January is a strange month. Everyone starts out with a higher level of enthusiasm which then fizzles out faster the the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Now we stand on the cusp of February and it’s easy to wonder where the past month went. For most of us, the lofty goals we had in mind when the calendar ticked over have already fallen by the wayside. That doesn’t mean we should abandon them completely.
Technique One – Monthly Review
Regardless of whether you abandoned your goals back in week one or if you’ve been grinding away on them the whole way through, a monthly review is an essential technique for staying on track.
Before you begin – no judgement. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing as well as you’d hoped, you’re only human. The fact you are taking the time to do a review at all puts you ahead of the rest of the pack.
Look back over January with an honest pair of eyes. Were you realistic about what you wanted to achieve to begin with, or were you just flush with optimism for the future? Do you even still care about those goals you set? If you don’t, then there is nothing wrong with abandoning them and moving onto something else. The real value is progress on what matters, not for progress’ sake itself.
The final question to ask is what you did right / wrong when it came to working on your goals and plans for the month. Learn the lessons so you don’t make the same mistake again. Improve on your strengths to get even more value from them.
Now set yourself up for a great February. It doesn’t matter about January anymore. Let it go. Instead, focus on how you can gain the momentum that will carry you forward for the rest of the year.
Technique Two – Fear Setting
Tim Ferriss did a great Ted Talk explaining fear setting better than I can. It’s a great technique you can use if you’re not making progress because something is holding you back. If you’ve struggled to really commit to your goals, then this is a reversal of the process. Instead, you define your fears.
For most people, thinking about their fears is counter-intuitive. Why would you spend so much time and energy thinking about the things that induce anxiety and discomfort? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what we are told to do for a happy life? Mindfulness is a hot topic for a reason.
Fear setting is hard, but by going the extra mile and breaking down those fears, you take away their power. Fear is often a series of unanswered ‘but what if?’ questions. They spiral and debilitate. The power comes in getting to those answers.
Like a monthly review, the process is quite simple. You just follow a series of questions and steps to get to a place where you are able to action the right things.
Firstly, you have to define those fears in the extreme. What is the very worst thing that could happen. Be as detailed as you dare.
This is the point where most people stop in life. This is the anxious point. But what could you do to prevent those things from happening? This is the second question Tim asks as part of the technique and it’s amazing how easy it is to come up with answers. Pre-empting the worst case scenario often prevents it.
But what if that bad thing holding you back actually happened anyway? Before it does, take the final step of working out all the things you could do to get out of the hole. It’s amazing how resourceful you can be. That’s because by doing it up front, the pressure is off. When you’re in that place, the fear is the stronger emotion and it stifles ingenuity and creativity. By fear setting up front, you’ll already have the answers should the worst happen.
So by combining the two, you can guarantee yourself a better February, no matter how the year has gone so far.
Need more help? The Realist’s Guide To Resolutions is a practical approach to goal achievement, no matter what time of year.