Well, babes, it’s officially 2017, and I’m fully submerged in the shimmering newness of it all. I have high hopes for the next twelve months… But here’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way: without an action plan, hopes don’t evolve into results.
What about you? Aren’t you tired of hoarding dreams and ideas because you can’t figure out how to make them real? Aren’t you tired of procrastinating on passion projects and doing what you love?
Well, enough is enough.
I want you to have an amazing year, so I dug into my mental inventory of life lessons and 2016 epiphanies. The result was this post. It’s full of actionable, realistic tips for making 2017 a seriously stellar year.
Before you jump in, you should know something about me: I COMPLETELY embrace resolution making.
I think it’s ludicrous to discourage people from embracing a fresh start, even if failure to follow through is typical. Change can take a few times around the block to stick, and there are so many factors to achieving your goals.
But to not even try…?
You should never give up on reaching higher. Having hopes, dreams and goals not only gives life a lot more spice, it can even help you live longer. Not surprising, but kind of amazing.
So, seriously. Get on the bandwagon—and I’ll get off my soapbox, promise!
Here are 5 ways to make 2017 your best year yet… for real.
1. Pay your respects to 2016.
Falling for the future is such a common human condition, and I hate to keep blaming “modern times” like a crotchety old lady, but our total obsession with whatever is next is essentially a modern curse.
We have fast fashion, instant downloads, same-day delivery… we just don’t want to slow down.
Because of this impulse, we tend to hop from one phase of our lives to the next quickly, whether it’s starting a new project, switching jobs or starting a new year. When we glide into the next ~thing~ without taking the time to celebrate (or mourn) the one before it, we miss out on valuable insight, richer memories and life lessons that grow out of our experiences.
There are probably deeper, more inspiring ways to say this… but if you just keep living and never look back, you’ll risk losing sight of who you are.
Not knowing who you are makes it very hard to handle big life decisions… and even small ones.
Resist the urge to bury 2016 completely, even though it was a rough one for many of us. It’s officially in the past. Take time to go through your year, recognize what was awesome about it, laugh, cry, and sit with your experiences.
Acknowledge that it all happened and that you survived it.
You’ll probably come up with some specific ideas for what you do/don’t want 2017 to look like based on this exercise, but try to keep it neutral. Don’t write anything down. Don’t think about 2017 yet.
At the end of your mental trip, you’ll feel more grounded, more whole, more prepped for the future than if you’d just let a year slip away unceremoniously.
(If you try this one, I would LOVE to know how it goes for you. Drop me a comment below.)
2. Repeat after me: If nothing changes, nothing changes.
Change is scary.
It’s so much easier to stay where we are and not deal with the uprooting of relationships, habits and ideas.
Most of us give up on resolutions for this reason. There’s a novelty in modifying your life for a new year, but that quickly wears off as we remember how much we prefer our old routines.
When we really try to change, we fling ourselves into the unknown, and we have no way of knowing if we’re going to succeed or fall flat on our faces.
Yep, change is terrifying! If you’ve ever taken a big leap out of your comfort zone, you know this. And you also know that it’s impossible to implement real change without that detachment from the comfortable present.
Commit to moments of discomfort, confusion and transition.
Don’t be scared of the unknown. Be brave and trust that things will work out. They always do, when you’re taking action with intention. Just focus on your goals and the new version of your life you’re aiming for this year.
Another thing: Don’t let the fear of what “might” happen freeze you in one place. Hypothetical what-if’s are the enemy of progress. Decide right now that you’re going to boss up in the face of fear and make this YOUR year.
If you don’t, you’ll be sitting on your ass on January 1st 2018, wishing you had given yourself that chance.
I’m rooting for you!
3. Decide what you REALLY want, and why.
If you’re going to put all of this effort into changing your life, you’ve got to know what you want your new life to look like, or, more specifically, how you want to feel when you get there.
We all have things we think we want: more money, chicer clothes, better skin—whatever. But have you ever received something you were pining for, only to find out it didn’t actually make you feel good?
I love-love-love Danielle Laporte’s annual guiding question for the New Year: how do you want to feel?
If the answer is “stress free and jovial”, what changes can you actually make to sustain that? If your answer is “free of the corporate grind” or “strong and independent”, how do your current resolutions stack up to those goals?
The second part of this is figuring out your “why”.
If you can identify your core reasons for wanting to feel a certain way, you’ll have something to fall back on when the amusement of making resolutions wears off and you’re left with the task of sticking to them. For example, when I dig down past the superficial stuff, my “why” for pretty much everything is freedom.
Freedom to me is about time, creativity, and energy. That’s why I moved my writing career online, became a digital nomad and began ruthlessly designing my own schedule.
Sustaining this kind of lifestyle is tiring! It’s a lot of work. Some days I just want to stay in bed and search for cushy day jobs.
All I have to do in that scenario is remind myself of my “why” and what I’d be sacrificing if I stopped working independently, and snap out of it.
What’s your “why”?
Dig deep and be ready for the answer to surprise you…
4. Take action. Meaning… do stuff!
Making resolutions that stick is about more than lists of goals and daydreaming. The next step is taking action.
Real change comes from gradually formed habits and long term commitment. Without that, you’ll just keep tripping over resolutions each year, wondering why you can’t change.
Here’s an example.
If you want to start a podcast this year, spend your mornings drafting ideas and writing scripts. Come up with a name, find a logo designer on Fiverr or use Canva to make cover images for your episodes. Record your first podcast on your phone and do cut and paste editing in a free program like Audacity. Then, upload and share!
Starting is daunting because you see a huge gap between where you are and where you want to be, but if you divide up the steps, most goals can be diffused into a series of small actions.
Very often I find that my own goals come down to “applying ass to chair” and getting to work! Small steps aren’t glorious or exciting. They’re mundane. They happen every day. Still, they add up to big results. If you keep chipping away, you’ll see progress.
What will you start doing today? Tomorrow? Next week?
Write it down and make it real. Make time for it. Tell a friend about it! Committing to action is the only way to move the needle.
5. Let go of 2016.
The final step is letting go.
We need to make mental and physical space for whatever 2017 is bringing with it. You won’t have room for all that newness if you’re still clinging to 2016.
I think once we’ve lived and learned, we can justify leaving the past where it belongs. Honor it somehow, like I mentioned in #1, and then respect the flow of time. The future doesn’t wait, so you don’t want to miss that train.
Easier said than done, right? This is a tough one, especially for me! But give it a shot.
It could be as simple as decluttering your apartment, cleaning out your closet or doing some hardcore spring cleaning. You could cut ties with someone whose friendship has become toxic (hit that “unfriend” button, baby!) or give up a box full of memories that no longer serve you.
Why not go through your Facebook groups and pages to delete or unfollow stuff you aren’t into anymore? Why not let go of old grudges and old shoes? Empty your inbox! Delete jobs from your resume! Throw out your old business cards!
You get the idea.
2016 is still relevant, and it’s packed with lessons and insight like I mentioned above, but once you’ve taken the time to sit with it and say goodbye, you owe it to yourself to surge forward.
Those are my tips for making 2017 the best year ever. What are yours? Are you trying any of mine? Comment below!