You’ve got a couple days to go before 2020 kicks off! Whether you’ve thought a lot about your goals for the coming year or haven’t even had a chance with the holiday bustle, we’ve got you covered with our guide on how to make sure it gets off to a good start.
Set a Big Picture Vision For Yourself
This sounds very guru-esque, but we want you to picture what you think is the best version of yourself. How is that different from who you are today? What is your best version focused on? How would they spend their time?
Think about these questions for a few minutes. Envisioning your best self should be someone that you are happy with. Ideally you are happy with most of who you are today, but it is also entirely healthy to have things that you want to change and improve. Your goals should be focused on these things. If you think you are perfect already, I guess you can skip this part.
It’s those things that make sense to focus on in 2020. Try to write down two or three of those areas where you would most want to make progress, and let’s go from there.
Some examples to consider:
- I want to get in better shape
- I want to advance my career
- I want to build better relationships
- I want to become more disciplined
Make a Plan
Okay, a big picture vision is great, but it isn’t very actionable. Saying “I want to get in better shape” doesn’t really lead you to do anything specifically. In our experience, this can lead to one of two outcomes:
- Someone starts strong but doesn’t have any order or long-term plan, and drops it the first time they hit a busy stretch for the rest of their life. Or,
- Someone doesn’t do much at the start and has entirely forgotten about the goal by the second week of February.
We don’t want either of these to happen to you, and so we strongly recommend a plan of attack.
What this means depends on your goal, but generally we suggest you come up with 1-3 tactical steps you can take each week in order to make meaningful progress toward your goal.
You might be asking, “what constitutes tactical steps? Or meaningful progress?” We won’t worry too much about the definitions, but ideally these are habits that you can build that, if you do them, will make achieving your goal much more likely. As an example: if you want to get in better shape, then skipping dessert at least 2 days per week is a tactical step, and logically has a good chance of improving your chances of getting into shape. Hence it is a good target for you to set!
One important note: it should be very easy to define if you achieved your target or not in a given week. You either skipped dessert at least twice, or you did not. This one is very clear if you are being honest with yourself (what about that half of a cookie? You might ask.). Most of us have learned how to use ambiguity to satiate short-term happiness and convince ourselves we did something even if that’s not quite true. Long-term you needs to setup blockades to that from the start.
Some examples (related to the four goals above):
- Go for a run/jog 3 days per week
- Reach out to one contact each week in my professional network
- Call my parents/siblings each week
- Meditate 3 times per week
Just Do It
To borrow the Nike catchphrase, just do it. I’m not sure if I have to pay royalties on that, but there’s no substitute for just doing something once you have the plan and the rationale for doing so. If you have a long term goal, and then short-term steps that you know will work toward that, there shouldn’t be much more in your way from just going and getting it done!
But what can go wrong? In practice we’ve seen two cases crop up:
- People convince themselves that they are on track for their goal while skimping on the actual work
- People grow tired after doing a routine for a while and not necessarily seeing the progress that they’d expect
How are these solved? In both cases, regular tracking of your progress is an anecdote. Let’s talk about that!
Track Your Progress
Last but not least, you need to keep yourself honest! Maybe you are one of those rare folks that do this naturally, but most of us have a bias toward preserving our own narrative and a bias toward not doing work unless we have to. Taken together, those let us excuse a missed run because we weren’t feeling well, or excuse not meditating because we were on vacation, and so on.
The hard truth is: if you want to achieve great things, you have to learn how to beat those voices in your head. And the best way to do that is by regularly tracking if you do something or not. Because our goals are clearly defined (did you meditate or not?) we can just check a box whether or not we did it. In aggregate then, this will paint an unbiased story that prevents us from that first challenge: how we convince ourselves out of doing the real work.
Tracking can also help cure the second case where people grow tired of a routine. People tend to like seeing a positive story about ourselves. One such story is this: I’ve gone on 3 runs per week for 20 straight weeks! That’s a good anecdote, and maybe you can remember that without tracking it. But by tracking it, you also get a pretty graph that proves it, and a whole bunch of stats that go along with it! The point is this: good tracking can actually build your motivation as you go and help you actually achieve your goals.
Tell Someone About It
Last, but certainly not least, accountability increases as more people know about what you want to do. As we mentioned above, we can find all sorts of ways to justify letting ourselves down. Letting other people down is a bit tougher and they are a bit tougher to fool with an excuse!
Studies back this up: telling a close friend or relative about your goal has a huge impact on your likelihood of completing it. So whatever your goal is, let someone know. See if you can get them to join you or go for a goal of their own and hold each other accountable!
Wrapping It Up
At the end of the day, no one is going to show up to make your life better for you. While you’ll find people who will help you along the way, you’ve got to take the steps.
Taking those first steps isn’t easy, but if you start at a bigger picture, that will act as your motivating engine that will power you through taking the tactical steps to get there. Laying out both of these in advance drastically increases your chances of succeeding.
And of course, having an accountability system also helps to keep you pushing through the barriers that life throws in your way. So get a tracking system (I’d recommend WeAchieve), find a goal buddy, and go kick some ass in 2020!