Whenever we enter into a new year, we are reflecting on what we did the last year, and we make some resolutions on what we want to accomplish the coming year. But more often those New Year resolutions are fading away just in a few days as the year is going by. The failure in reaching our goals is just adding to the stress we already have, and it seems like we are going nowhere. How can we avoid that from happening? We need to have a clear plan.
Make the exercise for yourself. Take out a sheet of paper and write down what you want to accomplish this coming year. Think about all areas of your life. What do you want to accomplish in your professional life, what in your private life, what in your lifestyle to improve your health, in what way do you want to contribute positively to the society around you, and how do you want to grow in your spiritual life? Write down where you want to be in a year from now.
Now after you have put your thoughts and desires on paper, start to prioritize them. Define one or two top priorities in each area of your life, because you will go nowhere if you focus only on your professional life and leave everything else behind. Also, do not try to do everything on your list at the same time, because you will divide yourself too much and will not accomplish anything in the end.
The Action Plan
Next you need to have a clear plan on how you will accomplish the goals you have in your mind. At this point you need to split up your goals in manageable tasks. What are the steps you need to take to reach your goals?
For example, you may decide that this year you want to write a book. That sounds very much like a daunting task. But if you want to reach it, you need to split it up into different steps. You may come up with a list like this:
- Choose the topic
- Make some research
- Define the chapter structure
- Research the material for each chapter
- Write each chapter
- Revise the content
- Make the layout
Having defined the steps, you have already a much clearer plan in your mind on how you can realistically accomplish your goal. Next you need to divide each step into actionable tasks. You can write this out on paper, or you can use a tool like Asana to do that on your computer. Estimate for each task how long it is going to take you. This way you have an objective parameter to track your progress.
Now you put the tasks of the first week onto your calendar. Define how many hours you have every day to dedicate to the task and start out working on it, if possible by tomorrow. You are not going to finish the task in a single day, but every day you are going to make another step that is going to bring you closer to your goal.
Remember that you were putting down a timeframe for each task. There may be moments where you are not finishing the task within the stipulated time. Sometimes you may need some extra time on the following day, because you did not make a good estimate on how long you will take. But wherever you can, try to wrap up your task and get it done. You can always improve your work later on. But often you may find out that you need to resist your temptation to go for perfectionism and just do the best you can within the timeframe you have.
At the end of the week it is time for evaluation. Have a look what you have accomplished this week. Are you within your schedule, or did you take longer than expected? Do you need to adjust your timeframes? Or do you need to improve on your efficiency? Maybe you need to resist your perfectionistic vein and go forward? Make an honest evaluation and adjust what is necessary. Take then some time to plan out the next week.
You also will need to work on your motivation to go forward. This will help you to get new energy when you feel like dragging. Think about the impact the book or any other project you do will have. Think about how it can change the life of so many people around you. This will give you a reason to go forward, because you know it is worthwhile to invest all the effort to get it done.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Not every goal needs to have such a detailed project. But you still need to have a plan for how you will get it done. For example, you may decide that your priority is to manage your stress. You need to know what tools you can use to achieve your goals, and the Ten Minute Guide to Stress Management can give you some hints for that. You need to decide now on which tools you need to focus and make a plan on how you will implement them into your life. And you still need a regular evaluation, maybe weekly, maybe monthly to check on the progress and fine-tune your strategy.
The same principles apply for any other lifestyle change, may it be losing weight, changing your diet or starting an exercise routine. All of those imply significant lifestyle changes and you need to have a clear plan on how to get it done.
When changing your habits, you need to be aware that much of those habits were ingrained in your brain for many years, and it will need a conscious and decided effort to change them. It takes about 30 days to start forming a new habit. During this timeframe, you need to make a conscious decision on every day, until you are forming a new neural pathway in your brain that will turn into a new habit.
