As a self-titled self-empowerment junkie, a new year is like Christmas, Halloween, and my birthday all rolled into one.
But as a strategist, the first quarter like watching a train derail in slow motion.
Because no matter how good your intentions, no goal can save you if you don't learn to embody your dreams and take aligned action every day.
Instead, you wake up sometime mid-March wondering what it was you were so excited about and settle comfortably back into the same-old, same-old.
This year, do it right.
Set strong intentions then follow through with daily actions specifically chosen to get you there.
Here are six strategic planning principles that will help you get back on track and achieve your goals in 2016:
1. Get clear on what you want.
Most of us think what we want includes things like more money, a bigger house, and a new car. But no matter how great those upgrades would be, they're just symbols of what you really want.
They're tangible examples of how your life would be different if you fulfilled your deeper desires - to be free, to control your own future, to express yourself fully & creatively, etc.
To make this next year your best year, tune into the ways you most want to feel, instead of focusing on the side effects. These feelings will motivate and inspire you to move forward long after you've signed on the bottom line for your new car.
2. Don't miss the forest for the trees.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is confusing tactics with goals. In other words, you start thinking that going to the gym is the actual goal, instead of feeling healthy.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of viable ways to achieve your big dreams. But if you obsess over just one of them, you might miss all the rest - and the best.
For example, if your goal is to feel more healthy, you might exercise (the gym is just one way to exercise), eat more fruit, eat less sugar, see a nutritionist, get more sleep, laugh more, and the list goes on.
The actions - or, in planning terms, the tactics - you choose depend on what feeling healthy means for you and how you want to feel overall (see #1). Since everything you do is a whole-life experience, staying focused on your goals will help you choose the right tactics to get there.
3. Get comfortable not knowing.
Just like your tactics may change depending on your goal, they may also change as you and your goals evolve over time.
Here's an easy example: Your definition of success today is most likely more nuanced then when you were 3 and using the potty was a major win.
That doesn't mean you're any less successful now than you were as a toddler. It means you've allowed new information and opportunities to guide you to even greater expressions of success.
But when you assume you know the best and only route to achieving your goals, you deny yourself the ability to grow, change, and achieve even more than you could have imagined.
Instead, assume your job is to focus on what you want - how you want to feel and be in the world - and then let yourself be guided by surprises and unexpected opportunities to get you there.
4. Take action where and when you can.
The key to being guided is being ready, able, and willing to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.
That means both being able to recognize opportunities in the moment and being prepared mentally, emotionally, and professionally to take action.
On any given day, most of us are offered dozens if not hundreds of opportunities to decide who and how we want to be in the world. Taking action means you consciously turn towards those opportunities that reflect how you see yourself in your big dreams.
That also means you actively choose to let go of the habits, relationships, and projects that drain you and move you away from your goals.
The easiest way to navigate these decisions is by going back to Principle #1 and how you want to feel. Say yes to what feels inspiring, motivating, energizing, and uplifting; and, say no to what feels draining, tiring, and heavy.
Note that fear isn't on that list. That's because you may be most afraid of the opportunities that lead you to your greatest potential. Since growth implies change, most people are wary of it, which makes fear a poor indicator of whether or not a decision is right for you.
Instead learn to find your inner yes based on more subtle clues than the often overwhelming haze of fear. It takes work and introspection, but all the tools are there.
Which brings us to Principle 5.
5. Do the daily work.
If you've made it this far in your goal-setting journey, then buckle up - this is where the 99% of people fall off the goal-achieving wagon. You put off action, believing there's nothing you can do until that miraculous time when the perfect job, spouse, trip, or windfall appears to make your life complete.
But no miracle is coming if you don't take daily steps to prepare for it.
In short - if you want to make your big dreams happen, then your daily routine better lead you straight there.
Take the time to align your daily habits, thoughts, beliefs, interactions, and general way of being to support your vision of your future. Because what you do now is who you become later.
When you act and think based on who you want to be instead of who you are, it prepares you to embody your vision, plus take action when opportunities arise.
6. Monitor your metrics.
Last but not least, it's easy to get caught up in everything you don't yet have while focusing on what you truly want. But the fastest path to feeling fulfilled is to practice finding reasons to be content and grateful now.
So list your previous successes, notice all the ways you're supported, and keep track of the abundance already in your life. Use any tool you'd like to keep a close eye on the positive metrics that prove you're well on your way.
Then stay focused on your vision and take action.
Use these six principles to create - and finally achieve - your big goals in 2016. It's never too late to start your success story.