Tis the season to write New Year’s resolutions, but most of us don’t have a very high success rate at achieving them. In fact, research shows that only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions! This incredibly low success rate, in my experience, is largely due to the fact that we are setting the wrong goals in the first place – they’re just not truly meaningful to us.
Instead of setting ineffective resolutions, we’ll start by reviewing what has worked well and not so well last year and then define a THEME for the new year, along with goals in each of the different areas of our lives (the 5Ls: LIVE, LOVE, LEARN, LEAD, LAUGH).
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the podcast.
Happy new year 2020. Happy new decade, the roaring twenties, or whatever we might end up calling it this time round. So I hope you’ve had a wonderful break, time with your family, rest and relaxation, indulgences. I hope you have really enjoyed the last few weeks. Now you may hear it on my voice, but I am not so well. I’m feeling fine now, but I have had a bit of a tough time over Christmas with food poisoning and a cold, sinusitis, all sorts, and I’m a bit bunged up still, so apologies if I sound a bit different.
But also, I’m using this opportunity to embrace imperfection and to reimagine success, of course.
Because if, like me, you’re feeling that the year maybe isn’t starting as you would have hoped, maybe you’re not feeling as strong and energetic and organised as you had planned, that’s okay. Because yes, this is a great time to regroup and to start the new year as we mean to go on, but it is not the end of the world if we start a few days or weeks later. We must get away from that black and white thinking, to think that either we start the diet on the 1st of January, or we start going to the gym, or we get all that business stuff or work stuff done, or else everything is lost and we give up entirely. And that’s not a very practical, pragmatic, effective way of looking at things.
So like me, I encourage you to now embrace imperfection. I’m far more behind than I had planned to be, in terms of reviewing 2019, setting my goals for 2020. I have it all sort of in the back of my head, but I haven’t done the exercise I would usually have done by now. So that’s okay. That’s fine. And I thought I would use this first session of 2020 to help the rest of you, who are in the same position as me, who maybe haven’t been as on top of things as you would have hoped. And again, that’s okay. That’s natural this time of year, and we still have plenty of time. So whether you do this now, today, or in a couple of weeks, it’s absolutely fine.
It’s a pretty arbitrary date in the calendar, January. It’s something that our society’s decided is the beginning of the year. And I do think it’s great to ride that wave of societal motivation at the beginning of the year. Just like back to school in September is a great time to refocus and regroup as well. But let’s not worry if we’re not quite on top of things, if we start a few days or weeks, or, for that matter, a month later. Now let’s not let the whole year get away with us, but let’s try now to embrace imperfect action and get some goals in place, even if they’re not 100% there. I think it’s better to have something, set that intention for the new year, and then get going.
So I want to take you through a system, today, for reviewing the past year, for 2019, and for setting yourself up for success in the new one.
So what we’ll be looking at is my approach to new year’s planning, which is very different. It doesn’t involve new year’s resolutions, you may be relieved to hear. Because, of course, we inevitably set and fail to achieve those every year, so let’s not go back to that same old routine. We’ll look at reviewing 2019, considering the different areas of your life, in a systematic way, and then plan for 2019, again considering those different areas.
Now usually, I have to say, I do this as a webinar, but because I’m not quite on top of these things this time round, I thought it would be good to do it as a podcast episode. And why not? It’s a great way to listen, hopefully, to my voice, grab a pen and paper and jot down your ideas.
Now, I will be going through this pretty quickly, so I don’t want to have an hour long session leaving lots of pauses, silences, and so on. What that means is you will want to come back to this later on. Take some more time, maybe pause my voice as well, to work on some of the questions. So maybe listen one way through, and then come back later on when you’re not driving, or doing the dishes, or whatever it is you’re doing now, at the gym, and come back with a pen and paper and do the exercises more systematically. And so you will definitely want to continue the work after today. But I thought this is a great way to start. And again, if you have some imperfect ideas, that’s already a great place to start.
So if you joined me last year already, you will know that I have a bit of a different approach to this. Because if we look at new year’s resolutions, most of us don’t have a very high success rate, let’s say, at achieving them. So our goal might be the usual. Go to the gym more often, lose weight, go on more dates, quit our jobs, climb Kilimanjaro, run a marathon, whatever it might be. And we’ll start the year with a lot of energy and commitment to achieving the goal. In January, we’re going to the gym every day. Amazing. Why didn’t I do this sooner? I’m so fantastic. I’m so strong. This is great. I’m getting so fit. Look at me. I’m awesome. In February, we’re beginning to miss a few sessions here and there, but it’s okay. Come March, we’re skipping more often than not, and then, before we know it, the whole year has passed, and we’re no closer to our goal than we were the year before.
