I wish you all a Happy New Year! But how can we really make this a happy, amazing year? I believe that dreams, hopes and bucket lists are not enough. And I wish there were a simple recipe that we could use every day to cook the perfect meal: success with a side of passion and meaning for the main dish; and happiness and love for dessert. But I have yet to discover or create such a recipe. Until then, I would like to tell you about a few things that we should take into account. I believe that, if we understand and apply these principles, they could change our year and maybe even our lives.
1. Carefully select ONE major goal
I know! We have heard the word “goal” so many times that it seems almost meaningless now. But why do you think we talk about goals so much? Well, it is because they matter! I believe that everybody should have a major goal in life. Goals give us direction, hope and meaning. Without them, we would spend our lives aimlessly wandering around. Life would make no sense.
Think of it like this: if you have no place to go, would you get dressed, leave your home and get in your car? Would you start driving around the city? If you have no destination in mind, how do you know where to stop the car? Or why would you be driving at all? Would you just keep driving until you have no more fuel left?
It seems rather nonsensical, right? Unfortunately, this is the way many people live their lives. As long as they have fuel (energy) left, they keep driving. When they are out of energy, they stop moving (and pass away). Is this how you want to spend your life? I think not. Otherwise, you would not be reading this.
Well, if you think goals are important, you are already one step closer to success. According to Earl Nightingale, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” So my advice would be to choose ONE big goal for this year.
Why just one? I got this idea from a book called The One Thing. The author argues that most successful people and companies are best known for one thing, product or service that generates most of their incomes. For Starbucks, it is coffee. For KFC, it is their secret chicken recipe. When we think about Google, we think about the search engine. And when we think of Steve Jobs, we think about the creator of the Iphone, right? He was not a weightlifter, a model, a singer, a photographer, a Buddhist monk and the CEO of Apple! He did not try to do all those things, but chose one that he was great at.
The people who are very successful are the ones who focus on one thing. And if you have just ONE major goal, the chances that you will succeed at it are very high. You can dedicate most of your time to working towards that goal. We all have 24 hours in a day. But why do only some people achieve success and experience happiness? That’s because they use that time wisely.
2. Know why you choose that goal
Honestly, I believe that you can choose any goal – anything at all. But aim for something that inspires you. Think of something that is worthy of your time, effort and commitment. Choose something that will make you proud of yourself. Some people are inspired by financial gains, while other people want to make a change in the world. Whatever it is, it should make sense to you! It does not matter if other people will not share your vision. If you believe in it, it is good enough.
Let me give you one example. Andrew Carnegie lived in the 18th and 19th century. He was one of the wealthiest people of all times. When he died, somebody found his goal written on a sheet of paper: to spend the first half of his life accumulating money and to spend the last half of his life giving it all away. And that’s what he did. This might make no sense to you or me, but this is what drove him. So set a goal that inspires you.
Another advice would be to choose a goal that is challenging and hard to achieve. Why? Because this will make you stretch, grow and develop. If you have to learn more and become better in order to do it, it is perfect! Jim Rohn said that “you should set goals for what it will make of you to achieve them”. So they should definitely challenge you in some way. But choose something achievable in one year. My boyfriend Radu told me how to choose a good goal. He said that “your goal should be big enough to scare you but small enough so that you know you can achieve it”. Try to find some balance between the two.
3. Think of how you will achieve the goal
Once you know what you want to achieve and why, it is also important to think about how you will do that. You may heard that goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. So once you have the goal, ask yourself this:
- What exactly does it mean to achieve that goal?
- How will I know when I did it?
- How can I track my progress?
- Is it realistic?
- Can I do that?
- Do I have enough time?
For example, if you decide that in 2017 you want to be rich, you may be setting yourself up for failure. What does it mean to be rich? How do you know when you are rich? How will you make money? What will you actually do tomorrow?
This type of goal is very vague and you might have a hard time doing anything about it. But if you think that you want to work 1 extra hour on your job every day and make $200 more every month, you already know what to do and how.
Whatever you plan to do, find a way to measure it. It is true that some things are easier to track (like losing weight). But even a big and seemingly-vague task can be measured. For example, if you decide you want to be healthier you can break this goal into smaller parts like: going to bed at the same time and sleeping 8 hours, cooking your meals and eating vegetables once a day, eating an apple a day, going for a run 3 times a week for 30 minutes, walking for 1 hour every day and so on.
Find a way – any way – to track your progress. This way you will have clarity, meaning and motivation.
4. Choose smaller goals that are stepping stones for your BIG goal
As I said, my advice would be to focus just on ONE thing. However, you can achieve one goal by successfully checking smaller ones off the list. This way, your tasks may seem smaller and easier to do. And you can choose what you should start with and then build on that.
