There are only two weeks left before a new year comes rolling around. If you're like most, you already have a few goals you want to tackle next year already in your mind. Here's the best way to accomplish all the things you want for the new year and beyond: start now.
We all have made New Year's resolutions, but if we're honest with ourselves, most of them did not survive the month of January. There are lots of reasons as to why it's so difficult to stick to any of the goals that we start at the beginning of the year, from making your intentions too big to being impatient with your progress to not knowing why you want to do that thing in the first place. That's why you should decide to take the last few days that are remaining for this year and start with one thing you want to work towards in the upcoming year.
Advantages of getting a head start
There are a few advantages of getting a head start to working towards your New Year's goals:
- Having time to plan better. In my opinion, the number one reason why most New Year's resolutions fail is that there's rarely any time spent on planning. We usually just say something like "I want to lose weight next year" or "Next year is the year I get a new job" just before the end of the year. But without a plan in place, these are only dreams. Dreams usually don't get done by themselves, and require planning and work to come true. If you start early, you have a few extra days to come up with a solid plan of action to avoid guessing what you need to do first.
- You'll avoid all the talk and hype around everyone else's resolutions. When January 1st comes around, you'll see and hear just about everyone in your social circle talking about the things they're going to do this year. All of this chatter can be useful in some cases, like having an accountability partner for a shared goal, for instance. But it can become overwhelming in itself and can trick you into thinking that you're not prepared or even not worthy of working on your goal. You can skip all of these psychological barriers by striking first, before anyone else.
- Come January, you'll be a few steps ahead of everyone else. With brand-new goals come plenty of new experiences that can honestly be outright scary. If you want to exercise more and have never gone to a gym in your life, that can quickly become a paralyzing event when you walk into a crowded gym, as they always are at the beginning of the year. If you want to quit drinking for your health and you have a few beers or glasses of wine every night, your willpower will be put to the test after a draining holiday season. By taking smaller steps before the new year arrives, you'll already have moved forward by January 1st, and everything will become more comfortable.
Typical New Year's resolutions and how to start them now
Every year, there are polls asking people what their New Year's resolutions are, and the list is typically the same:
- Exercise more
- Lose weight
- Eat healthier foods
- Quit smoking/drinking
- Learn a new skill
- Pick a new hobby
- Spend more time with family/friends
- Save more money
These are all admirable goals to accomplish, and they can be started right now, at this very moment. I have a formula that you can do in just a couple of days, so it'll fit well between now and December 31st:
- Make a specific and realistic plan.
- Break your plan down into small steps.
- Pick the first small step and do it as soon as you can.
Let's take a few of these and see how this simple formula can work for some of the most common resolutions as stated above.
Start by making your intention known. Are you looking to exercise more because you're overweight? Maybe you want to build muscle and improve your physical appearance? Perhaps your doctor found an ailment that can be taken care of by specific exercises? Whatever your intention is, you can take this information to make your precise and realistic plan. For losing weight, ask yourself exactly how much weight you want to lose and by when. For adding muscle, take measurements of your body and determine how much you want to gain in each area. For health, make sure to regularly visit your doctor so he can give you a progress report.
Remember to be realistic and don't overwhelm yourself. If you're over 100 pounds overweight - like I was at one point - don't expect to arrive at your healthy weight in just a few months. It might take a year or two. Thinking this way will stop you before you even start. Instead, choose a much smaller goal, like aiming to lose 1 pound a week for the next month, and then you can re-assess your goals then. This way, you have a small task that you can accomplish, leading to your confidence growing and making you want to continue with this goal for the long haul.
If this is the only thing that you do before New Year's, that's great - you're already a step ahead than the majority of people who also want to lose weight. That's a huge accomplishment since a lot of people fail to do even the most basic of plans. However, this doesn't mean you can stop here - you can continue expanding your plan. Ask yourself questions like where do you want to exercise (a gym, buying an exercise program to do at home, the local park), which days of the week you will train, etc. The more specific you are with your plan, the easier it will be to carry it out.
Having this plan is a great start that you can do in the next few days. If you want to go even further, you can start executing your strategy. Again, just pick one small thing you can do to start. For example, if you don't have exercise clothes or equipment, your next step is to get what you need. If you want to go to a gym, visit a few nearby fitness centers to choose the one that's best for you. Anything that will move you forward and done today will be a great start and will build upon the habit before the end of the year.
With your plan in hand and possibly with a few steps already taken, you'll be more than ready to work out by the time the holidays are over, and life slowly gets back to normal.
Learn a new skill
When we want to pick up a new skill, we often jump in head-first into it. We buy tons of equipment and services to get ready. But there's a point where we inevitably hit a wall when we realize that learning this new skill is much harder than we expected, or - even worse - we understand we didn't want to learn in the first place. In either case, it ends up in frustration and a lot of wasted money on barely-used items that we'll never pick up again.
The key to avoiding this is to start off very small by trying to avoid purchasing anything and using what we already have available or for free online. If your goal is to learn a new language, don't start buying tons of books and paying for online services for this. Just go online and find a few basic lessons and go through those. If you want to learn how to make a podcast or YouTube channel, you can experiment with open-source software to use with your laptop's integrated video camera and microphone to do a few episodes to gauge people's interest.
For some goals, you will need equipment to start, like learning how to play the guitar. But there's a chance you don't need to buy anything. Chances are, you have a family member or friend who already plays the instrument that will be willing to lend you their gear and even throw in a few lessons if they see that you're serious about picking up the skill.
By the end of this year, you'll be able to determine if the new skill you started to explore is something you want to continue doing or not, which will put you ahead of the curve and let you keep learning with ease.
Spend more time with family/friends
As most of the world seems to get busier, more people realize that they're drifting away from their closest family and friends - children grow up quick, the family moves away, friends get preoccupied with other business. When the holidays come around, and our daily lives take a backseat for celebration, we recognize that making time to spend with those nearest to us should be a priority.
Making time for those closest to you can come in many different forms. For your family, there are small daily habits you can take now, like starting to have dinner with everyone at home with little to no distractions like smartphones or TVs. You can also think more long-term and begin making a plan for a family vacation later in the year. For friends, you can schedule a day of the week where you can all get together just for drinks or food.
Deciding to spend more time with loved ones is a very personal decision to make, so I can't give more specific pointers on this. But in general, you need to ask a few questions: Why are you not spending time with your loved ones now, and why do you want to spend more time with them? The answer to those questions will point you in the right direction. Always go with your instinct with these types of solutions.
The holidays are busy, but even small steps count
One drawback on deciding to start your goals a little early is that for many, the Christmas season and New Year's is one of the most hectic times of the entire year. Traveling, shopping for presents, hosting family at home, wrapping up a school or year-end work project, and so on is on the list for many.
Still, regardless of how busy life can get sometimes, there's always some spare time hiding somewhere that you can use to at least get started on something, no matter how small. You can take ten minutes before going to bed as you wind down your day, or before the craziness of the day begins after waking up. Even if all you do is sit down with a piece of paper and come up with one specific goal and a few small steps you can begin to take towards that goal, you'll still have done a lot more than most people you know.
What are you waiting for? Start now!
If there's one thing, you've been wanting to do and have told yourself that you'll do it when the year ends, try coming up with your plan to do this as soon as you can. Once you start having a clearer idea of what it will take to reach your goal, the momentum you've built towards your plan will likely cause you to begin working towards that goal. Starting small is very simple and takes little time, but extremely powerful and motivating to push you through those initial barriers when taking on a new venture.
I wish everyone the best in the pursuit of making yourself the best version of you that you can be.