When you look at your New Year resolutions is there a horrible sense of deja vu? Are you still trying to stop smoking or start dieting; to move house or to move out of your old job and into one better? Sometimes it all seems a complete waste of time. Personal performance coach Jinny Ditzler totally understands: “Gradually we become cynical about things like New Year’s resolutions and Lifetime Goals,” she says, “Why bother? The thought that we could actually do something about our deepest frustrations just doesn’t occur to us anymore. We give up on creating a life that is more fulfilling and settle for what we are.”
However she insists, it is possible to make real changes in our lives: we just need something more focused than a “wish-list” of resolutions. Having analyzed how successful businesses set goals and plan ahead for change and growth, she has identified a clear-cut action plan that can help all of us achieve similar success in our personal lives. It takes just three hours of your time: three hours that, promises Jinny, could lead to “your best year yet.”
I wrote this feature many years ago. Personally I find it just too much to take on board all at once – so I’ll be posting an alternative over the next day or so. However, it might be just what you need – we’re all different. A one-size fits all approach to the new year will never work.
YOUR BEST YEAR YET – HOME WORKSHOP
The home workshop will take about three hours and consists of ten questions you need to ask and answer. Here’s how to get started.
• Get in the right frame of mind. “A positive mental attitude helps to unblock the hidden barriers to new ways of thinking and behaving,” says Jinny. The process need not be boring or a drudge – it should be stimulating and enjoyable.
• Prepare a clear workspace for yourself. Clear a desk or table, make sure the lighting is good. Put on the answer machine or take the phone off the hook – you won’t want interruptions once you get going. Try listening to Baroque music, such as Bach or Vivaldi – it helps you concentrate and clears the mind.
• Gather the materials you need: a pad of paper and pen; your diary. You could also use a computer for your answers.
• Decide whether to work on your own or to join forces with a friend or family member/s. A partner can be useful as you can meet through the year to check on progress. However remember the process is a private personal one – you don’t need to share your answers if you don’t want to.
• Do write everything down. Don’t just think your answers. And don’t censor your writing – write whatever comes to you, just let it flow freely.
• Allow at least a page for each question. Keep writing until you completely dry up. Then move on to the next question.
1. WHAT DID I ACCOMPLISH LAST YEAR? Write down everything, even the small things.
2. WHAT WERE MY BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS? Did you feel you let yourself down? Did events transpire against you? What went wrong?
3. WHAT DID I LEARN?
• Think about what you’ve learned over the past year. These can be life lessons you’ve actually learned and put into practice or lessons you could learn, given what happened. To help you remember, look back at your list of accomplishments and disappointments.
• Turn your responses in the form of clear, straight advice. Ie “Accept fair criticism and act on it.” “Don’t give up.” etc. Keep going until you feel you’ve mined all the gold available from your experience of the past year.
• Which three lessons would make the most difference to you if you followed them in the next year of your life? Select your top three lessons and write them again. These are your personal guidelines for next year. Start each with a verb (do, make, write etc) and make them as short and memorable as possible.
4. HOW DO I LIMIT MYSELF? IN WHICH AREAS OF MY LIFE AM I NOT ACHIEVING WHAT I WANT? WHAT DO I SAY ABOUT MYSELF TO EXPLAIN THESE FAILURES?
• In order to have your Best Year Yet, you need to make sure the way you’re thinking about yourself and your goals empowers you to succeed.
• Your answers to the last part of this question constitute your limiting self-beliefs. What results do you achieve by holding these points of view? Where do they lead you? Remember that your thoughts and beliefs can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies.
• Which self-belief has the strongest negative influence on you at this point in your life? Which one really hits the nail on the head? This is the one you need to work on.
• The next step is to write a new self-belief that knocks this old one on the head. For example you might have written “I’m scared of making changes.” This could change to, “I’m able to go beyond my limitations” or “Whatever I put my mind to, I achieve.” Make sure your self-belief is personal and positive, powerfully stated and pointing to a exciting new possibility. It should be in the present tense.
5. WHAT ARE MY PERSONAL VALUES?
• Think about what’s most important to you in your life. What personal values do you want to demonstrate in your life? Personal values are values such as integrity, honesty, compassion for others, keeping promises, taking care of yourself. These values provide the strongest motivation for change. Make a list of yours.
6. WHAT ROLES DO I PLAY IN MY LIFE?
• We all play various roles in our lives – for example you could be mother, wife, daughter, friend, manager, potter, shoulder-to-cry-on etc. Write out the full list of all the roles you currently play.
