5 Ways to Make this Your Best Year Ever
I’m excited to make 2015 my best year ever. After a year involving considerable change, I finally feel like I am settling into a rhythm. To capitalize on that, I’m following a new program to start the year with purpose.
I’ve been reading a lot about goal setting and what it takes to live an intentional life. Last year I set the audacious goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I did it, (yeah!) and have spent the past few months trying to figure out what’s next.
Because running is such a big and important part of my life, I wanted to tackle other areas with that same level of discipline and consistency. Here are the five steps I am following to help make 2015 the best year ever. You can get the worksheet I’m using below to help guide you through the process.
First, This Year’s Goal
Although I qualified for Boston, I have since learned that I may not have qualified by enough to actually run the race. The 2015 cutoff was 62 seconds below the qualifying time. Almost 2,000 runners didn’t make it.
I’m only 27 seconds under.
Since registration doesn’t open until September, I have 9 months to sit with my fingers crossed, or try to run a faster marathon.
If I’m going to put all the time and effort into training, I may as well shoot for something audacious again. In 2015, I want to run a sub 3 hour marathon…
The only way this will be remotely possible is if I create a more intentionally focused, holistic life plan. By setting goals in all areas of life, I think I can do it.
Some Quick Tips about Goal Setting
Before I dive in, I think it’s important to mention two things about setting goals I have learned over the years.
The first is limit your goals to no more than 10. I’m sticking with seven. If you try to set more, it can become hard to keep track of them, and you could lose focus on what is most important.
Second, you need to set goals in all areas of life to achieve the highest levels of wellbeing. I’m using categories described in the book Wellbeing by Gallup researcher Tom Rath.
They found we have the highest levels of wellbeing (happiness and fulfillment) when achieving goals in the areas of career, social, financial, physical and community life. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it if you want to dig into this data.
Here are the five steps. If you’d like to download this as a PDF worksheet, signup here and we’ll email it to you.
Step 1. Reflect on The Past Year
I believe you need to look back in order to move forward. Much like reflecting on a past race performance, reflecting on your past year is important. Answer these questions:
- Did you meet your previous goals?
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What are areas in which you grew?
- What areas did you feel a lack of growth?
These are all important questions to answer before setting goals for the upcoming year. If you don’t, you might repeat mistakes. You also miss out on celebrating your achievements.
When I look back through my training log, I ran a lot of miles. For a period of time, I was running more than ever. Unless something changes, I won’t be able to do that again.
Step 2. Dream Big
Don’t settle for mediocrity! You can be a lot more of who you already are if you’re willing to put in the hard work.
In step two, think about your highly aspirational goals. These might be big life goals or bucket list types of things.
The only rule during this step is that you need to be realistic. You are probably not going to qualify for the Olympics, or double your income this year. BUT, you can certainly set your sights on a significant PR, or getting a raise at work. The point here is not to limit yourself by what is, but rather, dream about what could be.
These big dreams will probably be a little vague and ambiguous. That’s ok… for now.
Making a long list will help you see patterns, and identify what you value most. Mine are a bit too personal to share here, but I will say that running a sub-three hour marathon has been on the list for awhile…
Now it’s just a matter of setting a SMART goal to get there.
Step 3. Set SMART Goals
This is one of the hardest steps. Whenever you are setting goals, they need to be SMART, otherwise they are stupid. SMART goals are:
- Specific: Your goals should state exactly what you want to do, with as much detail as possible.
- Measurable: Your goals need a way you can quantify (numerically or descriptively) completion. Something that will tell you exactly when you’ve achieved it.
- Action-Oriented: Use verbs tied to specific behavior to help you take some form of action. This moves you closer to achievement.
- Realistic: Goals should always stretch you, but be connected to past performance in every area of life.
- Time Bound: Every goal you set should have a date and time attached. You need to know the target you’re trying to hit.
Using the list you brainstormed in step 2, identify five to seven of the most common themes that emerged. Write one SMART goal for each of them. Getting really specific helps you identify one way in which you can actually achieve that goal.
Step 4. Create a Plan to Meet Those Goals
If you set a SMART goal to finish your first marathon on October 4 at the Twin Cities Marathon, now you need a plan to make that happen.
One of the reasons it is important to think holistically when setting goals, is because our life isn’t compartmentalized. Each part touches every other part.
For example, completing your first marathon isn’t just a physical goal. You’ll need to make time for all of that training, which will impact the relationships in your life. If your career is especially hectic, or you’re highly involved in your community, this may not be the time to take on an additional 20 hours of running each week. You also may need to invest in coaching, running gear and race fees, impacting your financial life.
Creating a plan can be tough. One trick I use is something from productivity expert David Allen. He talks about identifying the next action you need to take to complete your project. Start with the end in mind. It can then be helpful to list out all of the possible steps needed to take in achieving your goals. Start on the first one. Using the marathon example, the first next step is deciding when you want to race.
Step 5. Review and Reevaluate… A Lot
It is easy to write your goals down. It’s harder to make them happen. I have completely forgotten about some of the “goals” I wrote down at the beginning of last year. I never reviewed them.
By reviewing them on a monthly or weekly basis, you will be able to not only gauge your progress, but determine if you need to alter them.
Running is fairly easy to evaluate. Are you putting in the miles? Are you running without pain? Are you hitting your times during critical workouts? Other areas in life are less straightforward.
For example, I have a goal to spend 60 minutes in focused, intentional time with my son each day. If after a week I haven’t been doing this, or realize 60 minutes is unrealistic, I can reset the system behind the goal to help me achieve it (rather than constantly feeling guilty for not doing it).
When running, you might get hurt, get a new job, or encounter any number of other unanticipated obstacles. Rather than beat yourself up over things out of your control, reset.
Reviewing your goals is also important to see if you are selling yourself short. If you are able to meet your goal faster or easier than anticipated, you probably didn’t set your sights high enough. Remember, push yourself out of your comfort zone.
What Are Your Audacious Goals for 2015?
What are some of your big audacious goals in 2015? What is next step you need to take to achieve it? Share them in the comments below. Also, if you’d like help setting your goals this year, feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear what you’re dreaming about.