The beginning of the year may seem like the optimum time to set goals and resolutions, but come January you might be feeling emotionally (and financially!) wiped out by the holiday season, and starting to feel sapped by several months of dreary winter weather.
It’s no wonder so many good intentions and resolutions made in early January stumble or fail before we even reach February.
That’s why some entrepreneurs suggest beating the new year “resolution rush”, and instead closing the year with an honest appraisal of your progress in an “Annual Review”. Read on to find out more.
Beat the new year resolution rush with an Annual Review
As we all know, past performance is no guarantee of future performance, but examining historical data can certainly help increase your chances of success down the road.
The same is true of your past behaviour, and how that affects your personal and professional goals.
New year resolutions are based on the kind of person we wish we might become; annual reviews, on the other hand, accept exactly who we are now and what we’ve done this year, and so are built from a place of honesty and self-awareness.
The author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau outlined his process for effective annual reviews on his Art of Non-Conformity blog.
Essentially, he recommends reflecting back on various aspects of our personal and professional life that you have control over – categories might include your finances, health and fitness, relationships, creativity, and so on – and ask yourself:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t?
By reflecting on the actions we’ve taken, and whether they have helped or hampered us in building a happier life, the process can reveal your values – as well as potential blind spots and biases – and show how effectively you used your time to live up to them.
For example, you may have decided that this year you would not only run your business day to day but also build a website, write guides and brochures, coordinate the social media accounts and grow your business… but in trying to do everything yourself you may have ended up burned out and unproductive. Instead, after a thorough review, you might decide that next year you’ll finally seek out the services of specialists who can support you in achieving your goals.
Now you’ve reflected on your actions and values, the next step is to consider the year ahead, what you hope to achieve and how you plan to get there.
Make your SMART goals smarter with your “why”
It’s popular to recommend using the “SMART” system when goal-setting. Thinking carefully about what you want to achieve and making your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound can turn vague desires into concrete and tangible goals that are easier to work towards.
However, setting a goal that is technically SMART but conflicts with your values is not only likely to fail, but achieving it may not even make you happier.
For example, if you set a goal of completing a marathon, but value family time most of all, then spending long hours getting your miles in on evenings and weekends may help you complete the race… but sacrifice the time you could be spending with your loved ones.
Post-marathon blues are so common precisely because people stake all their happiness on achieving the goal, but then feel lost once it’s achieved because they didn’t reflect on their “why”.
By examining your choices over the previous year, you should be able to see your values in the things you’ve chosen to prioritise, and these things should then be your compass when setting goals for the coming year, and for course-correcting if you hit any bumps in the road.
Fear-setting not goal-setting
In his inspiring TED talk, author Tim Ferriss outlined how facing his fears about making certain decisions or setting certain goals, then examining the potential consequences in detail, not only made them less scary, but suggested a plan for how to overcome any issues that might arise.
He proposes a five-step approach:
Define your fear by imaging the worst things that could possibly happen if you make a certain decision, and write them all down in painful detail.
Think about possible solutions to prevent each scenario and consider how you could decrease the chance of these fears coming true.
Next, think about how you might repair the damage if things really go south.
Then, consider the benefits of attempting or partially succeeding at this goal. You may discover that even if you don’t hit your ultimate goal, there is much to be gained from simply trying something new, and that the potential benefits outweigh any negatives (which you’ve already weighed up and prepared for in previous steps).
The hardest but perhaps most important consideration is this: the cost of inaction. What will your life look like in six months if you don’t take this step? In a year? In 10? While you may be worried in the short term about the negative impact of a decision, over the long term you may realise it is essential for your happiness and wellbeing to make a change.
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