By Colleen Star Koch, in collaboration with Jessica Trainor, Guest Coach and Opera Singer.
Ah yes...New Year's Resolutions - that vaunted annual grab-bag of goals that tend to die by February 1st. Why? We've noticed several distinct trends. First of all, people often set a huge number of lofty goals for themselves, and then become overwhelmed and disheartened when they can't accomplish as many as they planned (despite the fact that the plan was impossible to begin with). Alternately, folks create goals that come from a space of self-judgement, dictated by fear and negativity. The perfect example of this is, "God damnit, I'm fat. Next year, I'm going to eat healthy, go to the gym 5 days a week, and lose 30 pounds."
By breaking your big goals down month-by-month, "SCARY CHANGE" turns into smaller steps that are measurable and achievable. The larger goal encapsulates the “master list," and the monthly goals serve as the more daily to-do lists on the journey. These steps also provide opportunities for consistent attention and repetition, the two factors that have been shown to lead to strong positive habits that last over time. You learn new skills that go into your toolbox, and can pull them out as you advance down the road to your ultimate goal.
Your month-by-month guide to being freaking awesome in 2018:
January - Create a vision board that brings your yearly goal to life, so that it’s more than just a sterile, two-dimensional idea in your mind. Then get to go work breaking that big, delicious goal into monthly chunks. Keep in mind, some of those chunks are going to be in addition to what we’re recommending for each month below, because we believe that the division between personal and professional is artificial and detrimental to both environments. When you are a more balanced, confident, happy person, you are guaranteed to do better at work!
- February - Develop targeted strategies to achieve your goals. Essentially, this means taking those monthly chunks you came up with in January and breaking them down further into powerful, actionable strategies. Make sure that you are attending to both the tactical, logistical steps it will take you to get from here to there and the steps you’ll need to take to become the person who can level up in the way you want. For example, if you need to improve your comfort in social situations, come up with practical strategies to help you improve in this area. Don’t just say, “network more,” without attending to the personal changes you’ll need to make to succeed in a networking environment.
March - Design your Ideal Weekly Schedule. You’ll notice a trend here - each month, we’re breaking down your big goal further and further. Our brains are wired to shy away from big change, because whatever you were doing before was keeping you alive, and the brain doesn’t like expending unnecessary resources. This makes it challenging to move past “comfortable and familiar” into real progress. You can trick your brain to support you by making the steps feel small and super doable. And we just happen to have an activity that will help you show up as your best self both at work and at home!
- April - Focus on developing a growth mindset. This doesn’t mean transforming your negative thought patterns to positive ones right off the bat. Nope - the brain will resist that just like your kid would resist a last-minute Halloween costume change from the Evil Queen to Snow White. It means shifting your mindset from negative to possible. What does this mean for you, when it comes to overcoming your fixed mindset around learning new skills? To start - stop priming yourself for failure by saying to yourself, “I’m bad at [insert your personal challenges here].” You are deciding the future and manifesting it. Replace that thought with something like, “Well, it’s been a while since I tried something like that. I’d like to see how I could improve!”
Or, if that feels like too much of a stretch, start with something as simple as, “I’m not good at Powerpoint YET.” The simple act of creating mental space for other possibilities will transform your ability to grow as a professional. This isn’t my opinion - I’ve seen this work with hundreds of clients.
Remember: what you think determines how you feel; how you feel determines the actions
you're enabled to take; the actions you take determine the resulting quality of your life!
- May - Commit to taking your confidence to the next level! First of all, let’s clarify the difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is having a core-deep respect for and belief in yourself. Arrogance is assuming that you are better than the people around you, and behaving in a way that communicates that belief. As a starting point, make a list of five things that increase your confidence and five things that decrease your confidence. Then put a plan in action to do more of the former and less of the latter! Next up, try this in social situations. Get out there and network! And remember - networking doesn’t have to be evil. It’s just an opportunity to develop mutually beneficial, meaningful professional relationships. You got this!
June - Practice real work/life balance during a time of year when not much is happening anyway - at least at work. Put a plan together for the rest of your summer that allows for professional progress as well as plenty of leisure time. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Remember that play IS productive - in fact, it’s one of the best ways to brainstorm and develop new ideas! So get out there and have a blast!
July - We’re half-way through the year, so now is your opportunity to check in on that big goal you set for yourself in January. How are you doing? Where are you succeeding, and how can you bring more of that good stuff into the rest of the year? What are your growth areas, and how do you want to tackle them? Take some time to re-calibrate, and set new monthly goals through December that will get you where you want to go!
August - This is the perfect month to dive into a passion project! What do you absolutely love to do? This month, create some serious space to explore your passions. Having trouble staying accountable to fun exploration? Find a collaborator, and pick a passion project you’d love to do together!
September - Summer is over, and we’re back to the grind. Instead of letting that malaise creep up on you, decide how you want to level up as a professional before the year is out, and invest in some meaningful professional skill-building. Take a look at the continuing education opportunities at your local college or university, or find out what General Assembly is offering. Even the YMCA often has lots of useful courses. Get lost in a bookstore, or follow your interests down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. However you learn, make a commitment to improving in the direction of your ideal career path!
October - The holiday season is upon us. Does anyone else find it hard to make real progress on your goals when you’re also trying to organize the perfect Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and everything in between? I know I do! In October, find an accountability partner who is just as committed as you, and come up with a regular meeting schedule. When you meet, decide what you want to be accountable for by your next meeting, and then follow up! Sharing your path to progress with another person isn’t just helpful, it’s inspirational!
November - Numerous studies have shown that two of the most consistent indicators of happiness are gratitude and generosity. Take this month to both reflect on and communicate to others those things you are grateful for, and extend your generosity in meaningful ways. This might mean charitable giving or volunteering, but it could also be as simple as making more time for a friend who is really struggling or creating space in your schedule to mentor a younger professional. You’ll be surprised by how much energy you receive through the acts of giving and gratitude.
- December - Not everything has to be hard work. December is the month to note and celebrate your wins, as well as to call out the progress of your friends, family and colleagues. A little acknowledgement goes a long way. Try to find something meaningful, true, and thoughtful that you can share with the people who mean something to you, and share it!