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 Today’s Big Idea“Some people live 80 years, most people live one year 80 times.” –Zig Ziglar

For the last several years, I have established a few practices that help me close out the year reflecting on what happened, what I’ve learned, and set my goals for the upcoming year.

I want to share a few of those things with you today.

John Maxwell has said that busyness is the greatest enemy of good thinking.

And if we rush headlong into the next year without taking time to pause and consider what needs to change and where want to go—we may not grow and change the way we need to.

We might start the year with no direction. Or worse, we may charge forward in a direction we don’t really want to go.

Don’t ignore the “check engine” lights in your life

When I went off to college, I drove an old jeep for several years. Since I had no money, I would chronically ignore any warning lights that came on the dashboard. I simply hoped the light was somehow wrong and that my car would spontaneously fix itself.

This did not prove to be a good strategy. I still remember many long walks down the highway to the closest service station.

One great way you can take stock of how your year has gone is to do a quick check of your life dashboard.

Consider the following life accounts (add your own accounts if you want), and rank each of them from 1-10 for how satisfied you are with each area of your life (10 being the best). Then write down one or two things that would cause that account to improve. For example, if your health account is low, you might write, “lose 10 pounds.”

Life Accounts

  • Health
  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • Work
  • Finances
  • Personal Growth
  • Spiritual Life
  • Fun
  • Friendships

One thing I have learned in my executive coaching program—it is quite common for hard-charging leaders to have great success in one area of life (often work) while other areas of life suffer.

If one of your life dashboard lights is yellow or red, don’t ignore it! A warning light could look like mounting debt, poor health practices, or increasing conflict with your partner over the past year.

This is your chance to get back on course before your engine explodes in one area of your life.

Set clear priorities and write down your top goals for the coming year

Let’s say you are planning a road trip from San Francisco to New York.

You load up your car with a months’ worth of supplies and bring your trusty GPS.

You know the general direction, so you decide not to use your GPS device. A couple wrong turns, some unexpected weather, and a few interesting side trips later—you see signs for the Mexican border and realize you are way off course.

A GPS is a great device but requires that you enter a destination.

Written goals can help serve as our GPS throughout the year, and keep on laser focused on the destination we really want. They help us avoid interesting distractions and keep us on course during the storms of life.

There is something about written goals that brings them into greater awareness and into the physical world.

Psychologist Gail Matthews published a study on goal-setting which revealed that people with written goals, clear action steps, and accountability were 42% more likely to achieve their desired goal.

I heard recently that multi-millionaire and best-selling author Grant Cardone, writes his yearly goals down twice a day for the entire year in order to ensure he stays focused and on target.

Don’t start this year with a vague sense of direction. Stack the odds in your favor that you will achieve your goals by clearly defining your priorities before the year begins, writing them down, and looking at them regularly.

Keeping a journal is a great way to review the past year and set new goals

After hearing some of my favorite leaders talk about journaling for years, I finally started keeping a journal about 4 years ago. I now consider it one of the most important things I do every day.

My journal is a record of my dreams, struggles, victories, priorities, and insights. When I think there is a vital lesson in my spiritual life, I write that down too. It helps me reflect, and stay on track.

Benjamin Hardy is a bestselling author, organizational psychologist, and father of 5 kids. Listen to what he says about journaling.

“Of all the things that have been helpful to me in personal growth and goal achievement, using my journal daily is at the foundation. Writing in my journal every single day is the glue that holds everything else together. My journal is the context for my dreams. It’s where the mental creation happens.” –Benjamin Hardy

Every year, I love to take my journal and review what I wrote. It has been the best way for me to take stock of what has happened over the year, the highs and lows, and important life lessons.

Recap: Turn information into action

  1. Keep a journal, review it at the end of the year. Look for patterns, themes, peaks, and valleys.
  2. Write down the challenges and victories of the prior year. Just make a simple list and spend some time reflecting on it. What have you learned this year? How have you grown?
  3. Check your life dashboard. Start by putting your accounts in order of priority to you. Then rank each one from 1-10 for how satisfied you are with that area of your life. What does it reveal to you? Which accounts need to take priority in the first quarter of next year? Great leaders are proactive—they don’t ignore hard truth when something in their lives needs to be addressed.
  4. Write down your 3 top goals for the coming year and why they are important. Make them specific and measurable.

Happy New Year!


*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and health.

Suggested resources 

  1. article summarizing psychologist Gail Matthews
  2. Michael Hyatt on Goal setting


Dr. Parker Houston

Parker Houston

Dr. Parker Houston is a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified in organizational psychology. He is also certified in personal and executive coaching. Parker's personal mission is to share science-based principles of psychology and timeless spiritual practices, to help people improve the way they lead themselves, their families, and their organizations. *Opinions expressed are the author's own.
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