Author and speaker Jon Acuff guest blogs about five simple ways you can finish strong for 2021 … and gives you the tools to end the year on a high note!
* * *
I need to start today with a bit of a confession.
I am a goal nerd.
I love goals!
One year, I read 100 books.
One year, I ran 1,000 miles.
One year I hired a table tennis coach because I wanted to see how good I could get at ping pong. Raise your hand if you’ve ever hired a Team USA–sanctioned elderly man from mainland China to throw hundreds of ping pong balls at you while yelling, “Kill, kill, kill!”
Just me? I’m the only one who did that? Cool.
I tweet about goals.
I’ve written books about goals.
I even have a podcast about goals called All it Takes is a Goal.
If you are a fellow goal nerd, then you know that this is the best time of year. Not only do we get to close out last year, but we’re on the eve of a new year. It’s the best of both worlds!
If you’re not a goal nerd though and you’re curious about how you, too, can finish strong for the year, you’re in the right place. There are five simple things you can do:
1. Do a quick year-end review.
Did you ever have to do a boring, long project review at work with dependencies, performance metrics, and synergistic, cross-department reference charts? Yuck. That’s not the kind of review we’re going to do. I just want you to look back over the last year and think about three things that people smarter than me have been thinking about for decades: What do I want to start doing? What do I want to stop doing? What do I want to keep doing? As you reflect on the year, what’s something new you want to try? What’s something old you want to stop? What’s something great you want to keep doing?
2. End the year with generosity.
One of my goals is to be as generous as the portions of fries they give you at Five Guys. Have you ever ordered their fries? That cup overfloweth! Sometimes, in the midst of a busy year, I’ve overlooked opportunities to be both grateful and generous. As I review the last 12 months, I always discover reasons to be grateful. I notice good things that I missed the first time around because I was hustling so fast. This gratefulness then tends to turn into generosity, as I look for new ways to pass on the gifts that have been passed on to me.
Gratefulness changes me. Generosity changes the world.
In addition to the tax benefits of year-end giving, when I give to organizations like World Vision, I know that the way I finish this year changes next year for individuals, communities, and countries around the world.
3. Ask a friend one small question.
The end of the year can be stressful for a lot of people. There’s family drama, year-end work projects, holiday expectations, and a swirl of other emotions stacked into this season. Reach out to one friend and ask this question: “Is there anything you need?”
Why does asking this question matter? Because when you ask someone what they need, they become visible and valuable. That’s what everyone in your life wants to know. “Do you see me? Do I matter?” A little question like that can have a significant impact, especially after a stressful year. Crisis magnifies kindness. The small things you do for your relationships this season are worth 100 times what they were two years ago because we’ve all been so isolated. Ask that one small question and then don’t be surprised if it leads to a big conversation.
4. Ask yourself one big question.
If I’m not careful, I can make my list of New Year’s resolutions too complicated. I’m tempted to brainstorm 200 things until the amount of my goals is so large that it topples onto me, and I give up all of them before I’ve even started. So, let’s keep this real simple. I just want you to ask yourself one big question: “What do I want to be true a year from now?”
Sit down with a notebook and dream for a few minutes. A year from now, it’s the end of 2022 — what’s true of your life? Did you join a new church? Did you run a 5K? Did you write a book? Did you start a podcast? Did you go on a trip? What will you have done that you get to reflect back on?
It’s a big question, but it’s a fun one to explore if you’ll give it a little time.
5. Focus on the four components every great goal requires.
The goal nerd in me can’t help it. I can’t end this list without giving you a set of specific tools. Goals are not complex. They always involve the same four components: results, actions, time, and motivation. Results are what you flirted with in item number four on our list. What do you want to accomplish? Actions are the physical steps you’ll take to make those results happen. What will you do? Time is everything from the deadline you pick to finish your results to the hours you plan to invest. Motivation is the fuel, fire, passion, or drive that will keep you going way beyond January 1. Most people are okay at dreaming about results but neglect the other three. We’re not most people though. We finish this last year strong and start the new one even better!
I hope you had a wonderful 2021. It’s not over yet though — you’ve still got a chance to finish strong. When you do, let me know how it went. You can find me online in all your favorite places. Shoot me a DM, a tweet, a comment, or whatever works best for you. I’ll be the one trying to figure out how to read books and get better at playing ping pong at the same time. What a nerd.
Jon Acuff is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including his most recent one, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking. He’s an INC Top 100 Leadership Speaker and the host of the popular All it Takes is a Goal podcast. You can learn more about him at acuff.me.