*This is a tongue-in-cheek article I wrote with regard to our new year and new goals–and how difficult they are to accomplish.

It’s time. The beginning of the New Year is off and running. Will we start it with new perspectives and accomplishments? 2 years ago I finished my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I set a goal to finish it by March. I did. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be March 2008! I was a year late. I don’t have to say it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I loved and hated the entire process. But at least I finished it, right? I guess I am glutton for punishment, because I am setting a goal to finish another book this year. UGH!

It’s true, I have a long list of failed accomplishments. So I wanted to update some fundamental lessons I’ve learned about making resolutions and accomplishing goals. That’s why I am gleaning from both my successes and failures. Put in no particular order, I hope these lessons can help you with your resolutions and make this one of the best years of your life…maybe even the best year ever!

GOALS: Like Santa, resolutions are a list of personal goals that you’ll need to check at least twice. I’m the type of person that does fine with a short list. But once my to-do list has over ten things on it, I can’t get anything done. That’s why I think it’s best to assemble two different lists. One list is the BIG-ticket items, like writing a book, loosing 20 pounds (I’ve already done this, but I need to lose another 20), or finding a new job. The other list will be the small-ticket items, like reading a book a month, learning to play the piano, or organizing and labeling the family photos. The process can get overwhelming. That’s why you’ve got to get out of your regular environment to do it right. Go away for a few days to a conference, golf trip, or antiquing quest. If you can, minimize the distractions of normal life so you can think about new ideas. Reduce the clutter in order to clear the path. This is where creative brain waves thrive. Don’t forget to bring a pad and pencil wherever you go and write everything down as you look for that rare colored vinyl album of your favorite band. Write from your heart first, and then sift with your mind later and decide what list the resolutions belong on.

MOMENTUM: Having no momentum is a resolution killer. You need momentum bad. It is the make-or-break thing. That’s why it is so dangerous to miss a couple days of exercise or not eat right for a few days. That’s how the fatty makes his way back into the mirror. I have found two critical ingredients that make up momentum: 1) support and 2) validation. Without those you will stall. Support is your wife liking the idea of your book (speaking in context of myself, of course) and letting you pursue it. Validation is someone actually buying your book, for example. Since it takes so long to accomplish a goal like this (or losing weight, saving money, etc.), you’ll very often have to figure out how to be your own source of momentum. Not to mention, if one of your major life-goals doesn’t have measurable impact. Will you pursue a goal like this again? Legend has it that Thomas Edison failed 5,000 times before he got a light bulb to work right. He was his own source of momentum all along the way without any validation. Keep it up!

DOUBT: There is no doubt, you will doubt. Doubt is your biggest enemy. Besides the negativity from other people, you can easily second guess yourself to death or beat yourself up over and over. It’s not that people mean to be negative. It’s just that no one will be as excited about your resolutions as you, especially with the BIG ones. Nothing will cause a state of stagnancy in your progress like an overwhelming cloud of doubt. In fact, there will be more doubts than anything else. Once you decide to put together a list of goals, it’s like someone builds a doubt factory next door to flood the air you breath. Whether you believe in God or not, you need to fight doubt by believing and having faith in the success of your resolutions.

MONEY: Now is the time to take stock of your income and outflow. The economy is hanging on a thread, people are still losing jobs, and most likely your home isn’t going to be worth what you paid for it for quite some time. The problem? Many resolutions cost money, money, and more money especially something like writing book or remodeling your kitchen. I’m not saying don’t do those things you want to do. I’m just saying take stock of what you have coming in, create safe margins, and spend accordingly. Don’t just start spending yourself into financial oblivion. That ruins lives. But you know what improves lives? Accomplishing resolutions that are important to you. Nothing is healthier for your attitude, outlook, and potential hopes and dreams. Find ways to save money and do it better. In regard to one of my goals, it’s important to know that by the time a book hits stores (or Amazon.com), there’s been about $20K invested in the project. There is editing, rewriting, more editing, design, layout, website, marketing, and printing costs. If you can’t afford to do this all yourself, then you’ll have to put all your efforts into getting published. This is largely based on whom you know or who you are these days. So if you are not rich, famous, or powerful (or related to someone who is), you have quite a mission and challenge ahead of you. You’ll need to convince someone to put their money into your goal. So start thinking how this applies to your own resolutions.

DOERS DO: Like everything else in life, it’s all about follow-through. That’s why we have to make resolutions in the first place: we don’t get them done. You may have noticed, but follow-through is not a common character trait today. You’ll never get anything done if you don’t actually do anything. I told people for a long time about the book I was writing. Unfortunately, nothing was really getting done. I felt like some longhaired kid wearing sandals and a tie-dyed t-shirt smoking-out and driving around the country in a Volkswagen bus telling people I was going to change the world. So I started a handyman business in order to finish my book. It was the only way to create any flexibility in my schedule to finish. It was, and still is, a big risk, but it was the only way. Dreamers dream. And doers do. So go and do.

