First of all, stop writing lists!
Wow, that's going to get the ire of the Motivational Brigade! Particularly at this time of year when the internet is full of "Set Your Goals Now!" "Make Those Lists!" but come on, you did this last year and... well... how's that working for you?
On the corporate speaking circuit in Australia, I used to hand out notepads for TO DON'T LISTS, because our lists were killing us! Each day, we would create more and more things to do, to add to more and more things to do, and we would only achieve 20-80 percent of them. I suggested instead your list should never exceed five things that were achievable so that at the end of the day you could experience the joy of a job well done, rather than tear your hair out at all the things that you hadn't achieved. Trust me, the next day is started in a much better headspace, and it forces you to only tackle the things that need to be done.
Unrealistic expectations are the scourge of the 21st century. People are creating vision boards with mansions and cars on them, buying magazines at store checkouts promising they too can drop three dress sizes by Valentine's Day. Hospital waiting rooms are full of family and friends right now, worrying about their loved ones and not one of them is thinking about that car, or holiday home, or trip, or being a size 0.
I'd like to suggest a different way. As you march forward purposefully into 2016, firstly, take the time to look back on 2015, and make a list of all the happy moments you had. All the goals you kicked, the things you ticked off your bucket list. Then, have a think about the behaviors that got you there and how you can build on those behaviors. Being a kinder person, a better parent, lover, friend, more giving to the community. Spend less rather than want more, get your budget in shape. Reach out to two people you wish you could have spent more time with last year, and tell them, and if you can, make plans to keep in touch more, to see them more. Celebrate your memories, and plan on creating new ones.
Yes, you need to know where you're going, and you need to have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve in your life, and yes, writing those things down, or creating vision boards around that is a wonderful tool and can help you get those things done. But make sure they're the important things. And make sure they have feelings attached to them. We are more certain of achieving something, if we know how we are going to feel at the end of it. And I don't mean the universally misused "HAPPY." Content, satisfied, joyful. Creating a list of goals, of things that you want, but have no idea what they will really mean to you in your life... won't get you from A to B.
Be gentle with yourself, that doesn't mean not working hard, staying focused, being driven, but honestly assessing your abilities, and where they can be grown or stretched, rather than creating fantasies, dreams that look good but may not deliver the feelings you want.
Striving to be your best, is admirable, but you first have to know your starting point, and then your steps to growth, and that's a plan. Anything else is just wishing and hoping, and those, without action will find you on Jan., 1 2017 in exactly the same space you are now.
Acknowledge how far you've come. You may have only taken baby steps, you may have had setbacks, you may have to acknowledge that you didn't approach things in a better way, but celebrate your victories no matter how small, and THEN move onto the next.
If you're not a journal writer, and how many of us keep up THAT habit by January 10... try writing snippets of joy and putting them in a jar, great reminders of things that rocked your boat.
The key to achieving your goals, is to acknowledge the ones you have already kicked and to build on that. Positive begets positive, being hard on yourself doesn't motivate, Happy New Year!