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Win the Day, Win the Year!

"I think it's possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary." ~ Elon Musk

The last week of the year is one of my favorite weeks every year! The rush and craziness of Christmas is behind us, and it's a perfect time to sit back and relax with a nice cup of tea, assess how the year went, and set some goals for next year. I believe that ordinary people can choose to be extraordinary, and that it happens through the series of choices that you make daily. Through some strategic planning, you can deliberately restructure your entire life into something truly extraordinary!

"If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes." ~ Andrew Carnegie

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If you're new to this goal-setting thing, I've got some tips to help you unleash the extraordinary that dwells in all of us and is dying to get out:

1. Start by blocking out a couple of quiet, disturbance-free hours just for you, so you can really focus.

2. Next, look back over the last year. What kinds of things did you achieve during this last year? Did you learn a new skill? Did you set a new habit of consistent exercise? Did you improve your eating habits (maybe drinking more water and eating less sugar)? Did you read more books? Set a consistent spiritual practice? Move ahead on your career goals and financial goals? No? Well, let's fix that in this coming year!

3. Get a notebook and pen, and let your mind wander to your biggest dreams. Forget about whether you think they are practical or not, just dream. Do you think Elon Musk was being practical when he started dreaming about sending privately funded space ships to Mars or boring tunnels under Los Angeles? Not really, but now those things are well on their way!

4. Write down what you want your life to look like in 5 years from now and 10 years from now. Think about where you want to be at the end of your life and what sorts of things you want to have achieved. Make a bucket list of all those crazy things you want to accomplish before you die. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks; this is YOUR list!

5. Now walk all that back and think about what you can do in the next year to get yourself substantially closer to those big goals. Write it down. When you sit down next year at this time to reflect on the year past, what do you want to be able to say? Write down goals in all different categories. Here are some ideas to get you started:

a. Physical health (lose weight, eat healthier, better exercise habits, etc)

b. Mental growth (read x number of books, learn specific new skills, etc)

c. Emotional state (nurturing friendships better, getting anxiety under control, managing stress, living in the moment, etc)

d. Spiritual growth (read daily devotions, start saying the rosary regularly, go on a retreat, do charitable volunteering, etc)

e. Financial goals - how much money do you want to have saved by the end of the year? Have you started investing yet? Do you know how to budget your money? Learn about budgeting and investing in the stock market and real estate, for starters. Make some saving and investment goals for this year.

f. Fun things - what kinds of vacations or fun recreational activities do you want to do this year that you've never done before? Hang-gliding? Surfing? Mountain climbing? Explore a new part of the world?

g. Big picture career goals - what do you really want to do with your life? How do you get there? Be strategic about this and really map it out for yourself.

h. Material goals - what sorts of things do you want to buy this year? Maybe you need some furniture or a new car. Figure out what you're going to need to spend on those, and work out a budget that will make those happen for you while still keeping your savings goals in place.

6. Now break your year goals into four sets of 90 day goals. It's really easy to make yearlong goals and then never end up doing them because, well, you have a whole year, so why not start tomorrow? And the next thing you know, the whole year is gone. But 90 day goals are different; 90 days is long enough to really accomplish something difficult, but not so long that you can put off getting started. Write down all the things you want to accomplish in the next 90 days, and hang it up where you can see it every day. At the end of 90 days, move onto your next set of 90 day goals and so on.

7. Next, break those 90 day goals down to weekly and then daily goals, and make a commitment to write them down in a planner every week. My 21 year old son Alex recently started a "Win the Day" routine where he writes down 5 big goals to do every day. They're not such huge goals that they are impossible, but they are challenging enough that completing them takes effort and moves him out of his comfort zone, and they are strategically aligned with his big picture goals. When he achieves them, he knows that he has moved closer to his big goals, and he has a wonderful sense of daily accomplishment when his head hits the pillow every night. For Christmas, his 25 year old sister Katherine made him a set of "Win the Day" journals so that he can track his daily goals easily. You can imagine that he is going to Win the Year in a big way after winning so many of the next 365 days.

Win the Day journal

Two of the "Win the Day" journals that Katherine made for Alex

The key takeaway here is that a daily to-do list of things to check off needs to always have the big picture in mind. Yes, many things that have to be done daily have little or no relationship to our big goals, and yes, you have to have those on your list, too, because groceries have to be bought, and bills need to be paid. But be sure to add in from 1-5 things every day that will move you toward your big goal. The number will vary according to your particular station in life. If you are a mom with lots of young kids, you may be lucky to accomplish 1 thing a week toward your bigger goals, and that's ok. One thing per week adds up to 52 steps closer to your goals by the end of the year, and that's some great progress. If you can do 1 thing per day, that's 365 steps closer to goal, and if you can do 5 things per day, well that's 1825 steps closer, so you can see how consistency and persistence matter! The key is to push yourself but keep it realistic, and then stay the course and really commit to accomplishing your goals.

"Do something today that your future self will thank you for." ~ Sean Patrick Flanery

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is also a great time to do some decluttering, tossing out, and giving away no longer needed items to ready ourselves for the new year! My 22 yr old daughter Amy just called to tell me that she went through all her clothes and pulled out two bags full of clothes to give away or throw away because they either don't fit right, they're worn out, or they're no longer the styles or colors that she wants to wear. Then she reorganized her whole room and bought herself a bookcase and some new shelving to redo her closet. She's now feeling very excited about new opportunities that will be coming her way in the year to come as her stuff is now organized and streamlined.

"Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." ~ Napoleon Hill

Keep this in mind as you enter the new year. Your potential is unlimited, and the only person holding you back is you. What are you going to achieve in 2018? Dream big, and make daily choices that put you on the path to extraordinary living. Please feel free to share in the comments some of your big dreams and goals for the coming year!

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