Well, we made it. It’s 2021. The world’s longest year is finally over. Because of everything that happened in 2020, I think a lot of people are putting a ton of pressure on this year to be better. Theoretically, that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish, but let’s be logical. Today is just another day. Things don’t suddenly change overnight because the calendar says it’s a new year. So let’s not focus on the date so much as how we approach the current moment, whether it’s January 1st, June 15th, November 23rd… you get the point.
I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’m not against them as a concept. I think it’s important to set goals, intentions, and make plans. But I think those activities should be ongoing throughout the year, and not just at the beginning. What usually happens is people get these grand ideas of all the positive changes they’re going to make in their lives. They get excited. They talk about the great things they’re going to do. Things they’ve been putting off or haven’t been focused enough to accomplish. And everything is instantly going to change when the ball drops.
But then what often happens, is they drop the ball. The resolutions weren’t realistic. Maybe they were too drastic of a change and something they should’ve worked up to more gradually. Perhaps they planned too many things to reasonably fit into a day, or week, or month. Sometimes they just weren’t ready to do the work. Whatever the reason, that excitement that was building in December plummets, and they’re often left feeling worse about their situation than before. Why? Because they feel like they failed. They made a declaration and didn’t follow through. So now they not only have to deal with all those things they still want to change, but also an enhanced disappointment in themselves. It’s too much pressure, and it’s often not fair.
We always have to be prepared to pivot.
And of course that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people do make good on their promises to themselves and are able to celebrate those victories. As they should. We should always be striving to improve the way we run our businesses, and there is no blueprint for what the “right” way is. Success is very personal because we all want different things. For some, it’s more money. For others, more time. Some look for notoriety. Awards. Follower counts. Or to simply make a difference. So your goals are very personal, too. And what is a resolution, if not just a fancy name for a goal?
The other tricky part about setting goals at the beginning of the year is that things change between January and December. Sometimes from one day to the next. I’m sure no one was considering “what if we have a worldwide pandemic?” when they made their resolutions for 2020. With such a huge unexpected event like that, everyone understands that we’ve had to make changes. But it doesn’t have to be a catastrophic situation to create the need for change in our lives. As business owners, we always have to be prepared to pivot. To go in a completely different direction than what we initially expected.
Think quickly, take charge, and find a solution.
I think about my role as a producer. So much of that work is about anticipating changes. We do everything we can to prepare for a job and try to ensure it’ll go as smoothly as possible. But production doesn’t always go smoothly. Something usually goes wrong – a piece of gear stops working, the DP realizes he needs more lights than anticipated and we don’t have them available, flight paths change and you have to pause every few minutes until the plane noise goes away. And a whole mess of other issues that I’ve seen over the years. Regardless of what it is, you don’t get to just shut down while you figure it out. Usually you’re on a tight timeline and a strict budget and any little change could have huge repercussions. So I’ve kind of had to learn how to expect the unexpected. Anticipating problems is one thing, but you also have to have Plans B, C, and D figured out for pretty much every scenario you can imagine. And then when something happens that wasn’t in any of your backup plans, you have to think quickly, take charge, and find a solution. And if you’re good at it, you implement that solution before anyone ever realizes there was a problem. It’s a lot of “hey, this thing we planned on didn’t work out, but here’s how we’re going to make it work instead.”
And that’s how life works a lot of the time, too. You may have spent a ton of time planning what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it and what it’s going to be like when you reach that goal. But sometimes something out of your control is going to happen and totally throw you off course. When that happens, you basically have two choices. You let that change defeat you and give up, or you figure out a new plan and keep moving forward.
Don’t hold yourself hostage to an idea if it no longer resonates with you.
Changing course doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Changing your mind doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Sometimes that thing that happens, that thing that’s out of your control, is you. You change your mind. Somewhere along your journey, you decide that it’s not the right path for you after all. Your priorities shift. You find something new you’re more passionate about. No matter what happens, you have every right to change your mind. Don’t hold yourself hostage to an idea if it no longer resonates with you. You haven’t wasted your time if you’ve learned something, even if what you’ve learned is that you don’t actually want what you thought you did.
