Ok, so depending on how your 2020 went, it might be pretty easy to improve upon what many have termed the “Year of the Dumpster Fire”. But even if you had a good year, with new awareness and awakening, there are a few steps that you can take to make 2021 a more intentional, productive, and fulfilling year. Completing these five steps at the beginning of the year will set you up for greater success, but it’s never too late to get started on putting your life in order! Let’s begin.
1. Keep the End in Mind – Memento Mori
This is great advice for completing projects and accomplishing goals, but it is also the most important thing to if you want to live a life that you’re really proud of. One thing that has become clearer to many people amidst the trials and sufferings of the COVID pandemic is that we are indeed mortal beings. Many of us have experienced the loss of a loved one this past year, and while it is hard to see the purpose in these tragic losses, we can look at our own lives and remember that we know neither the day nor the hour that our own existence here on earth will end. Our time here is precious and we each have gifts and talents that can never be replicated. Use this reminder to reflect on the values and priorities that really matter the most to you in the end.
Challenge: Write down the 5 things you would do if you only had one more day to live
2. Write down your Life Purpose/Mission Statement
After you’ve established the things that truly matter the most to you in this life, create a purpose or mission statement that reflects these core values and priorities. Organizations and businesses do this, why shouldn’t we do it too?! We should. Studies have shown that people who write down and review their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals. These statements establish the values and priorities of the individuals and bring greater clarity and focus to how time is being spent. I know people that have a personal mission statement and a family mission statement. Having this statement becomes a great litmus test for decision making throughout the year. When a new opportunity or project comes up for discussion, it first must pass the mission statement test for consistency with the person or family’s stated purpose. So, for example, your personal mission statement is “I am committed to a life where I take things slowly and stop to smell the roses.” But you’ve been given the opportunity for a much faster paced position at work that comes with a lot of travel and little time for recreation. Do you take it? Not if you are serious about becoming the person you truly want to be.
Challenge: Write your personal mission/purpose statement. Here is a great link to get you started.
3. Make your Habits Help You
There have been a number of great books exploring the neuroscience of habit formation in recent years. A few of my favorites are Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, Atomic Habits, and The Power of Habit. I recommend reading one, or all of them early on so that you can tap into the autonomic ease of good habits. Breaking bad habits is possible, and probably necessary if you want to live that life you know you were created for. As Steven Pressfield points out in his great book, The War of Art, as soon as you really start to get grooving towards a life of creativity and purpose, resistance will flare up to sidetrack you and all your bad habits come back to sabotage your best efforts. Get them under control and don’t let resistance prevent you from having a great year. Writing down the habits you want to acquire and then tracking them every day increases the chances that you’ll have the awareness necessary to beat the bad ones out, and nourish and grow new healthy habits.
Challenge: Download this simple Habit Tracking guide that I created and write down and track your habits.
4. Schedules Bring Freedom
As counterintuitive as it may seem to some people, it’s completely true that having and keeping a schedule is incredibly freeing! When you do not have a schedule, you are responding constantly to the stresses of daily life and wasting your time putting out every inevitable fire that will come your way. Most of these fires are actually the result of your poor planning and not having a schedule in place allows these surprises to rule your life. You’re never going to get around to focusing on your priorities and goals if you don’t first establish that you deserve the mental freedom of a schedule. When you have an effective and consistent scheduling system in place your brain is allowed to relax because it knows that there is a time for everything to happen. It doesn’t all need to happen at once. Before I realized how important and freeing a good schedule is, I constantly had this nagging feeling that I was missing something. Because I didn’t have all the things written down and assigned to specific times, I was running myself ragged always doing something. Good schedules should include time for all the things; work, rest, relaxation, prayer, family. If you really struggle in this area, consider taking this great course Conquer Your Calendar. I did it this last year and found it to be very valuable.
Challenge: Commit to using a calendar, either on your phone, or go old school with a paper planner.
5. Accountability Partners Rule
Knowing your goals, writing them down, forming good habits, and scheduling it all in are awesome, but is it enough to keep you motivated and moving forward? For most of us, the answer is no. Most of us are simply not as accountable to ourselves for our success as we should be. But the good news is we can overcome it by simply including other people in our process of reaching our goals. The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65 percent more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Their chances of success increase to 95 percent when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress. Pick someone who you really trust and who you know to be an encouraging and loving person, especially if you’re working through something really vulnerable. If you are wanting to get in shape and know you need someone to really push you in meeting your workout goals, consider hiring a personal trainer. Finding your support network, your tribe in 2021 and intentionally surrounding yourself with one or more people that will cheer you on and hold you accountable to yourself is essential if you want to make this the year you truly become the best version of yourself.
Challenge: Identify the person, or group that will help you become the best version of yourself this year and put regular meetings with them into your schedule.