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4 Steps to Creating Achievable Goals for the New Year

01/04/2015 11:30 EST | Updated 03/06/2015 05:59 EST
Ilya Bushuev via Getty Images

Well, here it is -- 2015 has arrived with all of its new possibilities. We now have the opportunity to press the reset button and create an action plan that can lead us closer to our goals and vision. It is a natural time to reflect upon the year that has passed and think about the year ahead. As with any plan, it is helpful to examine what is and isn't working and to then adjust accordingly.

As a therapist, I encourage people to set goals that are practical, realistic and attainable. Avoid the disappointment and discouragement of lofty resolutions by being patient and committed. Pause for a moment, and take a look at your life. Be careful that you do not overwhelm yourself with a perfectionistic elaborate goal setting process, complete with a Martha Stewart vision board. Goals are achieved one step at a time; we need to put some thought into where we are in the moment in order to understand where we are going next.

Once we have put some thought into our lives and our vision for the future, the next steps are to identify and evaluate priorities and create a concrete plan to move forward. Take a moment and think about your health, your relationships with others, how you are using your time, and what kind of financial shape are you in. In order to achieve this, I offer some simple and practical points of reflection and planning strategies that can reveal your priorities and assist you in moving forward.

1. Evaluate your relationships. Our connections can elevate or deflate us. What is the vision you have for the relationships in your life? Who would you like more time with? Which relationships feel balanced? Make a quick list with four categories headings -- "More," "Just Right," "Growth" and "Less" -- and then just start throwing names into the categories and see where they land. Do these names match the positions they actually hold in your life? Are there any changes you need to make? Pick one thing to change and then do it!

2. Evaluate your time. What are your top three passions and interests? How much of your time is spent on the things that truly nourish you? Do a quick pie diagram and guess how you spend a typical day. Does it match up to your priorities? Get out your schedule and actually mark time in the calendar for your top priorities. Make the schedule your friend, not your enemy. I use the calendar on my phone for this activity, as it helps me plan and experience the things that mean the most to me.

3. Evaluate your financial goals. Do not be afraid to look at this aspect of your life, as denial will only lead you further away from achieving you financial goals. Does anything need to change? Are you on the right course? January is a great time to meet with your financial advisor to check in, review your plan and adjust it as needed. This is an example of "information is power": your choices will be empowered if you have the needed information. Each step forward takes you closer to your vision.

4. Evaluate your health. How are you feeling physically and mentally? This is a great time to schedule a physical with your doctor and follow up on any of the self-care that you let slip during the holidays. Could a counsellor assist you in developing strategies in regards to your personal growth? Be kind to yourself as there is no movement in beating yourself up about what you have not done. Make a list of the three health practices that bring you joy and growth, and then move towards these things that make you feel alive.

I encourage you to put a plan in place, but remember that life has an interesting way of throwing us curve balls along the way. It is the journey that truly matters. Stay mindful of the moments you are in, enjoy those you meet with along the way, and treat yourself well. You are the best travelling companion you will ever have along this journey. Create a vision, but leave some wiggle room along the way for the unexpected.

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