Now, in fact, research, and you may have heard this before, research shows only about 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions.
So less than one in 10 of people who even set those goals actually achieve them. And in my experience, that’s really due to the fact that we’re setting the wrong goals in the first place. They’re just not truly meaningful to us. But on the other hand, having no goals at all doesn’t seem particularly useful either, because then you just let yourself get taken by that conveyor belt again, towards a default future that you’re not in control of. And you’ll never know, at the end of the year, whether you know you feel happy and satisfied with that or not. You can’t celebrate your achievements. And above all, you’ll really miss out on those long-term ambitions, big dreams that just won’t happen unless you really take consistent action towards them.
Now, a few years ago I came across the idea of defining a theme instead of setting those more traditional resolutions, and it really appealed to me right away. For me, the benefit is that it gives you that overall framework and focus for the year, the red thread through the year, but without the rigidity, but also, funnily enough, without the vagueness of those long lists of new year’s resolutions. So a theme, whether it’s one word or a phrase, it really guides your choices when you have to make a decision between different priorities, and it helps you focus on an area that you might otherwise have neglected. And it will really help you to make progress throughout the year, especially when you check in regularly, once a month, every quarter. Much more, say, than if you set a resolution to lose weight or get fit.
So in the past, my themes have included bold decisions, back in 2013, when I quit my job. Follow through on those decisions, staying active, being externally focused, making an impact, and consistency. So we’ll, of course, be looking at how you can come up with your own theme for 2020. And the other element, that’s hopefully familiar to you, since we’ve spent the last five weeks and several parts of the last year, really, looking at this model, is the 5Ls model. So it is a kind of success audit, intended to help you broaden your focus beyond just that conventional area of work and career when it comes to success, and really consider different areas of your lives. So the areas are, of course, Live – wellness and wellbeing; Love – relationships and romance; Learn – development and growth; Lead – career and impact; and Laugh – fun and spontaneity.
So we use this model to structure both the review of 2019 and our planning for 2020.
However, because I have the last five weeks of deep dive episodes on each of those Ls, I won’t be going into that in too much detail. So if you’re interested in doing that, really, and I would encourage you to do that, reviewing each area in more depth, then do go back and listen to each of those areas, and in particularly the areas that you feel maybe have been neglected. Or conversely, if you’ve been spending too much time, maybe you’ve been working and hustling too much, or having too much fun… is that possible?… and you need to rebalance in the other direction.
So, of course, before we start setting goals for 2020, it’s worth retaking stock of the past year, what’s gone well, what we feel was missing. And that’s really going to help us to recognise and celebrate the progress that we’ve made, acknowledge some of the challenges maybe we faced, and also focus on where we want to make some changes. So that’s what we’ll start with, a review of 2019. So again, I will be going through quickly. Jot down some ideas. You can come back to this later. And, of course, feel free to pause me whenever you want to spend more time writing some things down.
So if we look back at 2019, in general, whether you perhaps had to find a theme already, or you set yourself traditional new year’s resolutions, or maybe you didn’t have anything at all at the beginning of the year, you can ask yourself the following questions. So first of all, what worked? What did you achieve as to the goals that you set yourself, if you set yourself goals at the beginning of the year? What went especially well this year? What were some of the highlights, and what are you really most proud of?
So first of all, and do take some time now, maybe pause and look at what worked.
What are you proud of? What did you love this year? What are you really excited, and puts a smile on your face when you look back? And to be honest, do take a lot of time to do this. Because, and I’ll certainly do the same, there may be a lot of things that you’ve forgotten now by the end of the year. And it’s really important to look at those achievements, big or small, or experiences, not just achievements. So jot your answers down. And of course, if you want to come back later on, then by all means. But in the meantime, a bit of your gut feeling, the things that really come to mind, those highlights, would be really helpful. So what went well this year?
Second, of course, we have to look at what didn’t work so well.
So which goals did you not achieve? Or where didn’t you do as much as you would have wanted? Where did you go wrong, as it were? So did you maybe set yourself those traditional goals of doing more exercise, eating more healthily, blah, blah, blah? Did you mean to call your mom more often? Maybe you signed up to some course and gave up halfway through. And then connected to that, what didn’t work so well, what was missing this year for you? So what do you wish you would have focused more on, and what do you want to make sure that you do differently next year? What do you want more of next year?