• Add in any new role you would like to take on in the next year of your life – ie writer, student, mother, partner, actor. Do you have a new dream role for next year?
• Now consolidate your list of roles so that you have no more than eight, fewer is fine. You can integrate several roles under one title.
7. WHICH ROLE IS MY MAJOR FOCUS FOR NEXT YEAR?
Think about your personal values and how you want them to influence your various roles. Think about each role in turn and rate your performance in that role on a scale of one to ten. For example, if you’re completely satisfied with your performance, rate yourself a 10. If you’re 50 percent satisfied, give yourself a 5. If you’re not doing anything much in that role or your performance is abysmal, you’d probably give yourself a 1.
Look at your results. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- If I could put one problem behind me, once and for all, what would it be?
- In which role do I want to have a breakthrough?
- If I were able to put a big tick beside one of my roles at the end of the year, signifying that I felt a sense of mastery in that role, which would it be?
- What’s the biggest impediment to my success and happiness right now?
- Given this information, you should be able to decide on your Major Focus, the one role you want to really change or expand this coming year.
8. WHAT ARE MY GOALS FOR EACH ROLE?
Choosing a major focus doesn’t mean you ignore all your other roles. Fill out a “form” for each of your roles: write the name of the role at the top of the page and underneath set out your goals for each role.
Keep in mind that powerful goals must:
- be specific
- be measurable
- have a deadline
- start with a verb. So, for example “Spend more time with my children” should be re-phrased so something like: “Read to my children for at least thirty minutes three times a week.” While “Reduce my stress levels” could become, “Meditate for at least fifteen minutes each morning.”
Once you’ve written your goals check each one to make sure it fits in with your personal values. Also check that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve each one. If not, cross it off!
9. WHAT ARE MY TOP TEN GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR?
• Before you select your ten most important goals, review your responses to the first seven questions to remind yourself what really matters to you, and why.
• Review all the goals you have set for each of your roles and select the ten which mean the most to you and which will, once achieved, make the most difference to you.
• Once you have made your choices, check to make sure you are happy with the balance of roles and values. Anything left out? Anything getting too much or too little attention?
• Now prioritize your list, putting your goals in descending order of priority.
10. HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I ACHIEVE MY TOP TEN GOALS?
Take a clean sheet of paper and write out Your Best Year Yet plan – a complete game-plan for the year ahead – written in front of you in black and white. Your Best Year Yet plan should have:
1. your three lessons
2. your empowering new self-belief
3. your major focus
4. your top ten goals.
• Keep your Best Year Yet plan in sight – pin it up on a wall, or fix it in your diary – keep those goals in mind all the time.
• Read through your plan every day – just ten seconds a day will do to keep you in touch with your goals and allow your mind to focus on solutions.
• In your heart of hearts, you know what you need to do to achieve each of your goals, how to do it; how often to do it. So take action, every day, every week, every month (whatever it takes). Ally this with positive thoughts about your success – check those self-limiting beliefs aren’t strangling your potential. If so, work doubly hard to impose new, self-empowering beliefs. “When you put both in focus – external action and internal focus – the earth moves,” says Jinny Ditzler.
• The last part of the jigsaw is to ensure you have good support around you. If you are intending to get fit, can you find a friend to join you at the gym? If you want to write a novel, will your family be supportive and give you the time and space? If not, could you join a group so you have positive feedback?
• If you feel stuck, there will always be an answer. It could come from within – ask yourself what to do – write down whatever comes into your head, however ridiculous. It could come from outside – ask around, go to the library, find an expert… The answers are always there – we just have to find them.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
To make your goals happen, you need to subdivide them into smaller, bite-size chunks. This takes a small amount of planning on a regular basis.
1. THE MONTHLY GOAL-CHECK: Take your top ten goals and divide them up into monthly goals. Each month you need to identify the step that has to be taken to move you closer to your goal. Ie, if your goal is “Get fit and healthy” your January goal might be “Join a gym and work out three times a week.” Do this for each of your major goals. At the end of each month review what has happened and figure out what percentage of your goals you have achieved. Think about what you need to do next month to progress your goal.
2. THE WEEKLY GOAL-CHECK: Once a week (most people choose late Friday afternoon, Sunday evening or early Monday morning) sit down with your Monthly Goals and identify steps to take over the next week to further those goals. Some weeks there may be nothing to do. Also take this time to consider your roles. In your mind stand in each role, one at a time, and ask yourself: “What is the most important thing I want to accomplish in this role this week?” “What can I do that will make the most difference in this role?”
A version of this feature first appeared in the Daily Mail