As the year draws to a close, it’s natural to review the ups and downs of the previous months, in both your professional and personal lives.
This is the time when many people start to think about making New Year’s resolutions. However, research shows only about 8 percent of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. I think the reason for this is twofold: (1) Humans are naturally resistant to change; and, (2) Setting a resolution doesn’t take this resistance into account.
You need to outwit the resistance by reframing your desire to change.
A resolution usually sounds something like, “I will get more clients” or “I will lose 20 pounds.” By framing the desire this way, we try to push ourselves into change. And, pushing yourself to change is like trying to get a cat into a flea bath. You’ll encounter ferocious resistance.
Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution, this time do it differently: Reframe the change as a vision of what you want your life to look like in the next year. Then, use your daily and weekly actions to pull yourself toward that vision.
Below are five questions to ask yourself in order to dissect your past and create a vision of your future.
1. What do you want your life to look like this time next year?
Take some time to think about what you want for your health, wealth, work, family and time. What would your ideal life look and feel like?
Write it down as you want it to be, as if it were reality. Write in present tense, describing the gains you’ve made in your business or the goals you’ve met, as if they’ve already happened.
My vision is written in about 10 short paragraphs. One example from it is, “I invoice my clients for at least $4,000 every month. I pay quarterly estimated taxes and don’t even miss that money, because I live well and within my means.”
It may take a few drafts to craft your future just right. When you do, print it out or keep the file on your desktop and read it every day. Visualize how it feels to be in this place. Really try to feel the positive emotions that come with being in this desired future.
You can then reverse engineer your action plan for getting you there. Each day, work the plan or act in a way that moves you toward the vision.
2. What are your greatest strengths, and how can you maximize them?
Look back over the year, month by month, and write down what went well. Note all the wins you had, whether they’re goals you reached, new clients you landed, high fees you charged, or work that you’re proud of.
Once you’ve compiled the list, go over each item and identify which of your strengths contributed to those successes. Was it determination in the face of long odds? Quick thinking and adaptability when circumstances changed? Charming a new client to take a chance on you? Perseverance?
Once you’ve identified your strengths, make a point to leverage them. For example, I consider myself to be a good conversationalist, and I can talk with different people on a variety of topics. So, in the coming months, I need to practice overcoming my inherent desire to stay quiet and stay home (total introvert here), and use this strength to build valuable relationships. Speaking of overcoming…
3. What threats to your vision must you overcome?
Go back over the year, month by month, and pick out the things that didn’t go as well as you had hoped. What part did you play in that outcome? Be honest with yourself.
What habits or personality traits might interfere with your realizing the vison of your future? Is it time-management issues? Organization problems? Lack of self-confidence or skills, or negative self-talk?
The point here isn’t to beat yourself up about these things, but to create awareness of the places where you struggle, so you can address them.
To change you must avoid repeating mistakes and the bad habits that, up until now, have kept you from being who you want to be.
So, get the skills you need. Invest in an organizational system that makes sense to you. Practice more positive self-talk. Don’t let weaknesses threaten your future.
And, while weaknesses can be strengthened, don’t expect to change completely. Even though I’m working on beefing up my gregariousness, I don’t expect I’ll be singing karaoke or running a social club any time soon.
4. What opportunities are out there that you need to capture?
The world is rich with opportunity; the downfall is it’s usually disguised as a problem. So, make a habit of seeking out other people’s problems, then solving them.
Search regularly for disruptions in your industry, such as new technologies, companies or mergers. Then reach out to the people affected by these disruptions and offer your services.
For example, about a year ago I read an article in a travel technology newsletter about an up-and-coming ground-transportation company with a patent-pending system that was focusing on the B2B sector. I went to their website, saw it was riddled with typos, contacted them and eventually wound up with a retainer deal to rewrite all their website content.
Keep your ears and eyes open for any “problems” or new players in your industry, and then turn them into your opportunities to pull your vision of your future into your present.
5. What scares the stuffing out of you and what’s the quickest way for you to conquer it?
As writers, our personal lives are not divorced from our professional lives, so any changes made in one area, positive or negative, will influence the other.
Write down a handful of things you want to do, but haven’t because you’ve let fear stop you. They could be professional, like reaching out to new clients face to face, or personal fears such as trying something new, like a tap dancing class.
Next, find out the quickest, easiest way to do the first thing on the list. Today.
Find a networking event and talk to two possible clients. Search for dance instruction in your area and sign up for one drop-in class. See how these first steps go, and then keep trying it.
By stepping outside your comfort zone, for even an hour or two, the fear diminishes. That first step is always the hardest, but as you keep at it, the fear subsides. Eventually you conquer it.
Fear is temporary, surmounting it and taking in the view from the other side lasts forever.
Ask yourself these five questions to develop clarity of vision. It’s much easier to pull yourself toward that mental oasis, making the decisions that will materialize your reality, than it is to push yourself into change.
The best part about creating your own vision of reality is that you can do it at any time of the year, not just when the calendar turns. Return to these questions as often as necessary and continue to pull yourself into your ideal future.