I’ve always been a big New Year’s resolutions person. It’s kind of hard not to be when it feels as if the whole world is pumped up on excitement endorphins, ready to step into the life they dream of living.
Better healthy habits. Switching careers. Publishing books. Having more patience with your kids. Taking better care of yourself. Meditating.
Ohhh, meditating. How many times in the last decade has that one shown up on my list?
And yet, by the time we get to February, reality seems to hit.
Healthy habits are hard when everyone in the house catches the flu and the scale doesn’t budge and you realize how freaking hard it is to turn down white bread when everyone else in your house still eats it.
Switching careers sounds so appealing when you’re sitting cross legged in front of a fireplace with a mug of tea and big dreams. But, when you start to look at the numbers and realize that crunching hard for months on end while you keep your day job is absolutely exhausting…it feels less certain.
There are a million examples of how it gets hard. I’ve been there, and I’m sure I’ll be there again. I’ve got a laundry list of things I want to accomplish this year and habits I want to make and break.
It’s not all going to happen.
But you know what? New Year’s planning wouldn’t feel so good if it was entirely realistic. There’s joy to be had in opening up our brains and dreaming about the big possibilities.
There just has to be a balance.
Big dreams and bite size goals. Open heart and open eyes. They have to go hand in hand.
Before I became an author, I was a project manager. My brain is built for organization (yes, that’s the kind way of saying I’m totally anal retentive). While it wasn’t my dream job, it gave me the foundation for knowing how to run a successful project.
And New Year’s Resolutions? They’re a project. They are a year long, multi-faceted, and often unwieldy attempt at living a better life.
This past year, I nailed my goals. I had a better year than I’ve ever had because of two simple concepts.
And let me tell you, it felt damn good.
I’m not just going to sit here and brag about accomplishing my resolutions. (Seriously, we could have a never-ending happy hour conversation on all the years I didn’t even pinky toe past the starting line on my goals.)
No. I want you to have the same feeling - the joy of achieving what you set out to do on January 1st.
So here’s my secret sauce—how I did what I set out to do in 2016 and plan to do the same this year.
Every single month last year, I sat down on the last Saturday of the month and did the same three things.
I reviewed what I had done (or not done) the previous month. I celebrated my successes, but I also looked at what didn’t work.
There were months I had “finish first draft” on my list of goals for that month. Seriously, it showed up January, February, and March. And each of those months, I got to the last weekend empty handed.
It was discouraging, but you know what else it was? Enlightening. Because instead of getting to the end of the year and realizing I never accomplished of the biggest things I wanted to get done, I saw it every four weeks. Which made me take a look at WHY I wasn’t reaching my goal.
And what was the why? Well, I was still using the mindset that I needed to feel creative in order to sit down to write, and if it wasn’t going well, I was giving myself a free pass to opt out after a few hundred words.
A few hundred words a day doesn’t write a manuscript in a month.
I finally crossed it off my list in April because I started sitting down every single day and pushing myself to two or three thousand words whether I liked it or not. I stopped watching TV those months and didn’t let myself opt out when I had a tough day.
Reviewing your goals helps you figure out what isn’t working, and while it’s not the most fun, it’s absolutely critical to pushing through.
Success doesn’t happen without failure, but wouldn’t it be sad if we all just took failure as a sign it wasn’t working and stopped trying?
You can tackle those big goals. You can make progress. You just have to keep checking in and really looking at what is and isn’t working.
Project managers live and die by prioritization. You want to know how a website gets built or a product launches? Knowing exactly how important each and every single piece is and what can get cut.
We’re all wildly optimistic about how much we can get it. In work and our personal lives.
It’s the pothole of January. We get so excited about everything we want to tackle, we try to do it all at once.
Some things can go hand in hand: drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, and sticking to a weekly workout routine are all habits that fuel each other.
But trying to start a new workout routine AND publish a book AND buckle down on that 300 book reading goal AND trying to spend more time with your spouse.
Yeah, probably a little optimistic.
Do you know how I wrote three books last year? I figured out what I was going to give up.
I cancelled my Hulu subscription. I said no to friend dates when I hadn’t hit my writing goals. I didn’t try new recipes. I stuck to my crock-pot favorites and sometimes got a little bored with the same ol’ meals and leftovers. I swapped my hour long, 4 days a week workouts for half hour power sessions 2-3 times a week.
I recognized early on I couldn’t do it all. So, I got realistic about my priorities. What did I absolutely have to get done? What could I say no to?
Trying to do it all leads to burnout and missed deadlines and that, my friend, is a downward spiral.
It’s not always easy or fun. Pushing hard to reach a goal is rarely all sunshine and butterflies.
But when you pick the right goals - the goals that are meant to push you to live a life you enjoy - pushing hard feels rewarding. Hitting a goal is even more sweet when it’s in pursuit of something that makes you feel whole.
For me last year, that was writing books.
This year? There are more books on the list, but one of my top resolutions this year is to learn how to market myself and my books in a way that feels authentic and confident.
It’s a big ask, but you know I’m going to be checking in every month to see how it’s going.
Big dreams and bite size goals. Cheers to 2017, friend. I hope it’s one of the best ones yet.