TIME: You need time, but it is not on your side. Like money, once you spend this you can never get it back. All the regrets and apologies can never replace the time you’ve wasted away. If you don’t figure out a way to balance your job, school, love-interest, marriage, kids etc, you’ll never accomplish your resolutions. One-by-one, you’ll give up on goal after goal. Sound hard? It is. That’s why the most important resolutions we make can also be called labors of love. In the real world, a passion will drain your time. Just try to find a healthy balance that you can live with and won’t ruin your life, job, or family. Keep in mind, taking time for one thing means taking it from another. You can’t give everything your best efforts, so divvy time where it counts the most. You might have to cut out watching American Idol (that’s easy for me since Simon is gone) this year—or something else that wastes valuable time. You’ll have to make time for your priorities if you’re going to resolve to get stuff done.

FAILURE: You will fail. I know that’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s true. I’m not trying to be negative as I warned about earlier. Remember Thomas Edison? The fact is, most successful endeavors are built on a long succession of lesson-learning failures. That’s really the point. Just learn from it. Talk to a successful person and I’m willing to bet they’ll back me up on this. I can’t tell you how many bad decisions I have made. As much as it pains me, I try to prepare myself (as much as I can) for the fact that my books may not be all that successful. In fact, (statistically speaking) they probably won’t. That’s life. Will I learn from failing? I sure hope so. It’s the only solution if these goals are as important to me as I think. I just can’t let failure make me into a quitter.

TEACHABLE: Speaking in regard to my most important resolution this year, you know why people can’t stand most artists and writers? They know everything about everything. They’re not teachable. People who aren’t teachable don’t take any advice from anyone. It’s always a temptation to cut corners or compromise on a project when it gets hard. But that decreases the integrity of what we are doing, and, even worse, gets us back to our old ways and business as usual. Someone else’s perspective is important. That’s one of the best ways to get out with old and in with the new. You always need an outside opinion, good or bad. On your most important resolutions, you’ll need to learn to ask for input and be able to take it. Just try to know the difference between negative criticism and constructive input. How will you know? You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. And don’t think someone has to be an artist (or whatever is in line with your particular goal) to have helpful input. Listen to the two cents of nobodies, somebodies, and anybodies. The best goals are accomplished with the help that comes from standing on the shoulders of others.

REVIVE: I know it’s a religious term, but revival is real. That is to say, your resolution will die. There’s no way around it. As much as you try not to, you will inevitably lose momentum. No one will care about what you have accomplished and it will probably hurt. Life will interfere or get really stressful. Even worse, you may not be progressing as well as you want or the results won’t be all that great. You may even start to hate your idea and get sick of it. You will change as a person. The core ideas that your most important resolutions are built upon will likely need to evolve many times over. I rewrote my first book several times. It’s 60K words, but there is easily another 60K that ended up on the cutting room floor. Like Frankenstein, do whatever you have to do to revive your goals back to life every time it dies. Stay focused. Keep believing. Make adjustments. Reshape it. Roll with the punches. Just bring it back to life! You will never get any resolutions done if you don’t.

VISION: Yes, building a vision is different than setting a goals. Setting goals is the end of one point, while building a vision is the beginning of another. It’s as if vision is built on a series of goals accomplished. It is a long-term, big-picture look at what you want to happen in the end. So if you want to lose 20 pounds, remodel the kitchen, buy a new car, read more, or write a book, brand that vision of your future in your mind. You have to think beyond your resolutions a little. Once you have a tentative vision of what you want the future to look like, then just fill in the steps. Seeing is believing, after all. Those are your resolutions. Those are how you get to your vision of what can be. The vision will change drastically as time goes on. That’s fine. But the vision gives a framework and avenue for the goals and resolutions to flourish and evolve. It keeps you moving. Building a vision is not easy. It is one of the hardest things for me. Most artistic people aren’t strong in administrative tasks, which building a vision is. But you have to do it in order to accomplish your New Year’s Resolutions.

There you have it. Achieving goals is an ongoing process throughout life. These are many of the things I’ve wrestled through while writing, releasing, and promoting my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. Sure, I got that book done a year later than I wanted. But if I had never set the goal, it probably would have taken even longer.

As I keep my eyes on the future, these ideas keep me focused. This is why I hope these lessons can be a catalyst for achieving your own goals as you turn your dreams into reality many times over.

Oh yes, and Happy New Year!