optimism and a fresh perspective. We excitedly come up with goals, prayers, or even a focus word for the year ahead. Unfortunately, out of the 45% of Americans that actually make new year’s resolutions, only 8% stick to them.
The success of achieving resolutions or goals often comes down to our intention and the mindset we were in when we made them. What we often forget is that the purpose of our resolutions and goals is based on us expanding and stepping into the highest version of ourselves. From this place of expansion, we can better serve others and live a more fulfilling life.
If you make your resolutions and goals from a place of fear, pressure from others, or by what you feel you should do, you automatically set yourself up for failure. If you instead follow the path of logic, combined with heart and intuition, then your chances of succeeding are much higher.
Here is a 5-step process that combines logic and heart that I use to set expansive intentions for the new year and successfully achieve them.
Step 1: Take inventory of the past year.
In agile development, “retrospectives” are frequently used to give teams the opportunity to pause and reflect on how things have been going and then, based on those reflections, identify the improvements they want to make. After answering these four questions, they then make a new plan for their next product build:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What have I learned?
- What still puzzles me?
This process can be applied in a similar way to review your past year. You can make a list of your successes, challenges and failures, big lessons you learned, and what areas in your life you still want to improve on. This list can be used as a basis to form your goals and resolutions for the new year.
Step 2: Choose a balanced approach.
Personal development leader Steven Covey based a lot of his work around the four fundamental human needs: physical, social, mental, and spiritual. When not balanced, these unmet needs can cause us to be unfulfilled versus when met allow us to be enriched and fulfilled in our lives. In Stephen Covey’s book First Things First, he describes these needs by the phrase, “To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” “To live” addresses our physical needs such as food, shelter, and health. “To love” falls into our social need to belong, give and receive love, and relate to others. “To learn” includes our mental need to develop, grow, and become the best version of ourselves. The desire “to leave a legacy” is our spiritual need to make a contribution to this planet and have meaning and purpose to our lives. Try picking 1 – 2 goals from each of the four categories to create a more balanced list of resolutions and goals.
Step 3: Be realistic, don’t over commit.
The optimistic feeling we get at the end of a year and beginning of new year can often cause us to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Although it is good to dream big in order to expand to our full potential, we also need to be realistic about our time, energy levels, health, and priorities. Too often than not we set ourselves up for failure by taking a boot camp approach to making resolutions and goals; this often leaves us feeling disappointed that we couldn’t stick to a plan, which was physically impossible to achieve to start with (unless we eliminate sleep from our lives).
They key is to start with baby steps, then build from there. If you have never meditated before or have limited experience, to set the goal of meditating everyday for the whole year may be unrealistic; instead, you could start with committing to 15 minutes a day for 40 days. If you miss a day, you start your 40 days again; this way, you allow the neuroplasticity of your brain enough time to form a new habit, so you continue meditating.
Step 4: Break things down into time increments.
New years resolutions and goals can often be too vague, such as, “I want to lose weight,” or come with no plan on how to achieve your goals. Rather than making a blanket statement with no defined date, set specific goals for the first quarter of the year that build up towards your ultimate goal. After three months, assess where you are at, then define your new goals for the next quarter.
Planning personal expansion in short-term increments also allows room for growth, discovery, and change of priorities. We don’t always know what is best for us, so by surrendering to the flow of life we allow exactly what we need to reveal itself. The best thing is, we are always where we are meant to be and continually learning.
Step 5: Take an attitude of gratitude.
Once you’ve followed the steps above, switch your energy to a higher frequency through practicing gratitude before making your final list. Gratitude not only reminds us of all the blessings we have in our life, it also brings us the gift of being present. From this place of presence and higher consciousness, we can assess each resolution and goal to discern whether our need to achieve it is coming from the right place. For each resolution and goal, tap into your heart and ask yourself:
- Is this something I want to do or feel I should do?
- If I put my ego aside right now, does this still feel like an important goal for my life?
- Do I want to achieve this through my own free will, or by the pressure of someone else?
- Will this ultimately serve my highest good, or is there another option for some other time?
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