So how do you set goals, whether they’re for the new year or any other time, when the only constant is change? You’ve probably heard about SMART goals, and if you haven’t, do a quick Google search. The gist of it is to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Specific means detailed. You don’t want a vague resolution like “I want to lose weight.” Instead, be specific – “I want to lose 20lbs.”
Measurable means there is some kind of statistic you can reference. So instead of “I am going to do better at pitching my services,” you would say, “I am going to reach out to 10 potential clients every week.”
Attainable means to be realistic. Is your goal practical? If you made $50,000 dollars last year, is it reasonable to set a goal of making $500,000 this year? Maybe. I hope so, for your sake. But unless you have a really strong plan in motion to make that happen, maybe you should set the goal to make 10% more than you did last year. Aim to beat your goal, but don’t make it so far-fetched that you’re setting yourself up for potential disappointment.
Relevant means it’s significant and really matters to you. If you’re like me and don’t love social media, and it doesn’t really convert to business for you anyway, it probably doesn’t make sense to set a goal to post every day. You might have a goal to shift your mindset and try to embrace a platform to see if it does improve your business, but make sure the goal is relevant to what you’re doing, and not just because the experts out there say you “have” to.
Time-based means give yourself a deadline. Every goal should have a deadline, even if it feels arbitrary. Without it, it’s too easy to put things off for every reason in the world. So don’t just tell yourself you’re going to write 10 new blog posts. Tell yourself you’re going to write 10 blog posts by January 31st. It’s a way to keep yourself accountable.
I think it’s helpful to balance out short- and long- term goals. It’s great to have those big picture ideas for the entire year, but break those down into smaller pieces with checkpoints along the way. You’re much more likely to follow through with something that will take you 2 weeks than something that will take you 52. You might be the most ambitious person in the world, but you still need to be realistic.
So if your goal is to increase your income by 10% for the year, think about what you’re going to do to accomplish that.
Is it more client outreach? Email 5 potential clients a day.
A bigger investment in advertising? Create a new social media ad campaign in the first quarter and create one element of it every week.
Do you need to spend more time networking? Dedicate 2 hours every Wednesday to engaging in your Facebook groups or Clubhouse rooms.
Developing a new product or service? Plan out the different modules of your online course so you can complete one every two weeks.
Whatever it is, lay it all out there and keep breaking it down into smaller steps. Make it so detailed that all you have to do is start crossing things off your list.
Find that balance between accountable and flexible.
And as you start working through the pieces, what do you do when things change? Update your plan! You want to find that balance between accountable and flexible. If one step doesn’t work out the way you intended, don’t give up on the whole thing. If you don’t accomplish one of your goals, don’t abandon the idea of setting them altogether. Instead, replace it with something new. Keep working towards something, whatever makes the most sense for you.
My goal with this episode is not to sway you against making New Year’s resolutions, or any other traditions you might have for this time of year. It’s only to encourage you ti think about the practicality of what you’re resolving to do. Be conscious of how you really feel. What is your motivation for that goal? Are you doing it because you really want to, or is it just because you think you should? Or if you’re almost there and it suddenly doesn’t feel right, is it because you’re not sure you want it anymore? Or could you actually be afraid of what happens when you get there? Fear of success is a real thing. When you spend so much time and energy working towards something, you often don’t know what to do when you get it. And then there’s a tendency to jump right into the next goal.
I think it’s great to be motivated and to strive for more. But I hope you at least take a little time to appreciate what you have accomplished. It’s okay to stay still for a bit to acknowledge your achievements and take a break from the hustle to honor yourself.
So go ahead and make your New Year’s resolutions, if that’s the right thing for you. But while you’re thinking about what you want to do differently, take a minute to remember what you want to stay the same. Make new goals, sure, but don’t only focus on the things you don’t have or that you don’t think you’re doing well. Balance that out with what you do have and what you are doing well, and keep that in mind as you work your way through this year.
Give yourself permission.
You’ve already done so much, so give yourself some credit. And while you’re at it, give yourself permission. Permission to go after what you want. Permission to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. And permission to change your mind if what you’re thinking isn’t working for you. Whatever it is you want to do, you can start taking steps now, no matter what date is on the calendar. Happy new year!