I'm going to do something that scares the hell out of me.
I'm going to share something very personal. Something that took me hours of reflection to create. Something I hesitate to share with friends and family.
I'm going to share my new year’s resolution.
To be clear, you shouldn't care about my new year’s resolution. Sure, it's deeply personal so may be interesting in much the same way secrets and rumors are interesting. But beyond that, it's not the resolution that's important; it's the process by which this resolution is created that will affect your year for the better.
I'm one of those people who never created resolutions. I thought they were a bit cliché, unnecessary, and overrated.
Even so, I've found the end of one year and the start of another a great time for reflection and goal setting. Doing so is especially important for entrepreneurs.
Every successful entrepreneur I know is out there working hard, working long, and trying to work smart. They are thinking and creating and building. They are searching for a meaningful solution to their customer’s problems and purpose in their lives.
Every entrepreneur I know has goals, lists, objectives, and to-do’s. But not many have created a yearly resolution for their business. Not one like this at least.
The new year’s resolution I'm recommending isn't your typical one. It's less of a goal and more of a statement... a guide of sorts. A word or two to live by. Something that, if you get it right, will change yourself and your business for the better in the coming 365 days.
The New Year’s Resolution of The Past
The new year’s resolutions I hear and read about are usually framed as something to do: quit smoking, start a new company, exercise more, get organized, etc.
These kinds of "goal-oriented" resolutions, unaccompanied by a plan of action, will result in one of two outcomes. Either you will 1) achieve your resolution, or 2) life will "get in the way". Unfortunate as it may be, I hear more often of the latter.
It's easy to understand why. Adding another goal, another "to-do" in the new year doesn't magically erase an existing one. It's easy to set goals, but hard to complete them. Failing to achieve them leads to discouragement and lost hope. Worse, as time goes by, we tend to lose sight of why we resolved to take action in the first place. Before the first week of February, our personal and business resolution is a dusty page in a notebook, blissfully ignored and forever forgotten.
When we set out to create our resolution, we don't necessarily want more to do. We are aiming to be a more successful, more productive, better person and entrepreneur than last year.
This year, instead of resolving what we hope to do, our new year’s resolution (and the process of defining it) is going to determine who we want to be.
A Process for Defining Your Resolution
Picking a new year’s resolution is usually a thought, but it should be a process: A process of reflection on past accomplishments, future goals, and your life's purpose... a process for defining what is important in your life's work.
After finding our resolution, we want to be sure we don't forget about it. So we also need a process for reviewing how our resolution is working throughout the year. This process looks something like this:
- Put last year behind you
- Find your purpose
- List your objectives
- Make a January action plan
- Define your resolution
- Set reminders
As much as we want to move forward, if we don't look back (briefly) we can't learn from our mistakes or build on our successes. That is why this first step of the process, reflection on last year, is a critical one.
It's easy to start. Look over your calendar for the year and review how you've spent your time. Write down your overall thoughts. Review your previous year’s resolution and write about how it changed you and your business (or didn't). Think about any significant events, significant changes, new directions.
Don't make this complicated, just write down whatever comes to mind. You may draw a blank at first, but you'll be surprised at what you remember when the juices start flowing. If you're stuck, think about any highlights or low points that happened in your life or at work. Write those down, expanding on how they did or did not relate to your resolution, thinking about how they did or didn't bring you success.
2. Put Last Year Behind You
As you begin the new year in full force, make a list of some things you want to put behind you. After all, if you are living in, dwelling on, or held back by the past year, you're not going to be as effective in the new year as you could be:
- Clean Your Workspace: You're not going to be effective in 2016 if you have a mountain of papers, garbage, and other junk in your workspace. Clean it up. Start fresh. This goes for your digital life too. Get that it organized so you can focus on what's important instead of constantly being reminded of your mess (webinar in coming weeks).
- Lingering To-Do's: If you're not going to do them, get rid of them. If they've been sitting on your to-do list forever, get rid of them. If they're done, get rid of them. The only todo's left should be those urgent and important actions that are necessary to make your year a successful one.
- Finish Outstanding Books/Research: If you're like me, you've got a good many books opened and unfinished. Give yourself a timeline to finish them and don't start any new books until they're done! Don't like the book? Not speaking to you? Isn't important to your business or success? Get rid of it.
- File Those Contacts: Get all your contact cards organized... if connecting with them in 2016 will help you be successful, make an action to follow up with that person at the appropriate time, and put it on your calendar.
With your past year cleared up, you can finally think clearly about the year to come.
3. Find Your Purpose
This could very well be the most difficult part of the process. After all, if we all knew our life's purpose there would be far fewer unhappy people in the world. Luckily we don't have to uncover the meaning of our life. We just have to better understand what is important to us and capture it as a way to guide us in the new year. Here are some guiding questions:
- If you had unlimited resources to do anything, what would your business look like?
