Turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, begin with a clean slate- - all of these are ways to express an opportunity to improve our lives by recognizing a point in time to begin that improvement. The classic way this is done is through New Year's Resolutions.
Research shows that most people's New Year's Resolutions fail by the second week of February. Why is this? Is it because we are failures? That's how I used to feel! Why did I have so little willpower, and why couldn't I achieve my goals? After years of February failures, I finally realized I'd been making the WRONG resolutions! Last year I assessed all of my previous resolutions and determined which I had kept the longest and what they had in common. I noticed that I was more apt to stick to resolutions I made as positive statements. An example would be making a goal to eat more vegetables rather than one not to eat sugary foods. I also found that when I made goals that focused on others, I had an easier time meeting them. Lastly, I realized that when resolutions were related to my priorities and not what I thought OTHERS expected of me, there was a much better chance that they would last!
In December of 2016, with all of that information, I looked back at the year to see what I'd struggled with and decided what I could do in the coming year to truly make an impact on my life. Instead of a resolution, in 2017, I chose a focus that I could come back to throughout the year. It was both singular and broad - it was "time." You can read a previous post about some ways I worked on improving my grasp on time.
The year flew by, and it's time to do it all over! I just completed a short personal retreat where I went through this process again, but this time in a little more formalized way. It was a refreshing and rejuvenating day away where I reflected on the past year and identified how I wanted to approach the new year. I encourage you to find some time where you can be alone, away from your house if possible, to go through this process. I'd recommend an entire day if you can manage it (you deserve it!) I wanted to share what I did - - this isn't a magic formula, but it was enjoyable and gave me clarity about the coming year. The rules are simple: it's all about YOU and you must be honest with yourself.
I came up with 12 questions that I asked myself to get to the heart of what was important to me. I took my time and hand wrote my answers thoughtfully. I took some breaks for things like a massage, dinner, and Christmas shopping to keep it fun! I felt no judgement because there was no one to ask for opinions or to read my answers - except for me. After I'd completed my answers, I did a little analysis to find the common themes and ranked those commonalities to help me determine what I wanted to focus on for 2018. If you'd like to try this yourself here are the questions:
1. What did I accomplish this year that made me feel proud?
2. What made me happy this year?
3. What caused me stress this year?
4. What made me feel successful this year?
5. What am I disappointed that I didn't do this year?
6. What do I regret doing this year?
7. What could happen next year that would make me happy?
8. What could happen next year that would make me feel successful?
9. If my wildest dreams came true next year, what would it look like?
10. What would my fantasy self accomplish next year?
11. If money were no object, what would I do next year?
12. If I didn't care what others thought, what would I do next year?
Download the Focus Setting Worksheet to help with this process.
When you've completed the exercise, it's time to choose your areas of focus for the year. Make it easy to remember by distilling them down to one word each. Add some whimsy by making them start with the same letter, rhyme, or all have the same number of letters - - or if whimsy isn't your thing, that's ok too - just say it like it is. I like using one word each because there can be multiple meanings which means multiple opportunities to succeed. Write your words somewhere prominent so that you can review them regularly.
My words for 2018:
The next step is to create measurable goals for each of these areas of focus and plan action steps to achieve them. I'll explore goal creation in the next post - check back next week! I hope that you find this process for defining your areas of focus for 2018 helpful. I'd love to hear if this worked for you and what word or words you chose for the year. Please share with us in the comments!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!