Now, importantly, especially when we’re looking at what didn’t work, what was missing, I want to say there is no judgement here. This is not about criticising yourself and giving yourself a hard time over what you didn’t do. Although, by the way, on the other side of the coin, you should definitely celebrate your achievements. But it’s more about looking sort of objectively at what you’ve done this year, doing more of the same where you’ve done well, but also identifying some gaps that you can do your best to address them next year. So it’s not about criticising. We can’t change what we have or haven’t done this past year, but we can set the intention to do differently, as of today.
So to get more specific, we want to make sure, of course, we’re considering those different areas of our lives. So what I’d like you to do is take a look at each of the 5Ls and really think about what worked and what went really, really well, but also what worked less well, what was missing, in each of those areas. So again, wellness and wellbeing, relationships and romance, development and growth, career and impact, and fun and spontaneity.
And again, I’d encourage you to go back to the specific episodes on each of those, but in the meantime, making notes in each of these areas as to what has gone well and what has gone less well. So smiley face, sad face. But do please take the time to do this. I just won’t, in case you have been listening, which I hope you have, to the last few weeks, I won’t repeat all the work that we’ve already done. So looking really generally, first of all, at 2019, and then specifically diving into each of the 5LS.
Now, how would you sum up 2019?
If you could use one word, how would you describe the past year? Is there a theme that you can identify, looking back on the last year? How do you feel overall about this year? And what do you think all these different experiences, that we’ve just been working through, have in common? Now, if you have been following me for a few years, and you already did set a theme for 2019 at the start of the year, the question, of course, is do you feel that theme that you’d set matched your actual experience this year? So what’s the one word that captures, that encapsulates 2019 for you?
And now, looking ahead to 2020, if an idea for a theme for next year is already forming in your mind, then by all means jot it down. But don’t worry, we’ll come back to this again in a few minutes. But if something’s already coming to mind, something that was really missing, that you really want more of next year, then jot it down. Okay, so that was a super speedy review of 2019. Again, do take the time to go through each of the Ls. Come back, ideally, right after you’ve listened to me, or pause now and spend some time on the review, before you dive into the following year, 2020, this year, in fact. And of course, you may come up with other ideas over the coming days. So you can add those, as and when they come to you.
But in the meantime, let’s start planning for 2020.
So using the review we’ve just done of 2019 and that sort of success audit across the 5Ls, we want to use that as a base and then start thinking about what are your ideas for this new year. And you don’t need specific goals right away, but it’s more about keywords, thoughts, and themes. So what are the things that are popping into your head as being important for this new year? And you can start by looking at the gap you identified this year and where you felt that you wanted to make a change, but then also see what else comes up as well.
So again, considering each of the five areas, Live – wellness and wellbeing, what are the key words, specific focus areas, considering physical health, mental, emotional, spiritual. Love – relationships and romance. Learn – development and growth. Lead – career and impact. And Laugh – fun and spontaneity. So in each of these areas, what are the ideas coming to mind that you think are really important, you feel that are important, in this new year?
And those are the big ideas. But then we want to get more specific. So how can we make those ideas more concrete? What might your actual goals in each area look like? And for each of these goals, importantly, I want you to consider and to write down why this is a meaningful goal for you. So what is going to change in your life if you succeed? How is your life going to be different? How are you committed? Why are you committed to making this happen? And this is something that really you want to take time to reflect on, but it’s something I don’t want you to skip over.
It’s just so critical to really being motivated, so that you’re not just, every year, saying, again, I want to lose weight, I want to do to this, dah, dah, dah, dah. You really want to be doing this intentionally and asking yourself, is this still important? Maybe you had a goal the last five years and you realise, you know what, this is not something that is important and I’m going to let go of that, and you start from scratch, and you might be surprised what you come up with.
So again, in each of those five areas, setting a specific goal. And I would encourage you to have one goal for each area. In the past, I’ve set three goals, and it’s up to you. If you feel, for example, that your wellness and wellbeing is now you’ve completely neglected and you want to really focus on that this year, then by all means have three goals there. And perhaps, who knows, let’s say your career, your fun, can sort of be more a plate that you kind of leave spinning there and you’re not going to focus on it. You’re really happy with those areas, and you just need to kind of keep them on the back burner, and you’re happy to sort of really focus your attention on the wellness and wellbeing area. By all means, set more goals. But I think, in general, one goal per area is a great way to really make sure you continue to have that balance.
