December 6, 2021


Now that we’re into the final month of 2017, it’s time to think about how to close out the year. To many people, December is a time for shopping, vacations, and relaxing with family. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. But the end of the year is also an opportunity to boost your performance.

In some ways, the new year is a silly technicality. One day follows the next, whether we call it 2017 or 2018. Most of our workplaces operate on a different fiscal calendar. For those of us with children, the rhythm of the school year is probably more meaningful than the changing of the calendar year. But the New Year is still a milestone, and that means it’s a chance to push ourselves harder and accomplish more.

The right motivation can inspire us to take on big challenges and also give us the sustained energy to succeed. When I go running, one of my primary goals is to improve my cardiovascular fitness. That requires pushing myself. After a few miles, my mind and body want a break, and I resist that urge by singling out milestones. Really push it until I reach the big oak tree. Once I’m there, I can do the same with another milestone. As long as the goal is in sight, I’m always able to squeeze a little more performance from myself than I otherwise would.

To use this self-motivating technique, I suggest asking yourself three questions. First, what matters to you? It’s hard to choose just one or two key goals, but this is essential. Question two is what can you do about it? If you cannot think of any concrete action you can take in pursuit of what matters to you, then you should look for another goal. Finally, how can you measure your progress? The ability to see your progress can keep you motivated and working hard, even when the voice in your head is telling you to quit, rest, do it later.

Milestones are like lenses. They help us focus our energies on a single goal and a single point in time. Because it’s so visible and universal, the turn of a new year is a perfect milestone. Sprint hard for just a few weeks, then enjoy a well deserved break. And as with other mental techniques, practice makes us stronger. Higher performance now elevates our confidence for the next challenge.

At the end of another year, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, but I’m never satisfied. I can always do more. So, I’m figuratively pushing the pace for the next few weeks. If I can get to the oak tree just a little faster, I’ll enjoy my holiday more and I can start 2018 with momentum.

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