I always love the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. It is a chance to look at and drink in all the accomplishments and growth from the prior year. As always, not everything will have gone as planned. But as I look back, I try to learn from everything, the good and the bad. And I often find successes which are unexpected—these are my favorite ones.
It is also an opportunity to plan for the next year. The new year is always promising; it represents hope and something fresh, which I think is why it is the most popular date for making resolutions. Of course, these dates can come and go, just like any other date in the year, but you can use them to launch your new project or start a new routine.
I propose using that impetus to start working on your goals. The key is not just to define what your goal is going to be, but it is also to figure out how you will achieve it. Without putting these mechanisms in place and in your routine, you will find that it will be hard to continue to keep going amidst all your other responsibilities. Then the year can serve as the context you use to measure your progress.
Setting Your Goals and Making Them a Part of Your Routine
What we want to do is often clear: whether it is to exercise, spend more time with our loved ones, or start a new project. The problem becomes how to make sure you accomplish it. In the same way that resolutions are prevalent, so are the unsuccessful routines and projects once the initial excitement has lessened.
There is hope, though. With the proper accountability mechanism, you will be able to create new habits, which will in turn help you reach your goals. You only have to keep at it for a time, as the standard states that it takes about 21 days to form a habit until your goal becomes a routine. Although it might not take 21 days, it should form in less than a year. A study by Phillippa Lally and her team found that it took between 18 and 254 days to form a habit.
Then it will be self-fulfilling and give you the results that come from the practice. Even if your goal is a one-time project, you will need to create the space in your routine to reach each of your milestones leading up to the final objective. When you accomplish your objective, you can use that space that already exists in your routine to launch other projects.
Experiment to Find the Best Way to Achieve Your Goals
Experiment with different structures. You may need to join a group or get a coach or a friend to participate in the same activity as you. You may need to set aside the time in your schedule. I’ve tried practically everything, from finding a coach to joining a peer support group (see my articles here and here), and different methods work for me depending on the goal I want to achieve.
Most recently, I wanted to learn to play the djembe, an African drum. So, for a seminar that I participated in, I joined an accountability group. There are about 15 of us. We could choose to work on anything, from exercise to meditation.
I have wanted to learn to play the djembe for about 12 years. In fact, at one point, I even bought a djembe in New York and just never got around to playing it. When I finally tried, I realized it was broken. Then, nine months ago, I bought a new drum but could still never find the time to play it.
Finding the space and making playing the drum part of my schedule was the hardest part. I experimented with different times – morning, weekends, and even evenings. I found the right spot for it: I’m now practicing for about 15 minutes in the morning right after I work out.
In the group, you have to post a picture of the activity to show you are doing it. Initially, for me, posting to a picture of my djembe to show I had practiced was the sole motivator. Then the activity became its reward. These past few weeks, I find myself missing playing the drum if I don’t. It helps me deal better with stress, as drumming makes me happy.
What do you want to do with this fresh beginning? Anything is possible if you set it up well.
Happy 2020! May this year be full of growth and happiness for you.