How to make real changes in the coming year [Setting Goals Series]

To make progress in the future, we must be honest about the past

It’s a natural impulse.

As the year draws to a close, we instinctively reflect on our experiences and memories. Social media platforms create flashback videos for us; we look back over photos, posts, and projects; and we promises ourselves that next year will be the best year ever.

Just like we did last year.

This doesn’t mean that looking back is pointless. In fact, it’s extremely important. But we will not have a different outcome unless we apply the lessons we’ve learned to the next year’s set of goals.

To do that, you have to be relentlessly objective. Rather than looking back over the year from a nostalgic perspective, do so with a surgeon’s precision.

One leadership expert goes so far as to review every single appointment he participated in during the previous year, and decides if it was a good use of his time. If it wasn’t, he makes a point to delete that activity from next year’s calendar.

Musicians and artists may always not be as thorough, but the principle is the same – you can’t maximize your impact if you don’t measure your moments.

Evaluate each of these areas of your life by asking yourself questions like these.

  • Relationships – Which ones brought me the most joy? The most pain? Which people were most influential? The most detrimental? Who should I have spent more time with? Who should I disassociate from and why?
  • Projects – Where did my time actually go? Which projects took more time than I anticipated? Where these projects truly beneficial to my future, or did they end up not being worth the physical and emotional investment?
  • Finances – Where did I spend my money? Did those resources bring a return on investment or did they vanish with no real impact on my success? How much did I actually earn? Could I have earned more if I had been more diligent?
  • Faith – Is my relationship with God stronger than it was last year? Have I learned from my negative experiences, or have I dismissed them as bad luck? Have I truly grown in my ability to behave and function according to my beliefs, or have I been going through the motions?

In a sense, you become the news anchor of your own life, going over the facts without sugar-coating the results. Then, once you’ve made your report on exactly what happened, you can make the changes that will lead to better outcomes in your personal and professional life.

Be honest with yourself and your progress. Then move forward into the new year with confidence.

How do you evaluate your progress towards your goals? What determines whether this year has been a successful one? Share your thoughts below in the comment section. 

[In this continuing series on Setting Goals this month, we’ll detail more strategies to improve each area of your life – your faith, career and relationships – going into the new year.]

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