Often you will find that you need to build up your motivation to work on your lifestyle changes. Think about the outcome your new habits will bring you. How your health will improve after adopting the new lifestyle? Think about all the things you will be able to do when your health is improving. Without proper motivation, you will often find that your old habits are stronger than your new-year resolutions.
We often underestimate the efforts needed to break loose of an old habit, and you may discover that supernatural power is needed in order to be victorious. But you can ask your Heavenly Father to give you the needed strength. God is telling us:
Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?Jeremiah 32:27
So the next time you are struggling to change your habits, go to your Creator who knows how to resolve the problems on your behalf. The first step you need to take is to recognize that you need help and simply ask for it:
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!Matthew 7:11
He is just waiting to give us all the help we need to be victorious if we simply go to ask. Imagine a child asking his father for a piece of bread because it is hungry. Which dad is not going to respond to that? And how much more will our Heavenly Father give us help if we ask for it?
After asking our Heavenly Father for strength, we need to act in faith that He is on our side to help us:
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.Mark 11:24
One time Jesus was meeting a crippled man who was 40 years lame. Jesus simply asked him: Do you want to be healed? But the poor man could think only on all the difficulties in his way. Jesus simply stretches out His hand and says: Stand up!
The man could have thought: You must be joking, I am crippled for 40 years, how do you ask me to stand up? But instead the man acted in faith and made an effort to stand up. In the same moment he was healed and could walk.
You may feel the same way that you are bound into your old habits. But Jesus has promised you to give you the needed strength. After asking for help, simply believe that God is giving you the power to be victorious, and you will see changes in your life that you thought impossible to achieve.
But even then, it is important to to make no provisions to fail. The apostle Paul is telling us:
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.Romans 13:14
If we know that we have a soft spot for sweets, you do not need to pass in front of a candy store, just to see what they have to offer. And if you want to stop smoking, it will be quite tough to resist if you keep cigarettes at home. Whatever your soft spot is, you do not need to make provisions to gratify its desires. You are safer if you avoid temptations wherever you can.
You may discover that real satisfaction comes from a harmonious development of the personal, professional, social and spiritual areas of our life. You need the social network around you, and you need to give some thoughts on what you can do to contribute to the society around you. Helping others without expecting anything in return can be a very satisfying experience for ourselves. And many times the same blessings will be coming back to us when we are in need. Furthermore we are to a large extent social beings. A healthy social network can do a lot to reduce our stress levels.
Give some serious thoughts about what you can do to contribute to your marriage relationship, how you relate to your parents, your friends and everybody else around you. Investments are not limited to your professional area only. And normally you will reap according to which plants you put into the ground and how you take care of them.
Give also some serious thought on what is really important in your life. What are the relationships that are really important to you? Do you really value them what they are worth? What else is giving purpose to your life? How do you contribute to society as a whole? You will find real satisfaction when you start to look beyond your own needs and see how you can benefit others around you. The satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have impacted the life of another person cannot be compensated by any money in the world.
Think also about your spiritual realm. Do you believe that there is somebody higher than you in this Universe? Do you trust your Heavenly Father? You have a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father? Many times are we limiting our religious life to a certain creed. But even though our belief system can be important, real spirituality is much more than that. It is a relationship that consists of giving and receiving. Are you willing to invest in your spiritual life? What are you willing to give? What are the values that make your life meaningful?
It was Viktor Frankl who discovered inside the Nazi concentration camps, that those who were surviving were normally those who had a clear reason to live for. After getting out of the cconcentration camps he became the founder of the logotherapy which consists largely in finding meaning in events happening around us.
Knowing our meaning and purpose of life is an important step in forming a healthy worldview. And it can be an important foundation that gives us emotional stability, helping a lot to get stress under control. A well-rounded development of all the areas of our lives can be very beneficial.
So what are your plans? Are you setting any goals for this year? Where do you want to be in a year from now? Are you willing to invest in your goals? What are you waiting for?
Do you need a guide to help you understand how to cope with Stress in an all inclusive approach? Learn how to combat stress, mentally, physically, emotionally and strategically in your life.