Making the Right Resolutions and Sticking To Them

If you’re like me, you might feel spread thin by the number of interests you have and feel like you don’t have enough time to accomplish everything you want. It can also be hard to keep track of everything you want to achieve which can leave you feeling like you’re treading water rather than swimming forward. I wanted to share my personal strategy for figuring out what’s important in life and how to ensure I pursue it effectively.

Every year during the holidays, I sit down and go through the seven steps of an exercise in self discovery and prioritization.

 1 - What’s important to you?

The process starts with turning your eyes and ears inward. Sit down, close your eyes and think about everything that is truly important to you. These are likely things that evoke strong emotional reactions when you think about them. Is it family? friends? fitness? wealth? art? This list is unique to you. It’s extremely important to be very honest with yourself when answering these questions. Make a list of these areas of importance and repeat steps 2-7 for each one of them.

e.g. I want to write more

 2 - Why is it important?

By being completely candid with yourself, the underlying reasons become visible to the conscious mind. You may also find that what you thought was important to you may not actually be what it seems. For example, if you list “Wealth” and you explain that it’s important because wealth will bring you security and freedom, it’s actually “Security” and “Freedom” that are important to you and not wealth. This kind of subtlety can change entirely how you look at your priorities.

Example: Writing more is important because it helps me become a better thinker and it makes me happy to share what I’ve learned with others.

 3 - What do you want to get out of it?

Having identified why something is important to you, next you should be honest about what you want to achieve. Along with everything that’s important to you come ideals – let’s call these desired outcomes.

e.g. I want to start a blog that’s regularly updated.

You now have a list of tangible concrete goals around what is truly important to you. Pursuing these types of goals will provide purpose, achieving them will provide happiness. The only problem is… well, that’s for you to identify.

 4 - What’s stopping you?

The first step to reaching a desired outcome is identifying what is coming between you and where you want to be. I’ve noticed people tend to look at the end goal and become overwhelmed because they can’t fathom all of the steps in between. Identifying the major blocker(s) will help you focus and hone in on clear actionable steps you can take to reach your goal.

e.g. I don’t have a blog set up, and I haven’t written any articles yet.

 5 - How do you get there?

Now that you know exactly what is preventing you from reaching your desired outcomes, you should be able to find at least one solution per blocker that is actionable.

e.g. Sign up to a blogging platform, dedicate four hours per week to writing

Then, once that blocker has been removed, your next step becomes finishing your first blog post, getting more incoming links, etc. To help keep track of these actionable items, I use task management software (i.e. Things). For the repeating events, put them in your calendar immediately.

 6 - How will you know you’re getting there?

Now that you have a list of actionable items, it’s important to keep yourself accountable and track your progress when applicable. Not every outcome is measurable, but if you can find a reasonable way to track progress that is meaningful to you, that’s great. You can use a spreadsheet, task management software, a calendar, a notepad, or whatever you are most comfortable with to keep tabs.

e.g. Write 12 blog posts this year and get 500 subscribers

Check up on your goals every other week. I do it on Sundays, as it’s a great day to relax, reflect and prepare for the next two weeks. It’s also a good time to maintain your motivation by reminding yourself of your motivational triggers.

 7 - How will you stay motivated?

If you’re like me and most people who set New Year’s resolutions, you tend to start strong and slow down after a month or two. Then, as time passes you occasionally remember a goal you had and it nags at you and you feel stressed, but you let it go because you feel you’ve already fallen off the horse and you feel like it’s too late to get back on and you just let it slide.

While you’re making this list, you enter a very introspective state. This is a fantastic opportunity to access and record all of the thoughts that spark the emotions which remind you of your desired outcomes. I call these motivational triggers.

e.g. Whenever I think of all of the articles I’ve started without finishing, I feel guilty.

This may be the same thought that you have throughout the year which reminds you that you want to build an app. But, whenever you have this thought, you may not have the faculties required to reach your desired outcome. Now that you have a list of actionable items and measurable goals, anytime you have this thought you can revisit this list and continue where you left off. No more paralysis.

 Why this approach works for me

I often see folks coming up with arbitrary New Year’s resolutions without digging deeper into the reasoning behind it. Once you understand where your deep-seated desires originate from, you’ll learn more about yourself and ultimately find more purpose in the goals that you set. It’s easy to give up on going to the gym after a few weeks if you don’t make a real connection with the fundamental importance it has to you.

This process essentially breaks down your desires and sources of stress into their raw components and builds them back up into a very actionable and tangible set of goals and actions that should provide your life with a stronger sense of purpose. We all love striking things off of a list, and now you have a list of all of the things that will bring you the most joy. Keep striking items off this list and you will make your own happiness and success.

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