Journaling Exercise: Preparing for the New Year



It’s fashionable to make a New Year’s resolution, and it’s just as fashionable to not keep them. Every year, around this time, people start proclaiming amazing things they are going to achieve in the new year.

Quit smoking, quit a job they hate, be nicer to their spouse or family, write the book they were always going to write, lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, learn a new language, and many other things make the list. By the time February arrives, and the new year is not feeling quite-so-shiny, the New Year’s resolution is as distant as the memories of how stuffed we were on Christmas Day. 

I don’t make resolutions. I make goals. You can start you goals any time, but there is something tidy about starting a new year with new goals, or at least by revisiting old goals. But instead of proclaiming them on January 1st, if you start with a little bit more thought and planning, your chances of success are much higher. If you want your goals to be something that you actually achieve, rather than something that you only talk about at the New Year Eve’s party, then do this exercise.

Step 1

Step 1 for anything is to look at your starting position. Where are you right now in life? What areas or things in your life are you most dissatisfied with? Which areas need improvement? What areas need simple maintenance? Be as detailed and as specific with these as possible. You need to have an absolutely clear picture of where you are. Only by having a clear awareness of where you are, you can plan the best route possible for where you want to be.

Step 2

Now that you know where you are in life, and what things you are most dissatisfied with, you can decide on things you want to change the most. For this step, list everything you want to change. Don’ t worry if this list gets big. Just ensure that everything you want to change is written as a goal – which should be a positive statement (focus on the result you want to achieve, not merely on what you don’t like), and it should be a clear objective (For example: I want to lose 20 pounds – NOT: I don’t want to be fat)

Step 3

Once you have a list of everything you want to change, pick 3 things. Focus on 80/20 principle. Pick the items that will have most impact on your life. If by changing one thing you can improve your life by 40%, then it is better to focus on that, as opposed to 10 other things which might only improve your life by 10%. Pick 3 things, or 4 at the most that you will change during the new year. It’s easy to get over enthusiastic and over ambitious. I am all too often guilty of it myself. But by focusing on a few things, you can better ensure that you achieve all of those goals, and so you will have achieve more at the end of the year, then if you start out with a handful of goals that you don’t have time to focus on.

Step 4

Write down a neat and tidy list of your 3 or 4 goals for the new year. Remember, they should be clear, specific, and positive. Make them as short and pithy as possible.

Step 5

Start working on them. Action is the only way to progress. Now that you know what you want to achieve, don’t hang around waiting for a good day to start. Start now. And every single day, make sure you spend at least 15 minutes working on at least one of your goals. 

This is not rocket science. Working on your goals is a simple thing, and simplest of things are often the hardest because they require discipline and will power. If you are determined to do something more with your 2014, then those two things: discipline and will power – are the two main tools you need. 



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5 thoughts on “Journaling Exercise: Preparing for the New Year

  1. Thank you! I’m going to do this exercise, as well as Marie Forleo’s end of year list since they mesh well. I like that you have us figure out where we are first. Marie has us look to the past year for the lessons and what to leave behind, then figure out the what we want. Your exercise fits right in there like a peice of the puzzle. And action is probably the biggest step that I never get to.

  2. Thank you for this great suggestion. I can get so overwhelmed that I don’t know where to start and this really helps clarify priorities!

  3. Anna,

    I am glad you find it useful. Action is the ultimate step. Even if you don’t do anything else, and just take forward action, you will at least make a little progress. But without action, there can be no progress.

  4. Susan,

    It is so easy to get overwhelmed. There is either a problem of wanting to do too much (I have this) or not knowing at all what to do. Both scenarios can be frustrating. That’s why it’s useful to have some direction, and get started with only a fixed number of goals.

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