5 Practical Ways to be Ready for the New Year

A new year is right around the corner, and with it often comes a sudden urge to change.

Resolutions are made.
Goals are set.
Gym memberships are purchased.
Life plans are written down.

The promise of a clean slate is a powerful motivator.

But how do you set the right goals? How do you make the right resolutions? What life plans should you pursue in the new year? How do you get ready to tackle a new year and do so in a way that you can stick to your new goals?

Practical Ways to Prepare

Here are 5 practical ways you can be ready for the new year:

Evaluate the Past

Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and I tend to agree with him.

When we fail to hit pause in our busy lives and evaluate where we’ve been, we’re more likely to repeat our same 0ld behavior patterns. Evaluating your past year is a necessary step to making the next year successful.

[bctt tweet=”When we fail to evaluate our past, we’re more likely to repeat our same old behavior patterns.”]

Take an hour this next week and ask yourself these questions:

  • What goals did I accomplish in 2015?
  • What led me to achieve those goals?
  • What habits should I keep practicing in 2016?
  • What goals did I fail to accomplish in 2015?
  • Why did I fail to accomplish those goals in 2015?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What was my biggest struggle in 2015? Why?
  • What habits do I need to break in 2016?

Answering these questions will help you to see the patterns and habits in your life that you need to break in order to be successful in bringing change in 2016.

Answer the Question: Who Do You Want to Be?

The start of any new year often raises the question: what do I want to do this next year — focusing on behavioral changes we want to instill in our lives. Exercising, eating better, rebuilding relationships, finding a new job or choosing a major, getting better grades in school.

Those are great goals, but the desire to make behavioral changes won’t be enough to motivate you to follow through when change gets hard.

A better question to ask yourself is: who do I want to be this next year.

Focusing on the character qualities you want to embody in the new year is a much better way to stay committed when the required changes get difficult.

[bctt tweet=”Focusing on who you want to be in the new year is a better way to stay committed when changes get difficult.”]

Take an hour this week and ask yourself:

  • What kind of person do you want to be this next year?
  • What character qualities do you need to develop?
  • What gifts and talents do you need to develop?
  • What weaknesses do you need to work on?
  • At the end of 2016, what do you hope other people will say about you?

Set Some Goals

After you’ve written out who you want to be in 2016, now it’s time to set some goals to help you become that person.

This step can be tricky. Set too many or too lofty goals, and you’ll crash and burn before you even begin. Don’t make the goals measurable, and you’ll never know if you are on track to achieve them.

Follow these tips to set realistic and reachable goals:

  • Create a few (read: 2 or 3) short-term goals that will give you a quick “win.”
  • Stagger goals throughout the year. It’s best to only focus on 2-3 goals at a time. Staggering your goals allows you to focus for a season, and then add new goals as you finish old ones.
  • Set a time frame for accomplishing your goals.
  • Include small change goals (i.e. – rather than a goal being eat better this year, make a goal to substitute fruit in place of sweets 4 times a week)
  • Allow for wiggle room. You don’t know what 2016 will bring in way of major lifestyle change (new job, moving). Give yourself some wiggle room on achieving your goals to accommodate any big changes.
  • Build in rewards. Seriously. It will keep you motivated.
  • Make your goals measurable. Rather than setting a goal to lose weight, consider including how much weight. It will help you track your progress and make changes as you go.

Define Success

Success looks different for every person, every goal, and every year.

What does success look like for you? Is it achieving all your goals? Being a better person? Finishing with better grades or a new job?

Create that image of a successful 2016 in your head and write it down. It will become a gauge to determine how 2016 is going for you.

Understand, though, that life happens and the unexpected is right around the corner. Three months into 2016, you may experience a big life change that voids out your image of success. If and when that happens, simply take time to redefine success — otherwise, you’ll be holding yourself up to an image you can’t possibly achieve.

Expect the Unexpected

Life is good at throwing us unexpected curveballs.

You may be doing well at accomplishing your goals in 2016 when the unexpected happens. You lose your job. Fail a class. Get transferred. Transfer to a different college. Have a kid. Get sick. Get promoted. Lose a loved one. Choose a new major. Choose a new career. Send a kid off to college.

There is no way to know what the new year will bring, but that doesn’t mean it should catch you off guard.

[bctt tweet=”You won’t know what the new year will bring, but unexpected changes shouldn’t catch you off guard.”]

Follow these tips to expect the unexpected:

  • Re-evaluate your goals. Are they still achievable with the new life change?
  • Set new goals. You should expect to need some new goals after a curveball.
  • Redefine success. Success will likely look different after a major life change. Don’t be afraid to scrap your previous view of success and replace it with a new one.
  • Embrace the change — whether it’s good or bad. Wishing that life hadn’t thrown you a curveball isn’t doing to do much good. Take time to grieve, but the sooner you embrace the change, the better equipped you will be to turn it into something good.

Get Ready

Following the steps above will help you not only prepare for the new year, but also give you a clear plan on how to be successful in 2016.

Carve out a few hours over the remaining days in 2015 to go through the exercises outlined above. It will be beneficial to have some kind of notebook or journal to write all your answers done so you can refer back to them as you set goals and define success.

(Image via Susanne Nilsson cc)