Let’s make this year the year you achieve actionable goals instead of simply writing down resolutions you’ll forget about by March.
Growing up, I always looked forward to New Year’s resolutions. December was a time of reflection for me, and I enjoyed preparing for the New Year with a huge list of resolutions—empty promises that this was the year… This was the year I would learn a new language, lose weight, get back to painting, finish my autobiography, write in my journal every day, stop eating sugar, etc. etc. etc.
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you fallen prey to setting yourself up so high with resolutions that are going to help you make the New Year the best year yet that it’s a long and painful fall with you don’t reach even one of those resolutions?
Resolutions aren't enough. You need actionable goals if you want to GET. IT. DONE. (<<< tweet that!)
So instead of resolutions, I like to think of goals I want to achieve in the upcoming year. However, rather than focusing on big goals with no plan, I take it a step further (and I want you to as well this year): I set ACTIONABLE goals for the New Year.
What Are Actionable Goals?
Actionable goals are goals you can follow through and achieve. When you create actionable goals, you have to go a step further than “I will write a book this year.” There are a lot of steps to writing a book. Without an action plan in place, this type of goal may sit in your desk drawer for ten months before you finally pull it out November 1st and panic because there is no way you have enough time to complete you book. You didn’t achieve this goal (this resolution) and what happens? You put it on the list for 2017. And you will continue to fall into this trap of writing the same goals on your New Year’s list every December 31st until you finally create actions and steps to help you achieve these goals.
Specific: You have to specify exactly what you want to achieve and WHY.
Measurable: How much? How many? Writing a book by the end of 2016 isn’t clear enough. Writing 500 words a day is. Writing 6,000 words a week is. Writing one 10,000 word chapter a month is.
Attainable: Set goals this year you can truly achieve. If you have never played the violin before, is it really reasonable to assume you will be a master ready to play at Carnegie Hall in one year? Probably not. It’s absolutely okay to push yourself, but push your limits just slightly. If writing 500 words a day is a piece of cake, maybe you want to shoot for 1000 words a day instead, but don’t tell yourself to write 5,000 words a day if that’s not a possibility.
Relevant: Your goals need to be important to you. If your heart isn’t in it, you’re not going to achieve them. Or you’ll be unhappy and resentful the entire time you try. If your best friend is sure you need to learn Italian so you can go to Italy together this summer, but you really don’t want to learn Italian (and maybe you don’t even want to go to Italy), then this goal will do nothing positive for you. You have to want your goal.
Time-bound: Your goals need deadlines:
- I will buy a violin by January 15.
- I will have hired a violin teacher by January 30.
Let’s be honest: without deadlines, the things we want get buried under the heavy pile of work, family, and home priorities.
Without deadlines, the things we want get buried under the demands of work and home. (<<< click to tweet!)
Where Do I Start?
Before you can decide what goals you want to accomplish in 2016, you need to spend some time thinking:
- Where are you right now?
- Who are you?
- What have you achieved so far?
- What matters to you most at this moment?
- What kind of person are you?
You probably have a list of goals you want to achieve. I do too. However, working on several goals at one time can overwhelm you to the point where you are no longer working on any of the goals. That said, not all your goals are going to take an entire year to achieve. You might want to run a 5k. That may only take you three months to accomplish, leaving you with nine more months in the year to work on another goal. Or maybe you want to start a journaling practice, and you create a journal habit in less than six weeks. That’s great. That’ll leave you with plenty of time to work on other goals the rest of the year.
Start January 1st with one goal in mind. Lay out your S.M.A.R.T. plan for this one goal FIRST. Once that goal is rolling along smoothly (or it’s finished), then start on your next goal.
Getting What You Want
- Set the goal.
- List the steps you are going to take to achieve this goal.
- Create the habit(s).
Here’s an example of mine from 2015:
Goal: Learn to play six new songs on the piano and become proficient at playing them (play the entire song straight through with no mistakes).
Steps: This is a goal I want to work on for the entire year. I will focus on one song every two months.
- January and February: Song A
- March and April: Song B
The Habit: Practice the focused song every Monday through Friday for 10 minutes in the morning.
My goal changed over the year. I stuck with my original plan through June when I realized I didn’t need a full two months to learn a song. I started pushing myself to learn songs more quickly, and now at the end of 2015, I learned 13 songs this year.
Don’t worry if your goals shift during the year. What seems important to us in January, may not be as important come June. Our lives are constantly changing. Work may change. Your family life may change. Your income, your interests, your passions—all of these can change, so if you have Goal A ready to go in January and come March, realize Goal A is no longer important or you want to work on something else, go for it!
How do you know if you’re still on the right path with your goals? You’ve got to check in with yourself regularly. The reflection section you filled out in the beginning of this workbook needs to fill out at the end of each month (or quarterly at the very least). I’ve given you twelve reflection sections to fill out over the course of the year, so you can stay on top of what matters to you most and what goals you truly want to achieve. No joke: This is the secret to my goal-achieving success. These monthly check-ins are gold. Prepping for the New Year is great, but if I don’t stay on top of my goals each month, then all I’ve done is create another list of resolutions that may get done at some point…eventually…hopefully.
Your Year to Live Creatively
Let’s make this year the year of creative living. Everyone is creative. Don’t tell me you don’t have any talent. Don’t tell me you’re no good at DIY—that’s not what creativity is. I guarantee every single person reading this post is creative. Why? Because every human being is creative. If you are alive, you’re creative.
Creative living means engaging with creativity on a regular (if not daily) basis. You may already know what your creative sweet spot is. Maybe you’re a writer. Maybe you love sketching. You might have a collection of coloring books. Or perhaps you feel you can’t ever own enough poetry books.
But maybe you don’t know what your creative sweet spot is, and that’s okay. I created a short ebook to help you out: 52 Challenges to Living a Creative Life. You can download the ebook here, and set a goal to do one challenge per week for the entire year. Even if a challenge only takes you one or two days, you’ll still be actively engaged with creativity all year long.
If you head is swimming with ideas, great! Take some time to brainstorm or go for a walk and think some goal ideas over.
The workbook I created for this post will guide you through the goal making process and help you make this year a year where you achieve actionable goals. You’ll find it in my digital library.
What goals do you have in mind for the new year?