Embracing the Now: Checking in With Your New Year’s Goals

by Tom Ewer 6 Minutes

GoalsChecklistThe first month of the year is now behind us. How are you feeling?

And how are your New Year’s “resolutions” coming along?

All right. Until you read that sentence, I thought it was impossible to hear someone cringe, but I swear I did. And that sheepish look? It’s still ringing in my ears!

Let me guess. You had more “resolve” when you thought up your resolutions than you did in actually following through on them. It’s okay. Statistically, most people who come up with New Year’s resolutions don’t follow through on them.

However, statistics also show that eight percent of the people who think up resolutions not only follow through on them – but succeed. And I think that you, Bidsketch blog reader, could be part of that eight percent. Start by following these eight tips.

1. Let Go

January has a lot going for it. Mainly, it represents a new year and a fresh start. What’s not to love?

But the truth of the matter is, last year wasn’t that long ago. It’s only been a few weeks! And, if last year – for lack of a better term – sucked, then you might still be holding some grudges. And that could be holding you back.

Don’t try to bottle up your feelings about last year. And don’t try to pretend it was better than it was. If last year kicked your respective behind, own up to it. Acknowledge that it wasn’t your “best year ever.” The more quickly you can move from denial to acceptance in regard to last year, the sooner you can start focusing on the now. Let go.

2. Don’t Let Money Define You

When you work for yourself, whether as a freelancer or small business owner, it’s hard not to let your income define your self-worth. After all, you are your business. How could the two not be intertwined?

The thing is, if you put a numeric value on your dream, you’re going to limit yourself. And, if the previous year didn’t live up to your monetary expectations, you’re going to be needlessly down on yourself. There’s always going to be room for improvement.

Instead, try focusing on the other aspects of your business, and why you went into business for/with yourself in the first place. Do you have more freedom? Are you happier? More creative? Do you get to work less than you did back when you were a conventional employee?

Millions of dollars are nice to have, but you won’t earn them overnight. That doesn’t mean that you — and your dream — don’t have value. They do. You just need to get in touch with how much your career is really “worth,” without the numbers.

3. Break Down Your Work

If you’re looking at your list of New Year’s resolutions and you’re gripped with a vague feeling of “overwhelm,” chances are your goals are too big. If you’re unsure where to start, try breaking them down into smaller chunks.

For example, if your goal is to “lose weight,” you can bust out these smaller steps:

  • Switch soda for water
  • Exercise 15 minutes per day
  • Eat one or more veggies per day

Or, if your overall goal is to increase your e-newsletter subscriber list, you could:

  • Create an incentive item, like a free e-book or downloadable checklist.
    • Note: This step may also need smaller steps. (i.e. Figure out what information should be shared, do the research, draft an outline, etc.).
  • Add a “Sign up for Updates!” widget to your website’s sidebar.
  • Get more active on social media so people know who you are and what you’re all about.

Break down your work before you break down. There’s no need to start the year overwhelmed. Focus on one goal at a time, break it down, and follow through. If you really don’t know where to begin, try working backwards.

4. Stop Going After the Wrong Things

Sometimes we think we know what we want, but we really don’t. Or sometimes we absolutely know what we want, but it’s not good for us. (I’d love to devour a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice-cream, but that isn’t a great “goal” as far as my waistline’s concerned).

A lot of the time, we simply know there’s a problem…and go with our first instinct when it comes to resolving it.

For example, if you made a resolution to “get more clients,” I’d be willing to wager the problem you’re attempting to rectify is a lack of income. Or that you’re somehow unhappy with the clients you already have. In which case, “more” clients might not be the best solution, rendering your New Year’s resolution a bit pointless.

Instead of trying to reel in “more” clients, try looking for better clients. Or start negotiating a pay raise with the clients you already have. My point is that it’s okay to take your time and really assess why you came up with the goals you did and to adjust them as needed. Your resolutions are your own and this isn’t a contest. Take your time and do what’s best for you. Just remember to follow through.

5. Know Your Limits

Aim high, not impossible.

You’re not going to lose 30 pounds in a week. And, if you do, chances are there’s something wrong (go see your doctor!). But can you lose 30 pounds by the end of the year? Absolutely.

Every Internet-run business wishes they could have upwards of a million visitors per month and a subscriber list thicker than the phone book, but making that your “goal” is only going to frustrate you. Fantasies are a fun way to pass the time, but the best resolutions are the ones steeped in reality.

Know your limits and don’t be ashamed of whatever level you’re at now. As you and your business continue to improve, you’ll be able to aim higher and higher while still being completely reasonable. In other words, let your goals grow with you.

6. Make it a Habit

Have you ever read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? If not, I’m going to save you some time: the important word in the title is habits.

Successful people form long-term habits; they don’t initiate a burst of activity and burnout. If you want to turn your resolution into a reality, take it one step at a time. Choose your goal, break it down into reasonable chunks, and figure out which tasks you need to perform to make it happen — then turn those tasks into habits.

To make this process easier, I highly recommend making reviewing your goals a habit as well. Schedule it in! Once a month, have a date with yourself to go over your resolutions and see how far you’ve come, and if they’re still relevant. Ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • Why am I trying to achieve this?
  • What have I done so far?
  • What should I continue to do?

You’ll not only remind yourself what you were after, but why. And, if you’ve made any progress, this will be your monthly chance to give yourself a pat on the back. Which is a nice thing to look forward to. Speaking of which…

7. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To

A great man once said, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

All right, you caught me. That quote was actually said by a fictional character who tried to murder his family. But the sentiment is a good one: if you do nothing but work, you’re going to go crazy.

I just got back from a month-long vacation. It was fantastic (thanks for asking!), but I wouldn’t have been able to go at all if I hadn’t scheduled it in. I urge you to make time off one of your resolutions this year, if you haven’t already. And, more importantly, make room in your life for that goal to be successful. Set a date and take whatever steps you need to to stick to it.

8. Stop Intending and Start Acting

The number one reason New Year’s Resolutions fail? The people who made them let them fail.

Quite simply, if you don’t succeed at achieving your goals, you didn’t want them badly enough.

Just as the old aphorism states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” You can “intend” or “think about” your goals all you want — only action is going to achieve them. How badly do you want to succeed? It may sound harsh, but the only difference between the eight percent who succeed at achieving their goals and everyone who doesn’t is that they went out there and made them happen.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for New Year’s Day. And they don’t have to be fulfilled by the end of January. Resolutions aren’t like coupons; they don’t expire. You can put them into action at any time.

Though, personally? I’d put them into action now. Not next Monday. Not next month. Now. Because no matter what the new year ultimately brings, there’s no time like the present to start making it a good one.

Image by bredmaker.

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by Tom Ewer
Tom Ewer and the WordCandy team have clocked some serious mileage as freelancers, agency employees and even agency owners over the years, and they love sharing their combined expertise here on the Bidsketch blog.