- What do you find yourself doing in your free time? How could you turn that into a livelihood or integrate it into your current venture?
- What is the most inspiring book you've read? How could you turn that inspiration into action?
An excellent book for helping you understand your life's purpose is Mastery by Robert Greene. If you haven't read it, add it to your book list. But don't let that stop you from doing your best to define it now. You'll need it for the next few steps in determining your new years resolution.
4. List Your Objectives
At this point in the process, you should have a list of tasks carried over from last year and a paragraph or two about your purpose. With all that in mind, take a few moments to list any goals or objectives you would wish to accomplish in 2016. Think about it as if you were already living one year in the future. Say to yourself, "I feel proud to have achieved __________ in the past year."
Don't leave anything out. List personal growth goals, professional development objectives, business achievements, relationships, etc.
If you can, list ten or more. Then, true to the process Steve Jobs would go through when defining product activities for the year, cross off all of them but your top three. You can probably do everything on your list, but you can only do a few things well. The three you leave on your list will be your focus goals for the year. Everything you do should be in some way aligned with these objectives.
5. Make a January Action Plan
This step has been the most productive change I've ever made when it comes to kicking the year off right. It's simple. Create a list of tasks to complete before January 31st. These tasks should align with your goals and purpose for the year. When the end of the month rolls around, you should be able to look back on these (completed) tasks and feel great about getting some "wins" under your belt.
6. Define Your Resolution
What used to be an arduous task should now be relatively straightforward. All of these activities leading up to now -- reflecting, finding purpose, creating objectives, etc. -- should have guided you closer to that one word or statement that will guide you through the year.
Now, after all you've read, I'm ready to disclose mine: Strength.
I've written this word in a journal, examined what it means to me, and thought about how I'd like it to change me and my work in the coming year. Remember, this year you aren't creating a task-like resolution (such as "lose weight" or "land ten new customers"). You are creating a word or phrase that tells you who you want to be.
What does "strength" mean to me? How did I further define my resolution? Like so:
Strength of spirit, character, of mind, of body. Strength in business, in my writing, in my play. This isn't about having power. It's about being strong in all that I do. It's about physical and mental exercise, and the equivalent business process that makes my life a rock solid example for others and provides those close to me with the safety of my strength. It's about never being a victim, never complaining about what I don't have or how my business isn’t performing, and instead focusing on possibilities and growth and opportunities that make me and my businesses stronger.
What do I want to be stronger?
My character - Need to be sure of myself, confident, relaxed, in control. Practice knowing my business and confidently communicating it. Practice understanding people's intentions and motivations so I can speak to them from a position of strength.
My intellect - Need to read new books and expand my knowledge. Stop reading worthless tweets and Flipboard articles that just waste time. Find information that is relevant to my readers and me so I can share it with them through videos, posts, webinars, etc.
My Body - Strong, cut, lean, able to push myself to the limits of every workout. Holding between 205 and 215 lbs.
My Businesses - A strong base of engaged subscribers. A rock solid understanding of our business model, expenses, and income generators. Be the recognized leader in each businesses respective market and have a strong, enticing message that makes it easy for people to extract value from our companies'.
Whether you follow this formula is up to you. What's important is you create that word or phrase, further define it, then think about how it should change you in the coming year.
7. Set Reminders
If you don't know by reading our other posts, I'm a huge fan of reminders. Reminders may be an admission that our memories aren't perfect, but their effectiveness in making us more productive and helping us achieve our goals cannot be understated.
When it comes to our resolution, our purpose, and the objectives we've set for ourselves in the new year, we must set reminders to stay on track. You don't need many. Just one for the last day of each month in the year.
At the end of the month, review your resolution, your objectives, your purpose and write down what's working and what isn't. With that in mind, list a few things you can try in the coming months to accomplish your objectives and ways you can relate your resolution to different aspects of your life and work.
I usually add this to the bottom of my new year’s resolution note... a running "Monthly Accountability" section with each month explicitly called out and my thoughts and experiences written under each.
Get to Work!
I recommend setting aside at least two hours to go through this process and fully realize it's potential. It may sound like a lot of time, but the clarity you will gain from it will set you on a productive path for the next 365 days, saving you far more than the two hours you've invested.
To save you a bit more time, we'll send you a free template to guide you through this process immediately.
About the Author
CO-FOUNDER | TECHNOLOGY, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, AND SALES
Michael Mehlberg helps small businesses owners achieve their goals and live their passion. His approach to technology, corporate strategy, product development, marketing, and sales is both practical and highly effective, and has helped multiple small businesses grow into the company their owners envisioned. Reach out by emailing him at email@example.com or learn more on our About page.