For the past few years, around December 28th I take part of day to myself at a local coffee shop to dedicate time for reflection, learning, and setting the tone for the year ahead.
It’s after the hustle, bustle, and travel of Christmas but before the New Year and there’s just something about the inspiring energy that time of year that sparks evolution and progression.
This is a practice I’ve learned from countless other people in the ‘personal growth’ space on social media, so I’m certainly not taking ownership in it, but because of how it has impacted me is the reason I share it with you.
The items that I am sure to bring with me include:
- My Bible
- Blue, red, & black ball-point pens
- 3 different color markers
- 2 planners (for upcoming year)
- 1 yearly calendar (for upcoming year)
- Current year’s planners and calendar(s)
To help set the tone for the session, I choose a podcast to listen to in the commute to the coffee shop or maybe even the day prior. I select one that talks about goal-setting, finding your purpose, discovering your “why”, etc. so that it gets my mindset on the same wavelength. Some of my go-to podcasts include the Rise podcast by Rachel Hollis, the Goal Digger podcast by Jenna Kutcher, and the Ed Myles podcast.
Once I get to the coffee shop I set out my things for easy access, but am sure to keep the working space organized so that I don’t get distracted by clutter. I opt to go to a coffee shop because I’ve found it usually elicits a freer thought process — I personally need a spot that is outside of my home so that I’m not tempted to do the dishes or throw in a load of laundry. Also, committing to driving to a location specifically for this process also helps me be more focused and intentional with my time.
Then one of the first things I do is listen to a short guided meditation. Sometimes I write in my journal while listening to the meditation, as thoughts flow that might help in writing my goals later in the session. Other times I’ll just listen, pulling my baseball hat a bit lower over my eyes to not look at my surroundings or maybe even close my eyes entirely. I really like to use Gabrielle Bernstein’s meditations, as I’ve found I like her voice, tone, and content, but it may take some trial and error to find one that resonates with you. “Let Go and Receive” was the one I listened to specifically this year and I really enjoyed it; it will be one I use again in the future for other times as well.
Usually I’ll spend 5-10 minutes with a meditation, and then pray. It goes without saying that everyone’s faith, beliefs or non-beliefs, are all different. As with all the content on my blog, take it or leave it, and it is by no means me telling you what you should do or have to do. These are just my personal practices and what I’ve found to be incredibly beneficial in my life. Turning to prayer has grown a relationship with God that I hadn’t had in 33 years to the extent that I do now. It has been pivotal in my growth, positive mindset, relationships, and overall wellbeing, and because of that I share it with you. Not sure where you stand in your faith? Often starting with saying thank you for the top 10-20 things, people, opportunities, etc. that come to mind can elicit a mindset or positivity and gratitude. Finding a spiritual connection, whether it is with God or another higher being, can be the go-go juice you need to spark change and growth.
Alright — then I get crackin’! I start by pulling out the goals I had written down for that year and then reviewing month by month in my monthly planner from the year. I take note of vacations, dates I planned/had with my spouse, get-togethers with friends, memorable events that occurred, and highlight the year’s highs and lows. Assessing my goals and progress to them has really been helpful, as it brings awareness and clarity. I had made it a priority in 2019 to plan monthly dates with Bobby, and in all but 2 months I achieved that goal. I consider that a win, seeing as how the year(s) prior we left it up to good timing and luck if/when we had time for the two of us.
Taking the time to really nit-pic the year month by month not only is a fun way of recapping the year and reliving things you may have already forgotten about, but it has provided a unique perspective in planning for the year ahead — what are things I would like to change in order to be more productive, joy-filled, and present? I spend upwards of an hour or so in this “year in review” taking notes and closing out the year’s journal.
At this point, I have a fairly good idea of what I like to focus on in the year ahead. However, there have been plenty of years when I felt at a loss for what I wanted to focus on and achieve. There are a multitude of ways I’ve brainstormed, planned, and “figured it out,” but one of the most helpful methods I personally have found is the 10:10:1 from Rachel Hollis. She has podcasts, articles, conferences, and even an entire journal dedicated to this process and not because it is so new and profound, because even she will tell you it’s nothing new that hasn’t been said before in the world of goal-setting. However, what she does provide is unique insight and a concrete process of discovering your “why” and helping you take action to achieve it. Specifically, this podcast episode is just the ticket.
In a nutshell, think about your future self — even a year out from now — and write down in an ideal world, all that you would want to say happened or that you accomplished. What does your life and every day look like? Don’t limit yourself or consider all the if’s, and’s, or but’s; just write it all down as it comes to you. Then, work backwards quarter by quarter, month by month. If that is where you see yourself a year from now, what would you need to accomplish (i.e. milestones) in the last three months of the year (Oct, Nov, Dec), the three months prior to that (Jul, Aug, Sep), the three months prior to that (Apr, May, Jun), and finally in the first three months of the year (Mar, Feb, & Jan), in order for that goal to become a reality?
Before you know it, you have a template for your year based around one main goal, and from there you can bullet-point out high-level tasks or objectives that are needed in order to help meet those milestones. I even did this with a goal of mine to run a trail race this year. Based on the fact that ideally I would like to run it in the fall to maximize weather conditions (and scenery), I worked backwards from September and made a plan to register a race by July, and find/select a race by May. This also helped give structure to my running plan as well.
This process you should be able to implement with any goal you have set for yourself. What you may find is discovering your goal is the most time-consuming part, which is a good thing! Taking the time to seek out what it is you want to accomplish and why is so dang important, and will be the fuel you need as you hit challenges and road blocks along the way to help keep you on track.
Ending the year with reflection and gratitude, and starting the new year proactively with intention and goal-setting has been such a genuinely fun practice that’s become routine for me and ultimately has led to success I wouldn’t otherwise seen. This year I intend to do this process quarterly, to help ensure I’m staying on track and true to my goal of taking action in 2020.
This post encompasses so many different facets of goals and the process of setting them, and I would love to hear from you on what your thoughts are?! What has worked for you? Do you have practices or processes that help you?