The start of a new year is always exciting and terrifying. Suddenly, you have a blank slate. An entirely new year. If you have changes you’ve been wanting to make, now seems like the perfect time.
But where do you start?
A few years ago, asking myself that question, I wrote out this list of what I focus on when writing goals. And because it’s been working so well, I want to share it with you.
When you’re trying to change your life, you need to look at all these areas, because they feed into each other. Your health affects your personal relationships. Your physical environment affects your work, and your financial goals. For the right goals that align with your overall happiness, you need to recognize that you are a whole person with a multi-faceted life.
Also, the areas are listed in order of importance. You’ll notice that the very first area is knowing who you are and what you want. If you don’t have that figured out, you can’t fully move on to the other steps, because you won’t be focusing on what you need. Instead, you’ll be writing goals based on what you think you need.
And why are money and love near the bottom of the list? That’s not because I don’t think they’re important–they definitely are–but because I firmly believe that when you have everything else on the list running smoothly, those last two steps will fall into place.
Note: At no time will every area of your life be perfect. It is your job to reflect and try to live a balanced life, so if one area falls apart, you have other passions to fall back on.
1. Spirituality / Knowing yourself
What are you currently doing to grow your spirituality (with or without a God)? Do you know who you are? Your identity / what you want? Many people mix up happiness with pleasure, but happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal.
2. Growth/ Learning
What are you doing to learn, grow, and push yourself out of your comfort zone? Especially in the age of information, are there topics you’d like to know more about? Do you want to learn more about yourself? More about your family?
3. Family/Friends/ Social Relationships
What are you doing to strengthen your relationships with friends and family? How are you supporting them, and how are they supporting you? Are there any toxic relationships in your life you need to get rid of? How are you taking charge to make things better?
4. Health/ Fitness
What are you doing to improve your health and well-being? How often are you moving your body? What are you eating?
5. Career/ Business/ Work
How are you improving your career and work environment? Are you treating your co-workers and/or employees with respect? Are you consistently moving forward in a positive direction? Are you passionate about your work? If not, are you looking for a career you are passionate about?
What are you doing for fun? Are you actively, frequently, and consistently seeking things to do to free your mind from the daily grind? If someone asked you what you do for fun, would you have an answer?
What are you doing to give back? How are you helping the community you live in? Are you part of a group you connect with? Are you taking a leadership role and using your skills to help? Are you making the community a better place to be?
8. Home/ Physical Environment
Do you keep your home clean, neat, and orderly…or is it chaotic, messy, and unsanitary? How are your relationships with those you live with? Can they be improved?
9. Partner/ Love/ Relationship
Are you treating your romantic partner(s) with respect? Are your partner(s) treating you with respect? Are you allowing yourself to take chances, be vulnerable, and open up? Are you also keeping your integrity and honesty intact? What are you looking for? Do you value yourself enough to refuse to settle?
10. Money/ Finance
What are your financial goals, and how do you plan to reach them? Do you have a plan in place, or is that something you need to work on? Do you know how your career will help you reach those financial goals? Do you need to make a budget?
As you’re thinking about these life areas and writing down goals, make sure your goals are SMART–that is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
For example, instead of “Learn Spanish,” try making it more specific (“Learn to speak and read Spanish”), measurable (“at a B2 level”), attainable (“by practicing on DuoLingo for 20 minutes every day”), writing down WHY this will help you (“so I can have better conversations with my cousins”) and adding a deadline (“by the end of the year”).
- Non-SMART goal: Learn Spanish.
- SMART goal: Learn to speak and read Spanish at a B2 level by the end of the year, by practicing on DuoLingo for 20 minutes a day, so I can have better conversations with my cousins.
Now you don’t just have a goal–you have a goal, AND a plan, AND a reason why you want to do it in the first place.
After you write out your SMART goals, you’ll also need to write down the baby steps in order to get to that goal. Think of these as mile markers–they’ll let you know you’re going in the right direction.
SMART goal: Learn to speak and read Spanish at a B2 level by the end of the year, by practicing on DuoLingo for 20 minutes a day, so I can have better conversations with my cousins.
- Baby step 1: Complete Duolingo Spanish unit 1 by February 28.
- Baby step 2: Read three Spanish articles.
- Baby step 3: Complete Duolingo Spanish unit 2 by April 30th.
- Baby step 4: Watch a Spanish movie without subtitles.
- Baby step 5: Complete Duolingo Spanish unit 3 by June 30th.
- Baby step 6: Listen to an episode of a Spanish podcast.
…and so on.
The idea is that by the end of this exercise, you’ll have a list of totally doable daily tasks that will get you exactly where you want to go.
What are you hoping to accomplish this year? What did you accomplish last year? Let me know in the comments!
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