And just for a bit of a wild card, back in 2013 I wrote a list, or I discovered this idea of a bucket list, and I wrote a list of a hundred things to do before I die. And especially at the beginning, when I was really getting out of my comfort zone and challenging myself and so on, I aim to do two every year. And that could be anything from travelling somewhere, to learn a new skill. It could be getting published, your book and magazines, whatever it might be. Could be wearing red lipstick out in public. Who knows? But it needs to be something that you’re going to be really excited about achieving this year.
So I want you to think about what’s a lifelong ambition of yours that you can aim to do this year. Something that’s really exciting, that lets your heart sing, that lights you up, and that doesn’t necessarily fit into this rigid framework that I’m talking about, but something that you really want to do before you die. And let’s try to get that in for this year, for 2020. So what is your number one bucket list item for 2020?
And now, we are coming to the idea of this theme. So looking at your ideas, your goals, your motivations, what possible themes come to mind for 2020, and, why not, for the decade, the 20th decade, as well? So is there a pattern? Is there some kind of overarching idea that brings together a lot of the different focus areas that you’ve identified? Maybe there’s something around making big changes, connecting with other people, taking care of yourself. That’s an important one. Some kind of idea of movement, or even stillness, on the other side. Challenge, growth, positivity, optimism, proactivity, intentionality… love that word… Intentionality. Love.
So what theme, what keyword or keywords, come to mind when you think about your intention for 2020?
And sometimes a theme does just come to you, but if nothing is coming right away, if you’re getting too many ideas, you might try mind mapping, for example. So if you have lots of ideas, I’ve done this in the past, grab a pen and paper, write 2020 in the middle and just brain dump everything that comes to mind. You can also do, there are free online tools that you can use. But really the idea is to visualise your different ideas.
And then when it comes to making a choice, I’d really recommend that you go with your gut feel. So don’t overthink it. There is no right or wrong answer, as ever. So just go with your gut feel, something that feels right for you. And of course, you can evolve it over the year, if you find that doesn’t quite sum up what you want. But the idea here is to set that intention, to give you that framework, that direction for the year, and again, why not for the decade. So I’m going to be going back and thinking hard about the new twenties’ decade and what my theme will be there.
Okay, so that is it. That’s a super speedy review. Last 15 minutes or so of 2019, and planning for 2020. So we’ve talked about this idea of having a theme instead of those new year’s resolutions that inevitably fail. We’ve looked at the past year, both in general terms of what’s worked well, what hasn’t worked so well, and then specifically for each of the 5Ls, Live, Love, Learn, Lead, Laugh. And again, you can deep dive into those in the past few weeks of episodes. And then we’ve started to plan the new year. So again, in those 5L areas, and also big picture, big theme, going head.
So I know I have gone through this very quickly, and I can assure you that I’m now going to head off and do this in more detail for myself. So don’t worry if you don’t yet have a full review of 2019, a detailed list of goals for 2020. If you have, you’re amazing. But I’d really encourage you to take the time now. Ideally, directly after you’ve listened to me, maybe returning to it in a couple of weeks still to come. So continue to reflect on 2019 and come up with a more comprehensive plan for the new year. And in particular, again, I want you to really think carefully about the goals you’re setting and why these are important to you, because that’s going to make sure that you’re setting meaningful goals and that you’re really committed to and motivated to achieve them. So really think about why are these goals important to you. Don’t go crazy with a list of a hundred goals. Think of the five goals, one goal per area, perhaps a few more in a particular specific area, and that overall theme as well.
So hope you found that useful. I hope, if you are, like me, starting a little bit on the back foot, you can be kind to yourself, not criticise yourself or judge yourself for not doing as much as you’d hoped, or not doing that long list of things that you thought you were going to do over the break. I think it’s so important for us to take time off, especially when we’ve been unwell. So hopefully we’ll all be back in the swing of things in the coming weeks. And in fact, in the coming weeks, the rest of January, we will be continuing to look at re-imagining success, over the whole month. So I think this is a really exciting time with the new year, new decade. So we’ll be digging into this more, as well, in terms of how we can reimagine success in our career, in our life, in our business.
So I hope you join me for that over the coming weeks. I wish you a wonderful 2020, 2020, a new exciting year and decade, and I look forward to continuing to work with you in this new year. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.
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