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  • by Lindsay Troxell
  • Senior Consultant, Practice Management, TD Ameritrade Institutional

New Year, New You?

The New Year means resolutions for many. It’s a time when we can cast away our faults and start fresh with the promise of a better self. We reflect on shortcomings and strategize ways to overcome obstacles and achieve goals that have eluded us. For most, these promises we make to ourselves won’t last through the month. Why is that? What could possibly get in the way that is more important than a promise to be better than we were the year before? The answer is simple, because it requires Energy and Time and that’s Hard and it Hurts. The thought of putting effort into creating a detailed plan that we may or may not end up using is exhausting. It’s that kind of defeatist attitude that holds us back. But if we continue to do what we have always done, how do we ever expect to see different results?

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If you’re ready to break the cycle of empty promises, here are 10 solid tips to creating New Year’s resolutions with purpose.

1. Hold a Planning Session

• Make day of it! Find a creative space where you can post things on the walls, draw on a window or whiteboard, tear things out of magazines, and access the Internet for research.
• Invite others – if there are people who you will need to make your plan work, it’s a good idea to get their support from the start.
• Healthy snacks and beverages will keep you going through the day. Don’t let your energy slipping due to lack of nourishment be an excuse to end your session early.
• Stay moving! Staying active with yoga breaks or other simple exercises will keep your creative juices flowing.
• Have a plan – think about what you need to accomplish and how much time you’ll spend on each topic.
• Hire a facilitator – if it’s your first time doing something like this, consider hiring someone to facilitate your planning session so you don’t get stuck or overwhelmed.

2. Create a Vision

• Start your strategy session by visualizing yourself at a time in the future when you are living your ideal life. How would that look? How would you feel? What would that life allow you to do that you aren’t able to do today? Create a picture of your vision through a Vision Board exercise by cutting out images from magazines or creating a board in Pinterest.

3. Identify Objectives

• Once you have a clear vision of where you want to be in the future, you can identify long-term strategic objectives that create the path to get you there. These are things like Business, Career, Financial, Personal Growth, Lifestyle, Relationships, Community, Recreation, and Faith. These are the areas in your life that you want to focus on. Look to your Vision Board to see what images you have captured for inspiration. These guides will help you identify your short- and long-term goals as well as keep you on track when other ideas or opportunities present themselves. You can have as many objectives as you want, however, picking 3-5 is more realistic when trying to focus your intentions and energy.

4. Set SMART Goals

• Goal setting is about the Where and the When, not the How (that’s the action plan). In this phase of the process you want to stay focused on where you want to go and what you want to achieve within each of your strategic objectives. Use the SMART structure when creating your goals. Be sure you’re not trying to take on more than you can handle here. It’s important to have some STRETCH goals, but you also want to be sure you chose ones that you know you can tackle. It’s easy to get discouraged if you bite off more than you can chew early in the process.

SPECIFIC: What exactly do you want to accomplish? What is the outcome that you want? What will it look like when you reach your objective?

MEASURABLE: Quantify your goal so that you know when you achieve it. State your goal so your progress toward it is measurable. Example: If your goal is to have a ‘more balanced life’ then you want to define what you mean by ‘more.’

ATTAINABLE: This goal should be within your capabilities and free of unsurmountable barriers. If this goal depends on anyone else, consider rewording it so it only depends on you.

RELEVANT: This goal should apply to one of your chosen objectives and move you forward. If it isn’t that important for you to reach this goal to move you forward, then it is the wrong goal.

TIME-SPECIFIC: Identify when will you reach this goal or by when it will be an established habit. When will you start? What is your deadline?

5. Create an Action Plan

• Now that you know what goals you want to achieve, identify the set of action steps that will create tangible progress toward each goal. Leverage the Could Do > Want To > Will Do exercise to move you from possibilities to decisions to committed actions.

COULD DO: Option questions explore the possibilities of what you could do to reach your goal. By identifying all the options, you can decide which ones you want to do.
– What else could you do?

WANT TO: Chose an option for how you want to accomplish your goal. This step ensures you have chosen the option that will work best for you vs. letting outside forces dictate your path.
– Which of these options do you want to pursue?
– Is that a step you want to take?

WILL DO: Commit to a specific action step by declaring exactly what you are going to do.
– What will you do, by when?
– What will you commit to do in the next two weeks to keep you moving forward?
– What is your next step?

6. Visualize Success

• With your plan in place you can begin to execute on your chosen activities. However, as you do, don’t get lost in the minutia of the activity itself. It’s important to visualize what success looks like on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so you remember why you are working so hard.

7. Share Your Plan

• Don’t keep your plan a secret, share it with the people in your life. Outside parties could unknowingly be contributing to your challenges or creating obstacles that ultimately could be avoided. While you never want to create a goal that depends on someone else, you do want to elicit support where you can.

8. Check-In

• It’s a good idea to track your progress along the way with a few different techniques. Journaling provides a daily review of how you progressed toward your goals. Capture the same information each day so you can review how your activities impact the areas of your life you’re trying to influence. Make sure you have defined check-in times to review your progress with a standardized way to report on your success. By analyzing the data, you can identify what worked well, what got in your way and if you’re on track.

9. Recalculate

• Sometimes things don’t work out the way we’ve planned, but that doesn’t mean you throw in the towel. Just like how a traffic jam can cause your GPS to recalculate the best route to your destination, recalculating your plan based on your check-ins might be necessary as well. Just because your plan made sense when you started doesn’t mean you need to stick to it in its original form. Don’t let every distraction derail the plan you’ve put in place. The key is to ask yourself if making an alteration to your plan will help or hurt your efforts.

10. Celebrate Your Achievements

• Keep in mind why you started this journey. Life is lived in the journey not just in the destination — so celebrate your achievements and milestones along the

Lindsay Troxell

Lindsay Troxell, Senior Consultant, Practice Management, TD Ameritrade Institutional

way. Reward yourself with something that reinforces the positive actions you’re taking toward your goals.

It will take energy. It will take time. It will require dedication. It will require willpower. You will need to make tough decisions. It requires sacrifice. There will be temptation. But, I promise, when you reach your goal, it is worth it. I know it looks like a lot to consider when thinking about a New Year’s resolution, but don’t over complicate it. All you need to do is follow the 10 steps I’ve outlined and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your 2017 goals!

Let’s start a discussion! Share your New Year’s resolution, ideas for your planning process, questions, concerns, or whatever you want to talk about in the comment section below.

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