For years I had the same list of New Year’s resolutions. I’d start each year with determination and energy and I’d even make a start on most of them but by the end of the year, they would have all fizzled out into nothing and I’d start the new year with that same list again. My bucket list was the same. I also had a list of amazing life goals, places I wanted to see, things I wanted to do and I might occasionally look into them but it never went anywhere.
Does that sound familiar? If it does, let me assure you, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a 2014 study by the University of Scranton 92% of people DON’T achieve their New Year’s resolutions. That’s an overwhelming number of us, right? The good news is, through some simple changes, you can be part of the 8% that do. In the last 8 years I’ve visited the Grand Canyon, been to the top of the Empire State Building, toured a number of The Lord Of The Rings locations in New Zealand including Hobbiton, made the switch from employee to entrepreneur, created a business helping others to build a life they love and crossed the number 1 item off my bucket list, visiting Boston. Before this year is over, I’ll be spending some time working and playing in Hawaii.
How have I achieved all this? I figured out the secret to success is as simple as taking consistent action on your dreams and now I’d like to share with you my 5 simple ways to take action every day so that you can do the same:
1. Write your goals down: they can be big goals, little goals and everything in between. It can be as long or as short as you want. Remember, it’s YOUR list, it needs to work for you. I’m sure you noticed that my list includes a lot of travel but if that’s not your thing, that’s totally fine! It might be finally writing that book you’ve always wanted to or learning to play an instrument or making your stage debut. You can hand write your list, you can make it a note on your phone or a document on your computer. The important thing is that it’s somewhere that you can review it and make changes to it regularly.
2. Pick one goal and break it down: a lot of people miss this step but it’s the most important one! The trick for getting any goal off your list and into reality is to work out what steps you need to take in order to achieve it. For example, when I break down a travel goal, my steps would include speaking with travel agents, researching the area and working out dates in the year I’d like to visit and how long I can be there. If you’re writing a book, your steps might be outlining what you would like to include in your book and researching how to get published. If you’re learning an instrument, your steps might be researching music classes in your area and working out whether you’d like to purchase or hire the instrument.
Try to write down at least 3 steps that you would have to take but if there are more, that’s absolutely fine too! Don’t worry if they’re not in order as you’re writing them down. Once you have all the steps, you can easily rewrite your list and put the steps in the order you need to take them. Again, the important thing is they’re written down somewhere that you can review regularly.
3. Schedule 10 minutes into each day to actually take the steps: we schedule so many things, hair appointments, doctor appointments, kids’ parties, meetings with clients but how often do we schedule time into our day to take action on our dreams? Seldom, if ever, right? This step is nearly as important as step 2 though. The only way you can take action on your goals every day is to make sure you’ve set aside time every day to do so.
Schedule that time in your calendar right now and put it on repeat! It can be during your lunch break, it can be after you put the kids to bed for the night, it can be while you’re waiting for your dinner to cook, it can be before you exercise in the morning. Find yourself 10 minutes somewhere, schedule it and put an alert on as a reminder. If you’re still using an old school paper planner, block that time out of each day for at least the month right now but still put an alarm on your phone as a reminder. When your scheduled time for the day starts, step away from social media and any other distractions, get out the list of steps you created above and work your way through them.
As you finish each step, cross it off! You’ll be amazed not only at the satisfaction you get from crossing off each step but the momentum you start to build and the progress you start to make when you’re taking small steps towards your goal each day. Tip: if you’ve decided to use the notes area of the phone for your lists, crossing things off might be a little difficult so as you achieve each step cut it and paste it into a done list instead. I also do this with my handwritten lists to as looking back at all the little steps you’ve achieved will show you how much you’ve accomplished and can be a powerful reminder of what you can do when you give yourself time to do it.
4. Put your lists somewhere you’ll see them every day and add photos for extra motivation: the steps above work best if you have visual reminders as well. This is the reason I use handwritten lists because I can put them up on the wall in my office and look at them every day. Seeing my steps being crossed off daily keeps me motivated.
Pictures especially start training your brain that this particular thing is important to you. Pinning photos of the particular goal you’re taking action on next to your list of action steps acts as a constant reminder of what you’re working towards. If you’re having trouble finding photos of your particular goal, you could also post words, quotes or song lyrics too but try to have at least one photo. You could go one step further and create a wallpaper for your computer or your phone with these photos so you’ve got additional motivation.
If you’re using your phone for these lists, take photos of them and create an album of your lists and photos for your goals and make this album the first thing you look at when you reach for your phone in the morning and the last thing you look at before you put your phone down for the night. You can keep updating the photos of your lists in this album as you take each step and pop your done list in there too.
5. Reward yourself: most of us would probably consider achieving our goal the reward but it’s important to reward yourself along the way as well. Positive reinforcement works just as well for adults as it does for kids. Each time you complete your scheduled 10 minutes for the day, celebrate! It doesn’t have to be big, it can be as simple as a fist pump or dancing to your favourite song. It just has to be something that acknowledges that you completed what you were supposed to for the day!
That little acknowledgement signals to your brain that these action steps are a positive experience so you’ll start finding that taking action each day becomes easier and less stressful. If you need an extra push, and sometimes we all do, physical rewards can work too. I love stationery, so in those weeks I need some extra motivation, my reward will be allowing myself to buy that shiny new notebook at the end of the week only if I take action every day. You could substitute that with anything, a new book, a new DVD, even watching a particular movie or TV episode on Netflix! You might have to experiment a little to find what works best for you but keep trying and once you do, keep doing it.
If you start doing these 5 simple things and taking action every day, you’ll be amazed at the results you’ll start seeing. Consistency is the key. Rinse and repeat. Take a minute and really imagine the way that you’ll feel about yourself when you start actually achieving your New Year’s resolutions and crossing things off your bucket list. What are you waiting for?
About the author:
Corinne Lennox is on a one woman mission to help people work out what they really want in life and tailor their own unique action plan to get there. Warning: side effects include, but are not limited to, more joy, more clarity, more confidence and living a life you love. You can find her at facebook.com/corinnelennoxcoach.