As you know, 2011 was a hell of a year for me and I'm gonna try like hell to make 2012 even better. Oh, the possibilities! I’m convinced that the best way to make those possibilities a reality is to create a written plan of action. The process of writing forces you to articulate how you’d like to see the next year unfold. The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it is to make it happen. Writing things down increases the chances of actually manifesting them.
Planning the year ahead is going to take some time (a couple of hours) and a lot of thought, but don’t resist. If this were a project someone gave you at work, you’d do it, right? Well, this is one project you should actually care about!
Here is a goal-setting structure that I’ve used for several years. Like everyone else, over time I tend to drift away from my plan, but it’s better than nothing.
Health and fitness. Forget about what you’d like to weigh—that’s not the focus here. Think more about your overall health. Your body is the vehicle that gets you around on this earth—do you really want it to go to shit?
Write down some concrete steps you can take to improve your health, and I mean stuff you’ll actually do. If you’re like me and can’t bear the thought of going to a gym, for God’s sake, don’t put that down. Be realistic, and be specific. If you like to walk, can you commit to walking a half hour three times a week? Good. Make that part of your fitness plan.
In your calendar, pencil in reminders in the appropriate months for your physical and blood work, Pap, mammogram, eye, and dental appointments. Make and keep those appointments. What could be more important than your health?
Find a fitness buddy—you’ll be much more likely to walk, run, work out, or whatever you want to do.
Buy yourself a pedometer, and I mean a good one, not a piece of crap. The more you spend on it, the more likely you’ll be to use it. I got this one from Brookstone for Mike for Christmas a couple of years ago.
If you’re looking for an exercise video that kicks ass, get the Original Buns of Steel DVD. Don’t buy this through Amazon; it’s a lot cheaper if you go through instructor Greg Smithey’s website. Tell him Linda Lou sent you, but don’t say I give him the finger on the TV during the hard parts.
Work and professional. How do you feel about your professional life? Does your work bring you joy? If not, do you at least have entertaining co-workers to help you get through the day? If work is a source of stress or you can’t frame your current job in a positive way, it’s time to move on. Work takes up a big chunk of your life, and life is too short to be miserable.
If you haven't already, now is a good time to identify your God-given talents. What do you excel at? What do you do better than 90 percent of everyone walking on earth? Does your work allow you to let those talents shine?
Maybe work is going fine. What can you do to make it better? What would you need to do to get a promotion?
Make a list of the concrete steps you can take to advance yourself professionally. Identify the skills that would make you more marketable and commit to obtaining those skills. Take a continuing education class through your local community college. Look into the online courses offered through www.lynda.com. Update your resume. Join a professional association and network with people who are doing what you’d like to do. Do whatever you need to ensure your source of income brings you joy!
Activities and personal growth. Okay, maybe your dream job isn’t making the best use of your God-given talents, but the pay is decent and it doesn’t drain every last bit of your energy. That’s cool. But you still want to make the most of your time off the clock, right? And maybe find a way to share those talents with the world?
You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me they should write a book. Or do stand-up comedy. I usually respond with a matter-of-fact, “So do it,” which is invariably met with the deer in the headlights look. Yeah, yeah, yeah—it’s a lot easier to be a blowhard saying, “I could do this” and “I could do that” than actually taking the steps to make it happen.
But why not take the freakin’ steps and do it? Don’t know where to start? Do some research! Could the Internet make it any easier to learn about anything? You have to start somewhere, and when you walk in the mist, you get wet. Start walking in the mist!
Personal and creative projects always go on the back burner. That’s because nothing will go wrong if they’re not done and there’s generally no sense of accountability. No one’s asking, “Hey, are you done with that painting yet? When can we hear that song you’ve been working on? What have you been doing lately to overcome that fear of public speaking?”
It’s up to you. Make a list of personal goals you’d like to achieve and list the concrete steps you can take to help you achieve them.
Travel. Make a list of the day trips, long weekends, and vacations you’d like to take in 2011. Again, be realistic; if a trip around the world isn’t feasible right now, don’t put it down. Pencil these trips in on your calendar. Consider the gift of travel for a special birthday or other occasion. Taking a trip with a loved one creates memories that last far longer than any present or gift card.
