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I have never liked associating special dates or periods with self-improvement or reflections. I am one for daily/monthly/quarterly planning. However, I have slowly come to terms with the psychology behind planning for a new year and looking back at the year in retrospect. For some, it helps reset the dial — life.

2016 was a year-full for me. I watched some of my biggest dreams begin to take shape. I also noticed a number of slips; including carelessness in handling critical relationships and mismanagement of financial and time-based resources.
My goal at the beginning of 2016 was that I would live within 30 minutes from where I worked. Tick. I would resume at the gymnasium and be consistent. Tick. I would learn something new everyday. …errr… tick. I would learn yet another language. No Tick. I would go to Greece. No tick.
These were many things I ticked and marked as achieved. But there were many others that didn’t make the tick. I could easily blame this on my goal setting methods. I will explain shortly.

Because I spend a lot of my time researching techniques to bolster productivity, I often come across opinion that go against goal settings. And they are within reason. From Derren Brown to Leo Babauta to James Clear to Ina Garten. They believe that setting goals could be counterproductive and may be meaningless. I understand why. However, I still believe a clear focus is important in order to achieve anything. Mixing what I understand to be their point and what works for me, I will share with you what I believe is a better way to plan for the year.

1. Documentation system.

It is absolutely critical that your goals are written. Jon Butcher once said, the first part of achieving your goal is writing it down. Putting pen to paper(or whatever recording method) allows your mind to see this as important. Visualizing your points keeps them more grounded in your mind. But the system of your choice has to be important. If you’re going to use a software, say Microsoft Word, Notepad, whatever it is, you have to make sure it’s something you would see often. If you’re using a book, it has to be a special book. You have to place it around you like a Holy Grail of sorts. I use a custom designed notebook created by my friend Yewande Olofinro. I keep it by my bedside. I open it everyday because there are now words of affirmation written in it.

2. Center your plan 360 degrees around your life(Introducing the 7 F’s)

I have seen people plan only for their careers. Or some others just plan around habits they want to stop. Have you ever seen body builders who concentrate on their upper bodies and forget their legs? They end up looking like Johnny Bravo. Big upper body, tiny lower bodies. We don’t want that for our lives. Do we? Inspired by the book, Find Balance In An Unbalanced World, I use the 7 Fs.
Fitness, Faith(your spiritual life), Field(career), Finance, Fun, Family, Friends.

Just before writing out all of these,I would recommend writing an ‘executive summary’. Who you are! What type of person are you? Where do you see yourself in …., How does the average person perceive you? What name would you rather die as?

I don’t think I need to write about your goals being SMART but I should point out the most critical element to writing and achieving these goals:

3. The reason for these goals + adding emotion

One of the reasons the typical goal setting approach doesn’t work is that it often doesn’t make sense. I’ll explain. You tell yourself you want to lose 20kg in weight. But why? Is it just to look sexy? What happens after you lose 20kg? You say you want to be an Engineer? What happens after you become an Engineer?

What about planning backwards? First, I choose what I want out of life, then I work my way back to how to get what I want in life. Make sense? Okay, let me explain this way: I tell myself I want to live in the 1 acre mansion with loads of natural life around me, a great lake, swans in the lake, a basketball court for my children, a house with my own IMAX cinema room, a loving family with me spending loads of time with my wife and children etc. If that’s my life goal, how do I achieve that? It means I would need to get a job that allows me time for my family, give me the liberty to spend minimal time in location etc. So I decide to get that type of job. Say, a consultant. So what type of consultant do I want to be? A financial consultant because I love accounting etc. So I study more about consulting and accounting, put in my goal to write the required exams, write in my goal to start my own company or look out for companies that allow me flexible hours etc. Now, that’s how to plan a goal.
If you don’t have a compelling enough reason for these goals, you’re NOT going to achieve them. The reasons have to be strong. Very strong. Now, I can’t recommend how to measure the strengths of these goals. I can only tell that they have to have a meaningful reason that also ties to your life objectives. For instance, I initially wrote in my book that I would write and publish my third book in 2017. But really? Why do I need to write a third book? For prestige? For the I-have-written-another-book title? It wasn’t needed. I am excited about the ideas I have for another book but they are not compelling enough for me to make it a do or die. Also these goals have to have some emotional connection to it. If I told myself I wanted to lose weight, for instance, part of my reason could be how socially awkward I feel wearing shirts that show the flabbiness of my flesh. That’s emotional enough.

4. Theme them

I get a little bit of irritation when I see churches do the whole 2016 My Year Of Greatness theme. But the psychology behind this could be quite important. Your major push points can be themed. For instance, in my 2017 fitness plans, I recorded how in 2017 I will be Mr. Sicspacks(6 packs). Really, 2017 won’t end without me finding excuses and opportunities to show my abs. It may be a ‘seemingly accidental’ exposure of my tummy at a beach front’. It could be anything. But it will happen. In theming that aspect of my life as that, I am more conscious around what I eat; and my lifestyle choices as relates to my body in general.

You can choose multiple themes in each area of the Fs.

5. Review/Course-correction Periods

This part is where many goal-setters fail. They refuse to do periodic review of their goals. If you told yourself, for instance, that you were going to spend 50% less each month. The end of the month comes, you should ask yourself what worked or what did not work. Then in those periods, you can decide to put better measures in place to achieve that ultimate objective. For my Fitness goals, I have set a review period to every month. I have set my Fun goals to every three months. Those will defer depending on what you want to achieve.

6. Get an accountability partner

Once again, all of these won’t work if you don’t have accountability systems in place. How do we know you will stop smoking this year if someone you trust, who you’re accountable to is unaware of this goal? In finding an accountability partner, you should be looking at getting someone who you respect and whose opinion you trust. It could be your spouse, your spiritual leader, or a mentor.
I started with the aim of allowing my readers see my progress in dealing with different aspects of my life. Find a system that works for you. Send your spouse your goals. Let them review them with you after a particular period.

Three last words

  • I read a true saying, ‘we do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training’. Keep this in mind while you push to achieve those goals.
  • The fitness category shouldn’t be taken lightly. Without health everything we plan falls apart. With better quality of health, all these things we plan become easier.
  • It’s not too late to start planning. January 1, June 23, September 18… just do it. Plan every day! You don’t have to wait for a new year.

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