For example, if you decide to learn French, you may start by studying a few grammar books. Then you can read short texts and try to understand them. You can check the unknown words in the dictionary and try to memorize them. Then you may want to learn how to write a few sentences in French. Once you are more confident, you can learn how to write essays or short stories. Then you can learn how to speak French. And so on.
It may be easier to know that for one day, week or month, you will focus on one smaller objective.
If you want to choose other objectives that have nothing to do with your main goal, you can do so. But my advice would be to do that only if those things are really important to you and if they are compatible with the main goal. For example, if your purpose is to write a book this year, maybe you should not learn how to paint, dance and act at the same time. Instead, you may want to learn how to use social media to promote that book once you have finished it.
5. Decide what your priorities are
You will never have enough time to do everything, so you should know what your priorities are. Maybe 2017 will be the year when you work more because you want to start your own company. Maybe this year you decide to work less so that you can start a new relationship and dedicate yourself to it. Whatever you decide, it is the right thing. But know what matters most. This way, you will know how to spend your time. Say yes to the activities that matter. And learn to say no to the people and activities that stop you from achieving your goal – even if they are fun.
The problem we have is that many times we know what we should do, but we do not do it. Jim Rohn said that “the formula for disaster is Could + Should + Won’t”.
Why don’t we do what matters? Well, one reason is not knowing what really matters and why. This is why I suggested setting one important goal and deciding what your priorities are. If you do not know what you want, anything can be equally important. What difference does it make if you learn about stocks and investments or play computer games? If you have no purpose, there is no difference. But if you want to become an investor, what you should and what you shouldn’t do becomes obvious, right?
Of course, saying yes to a big goal means saying no to something else (like watching TV or going out every day). The truth is that there will always be something you are missing out on. It is impossible to do everything. But once you know what you want and what is best for you, saying no to what holds you back is easy. It is not a sacrifice, it is an investment in yourself.
As David Allen said, “you can do anything, but not everything”. Spend your life doing something, not just anything!
6. Learn how to master yourself
Once you learn how to master yourself, you can rule the world. And that’s because you create your own life and your own world. It all starts with you. What you put out, you get back. What you sow, you reap. This is the reason why you should learn how to control yourself. Start paying attention to what you think and feel. Your thoughts determine your emotions and they determine your behaviour. If you want to change what you do, look at how you think and feel first.
Most people do not do this. They work on auto-pilot and are unaware of how they behave. If people act nicely to them, they do the same. If people are mean and hurt their feelings, they do the same. This means that they always give their power to anyone they interact with. Instead of choosing how to respond, they react in a similar manner. Of course, being nice to somebody that mistreats you is difficult at times. But why give up your power of deciding how you act? Why would you let them decide how you feel for 1 day, 1 hour or even 1 minute? Wouldn’t you want to know that, no matter what happens, you decide how you feel and how your day goes?
Once you learn how to do this, you will have no more bad days. You will do what you want, even if you “don’t feel like it”. Rather than letting emotions run you, learn how to manage them. And you can do this by being aware of what you feel and why and choosing to let it go. You are not your feelings so you should not let them control you. You should master them. Once you do, you will become free to choose what you think, feel and do. After all, what’s the point of being free if you give your freedom to anything and anyone around you?
7. Take action every single day
Some people like to dream and make plans for the future. But they never achieve them. Do you know why? Because the future does not exist. Tomorrow does not exist. Tomorrow is just the day that will become today in a few hours. Nothing really exists in the future. It is simply a concept we have designed to refer to the time that will come. But that time always comes – it always happens now. You can do nothing in the future. This is the reason why just setting a goal for next month or next year makes no difference in your life.
Instead of dreaming about the future and then going back to your life, plan for today. The goal you set for the entire year is achieved because of what you do TODAY. So once you have your goal, think about the activities you can do every day. Surely, some days you may be able to work for it more than others. But even so, make sure there is at least one thing you can do even on busy days – no matter how small. Form the habit of working for your goal daily. This way you will form a habit that will keep you going. Habits are hard to form, but even harder to break. Use this to your advantage by acting daily. Starting small today is better than starting big tomorrow!
These are some of the principles you can apply today and every day of this year. If you do, I believe you will succeed at almost anything you want. So dream big and then plan big. No great thing was achieved by a dreamer. It is always the doer that shapes the course of history. And the good news is that no matter who you are, where you are and what you did – you can do that too. Success is available for anyone. But not everyone will achieve it. Success is reserved for the people who dream big, plan big and take massive action. It is as simple as that. Now go do something! This is your day and today shapes your year. Happy New…Today!