Relationships/social. The folks you hang with have a tremendous impact on your character and how you live. Now is a good time to take inventory of the people in your life. Write down the names of those who lift your spirits, motivate or inspire you, crack you up, or make you feel better about yourself. We all have friends who support you to no end--they're almost like fans. How can you spend more time with them? Would any of them make a great fitness buddy? Make a plan to work on your health and fitness goal together.
On the other hand, you and I both know some "friends" can sap every friggin' ounce of your strength. Maybe they're perpetually negative, whiny, or can't get past their own personal "woe is me." If someone insists on using you as a sounding board for their neverending bitch-fests, do yourself a favor and ease away. Your time is valuable and is better spent elsewhere.
Maybe you'd like to expand your social circle. Go to MeetUp.com and browse through the groups in your area that match your interests. Commit to attending one of their meetings--that's a sure way to meet people with interests similar to yours. (BTW, I met Mike through the Henderson Writers Group.)
Is there a person at work you’ve been wanting to get to know better? Or maybe someone you don't really know, but have admired from afar? Ask him or her out to lunch or for a cup of coffee.
I think the very best way to meet new people is to go someplace by yourself. See a band, browse through Barnes and Noble, bring your laptop to Starbucks or Panera Bread... strike up a conversation with someone and you never know what will happen!
If you're lucky enough to have a partner in a love relationship, think of how you can strengthen your bond. What can you do to surprise and delight him or her? The element of surprise adds spice! Plan for a long romantic weekend--and don't forget to put it on your calendar.
Spiritual. What can you do for your soul in 2012? While you're making new friends in Barnes and Noble, look for books that might inspire you and feed your spirit. (What? You haven't read Bastard Husband yet? What the hell are you waiting for?)
Maybe this is the year you check out a church you've been curious about. Or why not work on mind and body together and sign up for a yoga class?
Nothing feeds the spirit more than being of service to others. Maybe this is the year you commit to doing volunteer work. Don't save the "surprise and delight" strategy for your romantic partner--think of simple things you can do to surprise and delight a special friend, elderly relative, or the stranger sitting across from you in the coffee shop.
Purchases and possessions. Make a list of the purchases you need to make in the next year. Mark your calendar for when you intend to buy them. You should already have some plans on your calendar by now; are these purchases still feasible? How important are they?
I live by one rule when it comes to buying stuff: I buy only the things I truly need or that bring me joy. That is so important! Whenever you're ready to buy something, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" and "Does it bring me joy?" A yes answer to either question is a green light. A no answer is a signal to walk away.
Think about what can you buy that will raise your standards. It's important to raise your standards; when you do this, your overall energy is raised, including the way you think about yourself. This affects how you present yourself to the world, which affects how the world treats you. I'm off on a tangent now; this is a topic for another post. But I will tell you my life has rocked out ever since I bought my new Scion and my iPhone. That thing has changed my life! So if you watch TV every day and TV is an important part of your life, buy yourself a good TV. You may not need it, but it will bring you joy!
Financial. Set some realistic financial goals and write down the steps you'll need to take to achieve them. Are you willing to work toward a promotion or take a part-time job? Watch every cent you spend; write down where your money goes, even if for just one week.
Look for places you can cut back. Are you paying for things that don't bring you joy? Are you paying a cell phone or car insurance bill for a kid out of college? It's time for that little angel to freakin' grow up! Ask for their contribution or tell them they're on their own. Can you cut back or get rid of cable and subscribe to Netflix instead? Can you share an account with someone?
Remember Purgefest 2010 when I got rid of three quarters of the shit I owned? I've never missed it! You'll be surprised at what you're hanging on to for no good reason. Getting rid of crap is liberating--mark your calendar for when you'll go through each room and closet. Sell everything you don't need or that doesn't bring you joy on eBay or Craigslist. If you can't sell it, give it to Goodwill or post it for free on Craigslist. By doing this, you'll either make a few bucks or lift your spirit by helping someone in need. If you're not using it and if it doesn't bring you joy, recycle it to the universe.
I have a lot more to say; this topic is way too big to address properly in a single post. At any rate, I hope this gets you started. Now get planning!