The year is coming to an end, and most of us are getting ready to close up shop and dive into the festivities.

Before we do that though, we’ll need to take stock and come up with a game plan for when we return in the new year, also known as resolutions. Remember those? You may have made some eleven months ago. How did you do?

1. Review your progress

Before you can decide where you want to go next, you need to figure out how far you’ve come. This will help put things into perspective for you. You may not have reached as far as you had intended to go, but you might be too close to give up now. On the other hand, you may have exceeded your expectations, in which case, congratulations!

Either way, diligently tracking our progress has been demonstrated to correlate positively with goal attainment and success in a study by by Benjamin Harkin, PhD and his colleagues, published by the American Psychological Association.

“They found that prompting participants to monitor their progress toward a goal increased the likelihood that the participants would achieve that goal. Furthermore, the more frequent the monitoring, the greater the chance of success.

Additional analysis revealed that monitoring progress had an even greater effect if the information was physically recorded or publicly reported. For example, people who belong to weight loss groups where they regularly weigh themselves in front of other members have a greater chance of achieving their weight loss goals.”

2. Reexamine your strategy

Now that you know where you excelled and where you didn’t, you’ll need to figure out why. Was it a lack of effort or the nature of the goals themselves? Was it the system that you used to pursue your goals? Did you even have a system at all?

We’ve been taught to make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based) but that’s only the first step.

The second and most important step, is to have a system in place that will guide your actions, propel you forward, and also help you maintain your achievements or grow them further along.

Simply having a goal and not anchoring it to a sustainable system will leave you subject to the ebb and flow of motivation, as well as the emergencies and unexpected curveballs that life throws.

You may notice that a lot of your failures happened because “something else came up,” something that you decided was more important than your goals in the moment.

Having a system ensures that you commit, show up and perform, no matter what. It also gives you a road-map on how to get back on track when you deviate.

You’ll need to think about how you’ve been going about chasing your dreams, and decide if you need to refine or discard your current methods in favor of a more dependable structure.

3. Reevaluate your goals

Finally, look at ALL the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year.

Did the ones you achieved bring you the happiness and fulfillment you wanted? If so, how will you maintain what you’ve achieved? Would you like to take it further?

If achieving your goals didn’t make you any happier then you’ll need to figure out why. Maybe the reality isn’t what you had hoped for and you need to dig deeper to find out what you truly want.

For the goals that you set and didn’t achieve or even pursue, you’ll need to decide if you’d like to give it another go or not. Does this thing still matter to you now? Will it matter 10 years from now? If you don’t see a clear benefit accruing from it, then you can choose to let go and make room for more meaningful goals.

A study by Kennon M. Sheldon and Tim Kasser found that only the goals that we set for ourselves and chase for our own satisfaction actually make us happy upon achievement. Doing things to please other people does not improve your own well-being, no matter how stellar your results and/or performance.

“In the current prospective study, participants with stronger social and self-regulatory skills made more progress in their goals over the course of a semester. In turn, goal progress predicted increases in psychological well-being, both in short-term (5-day) increments and across the whole semester; At both short- and long-term levels of analysis, however, the amount that well-being increased depended on the “organismic congruence” of participants’ goals. That is, participants benefited most from goal attainment when the goals that they pursued were consistent with inherent psychological needs.”

Now that you’ve celebrated your victories, learned your lessons and pruned your list, it’s time to detach! Seriously, put everything aside (and out of your mind), and enjoy your time with your loved ones. This will give you a broader perspective and fresh eyes when you finally return to create your list for the next year; guided by your lessons from this year, and the brand new ideas and energy that you can only get from spending time away from work.


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