As you go back to work this week, odds are good you’re thinking about how you can make 2014 your best year yet. Few people, however, will reach their full potential because they operate like a windsock—letting chance dictate their lives and moving in whatever direction the whims of others take them.

The process of personal transformation is too often similar to the ‘new car high’ many experience. For the first few months, the love is deep. Each week, the car is washed, waxed, and vacuumed. After a period of time, however, the love fades and what was once a prized possession becomes just another car.

I don’t want this to happen for you. Therefore, to remain focused and inspired, you’ll need to set deep anchors into your soul. This will prevent you from being ‘enlightened’ or ‘fired up’ for a brief period of time and then returning to old habits.

After working with thousands of people over the years to help them reinvent their lives, I have found that there are 10 core strategies you can leverage to stay the course, remain inspired, and accomplish your New Year’s goals and objectives.

10. Follow the Path to Freedom.

This requires you to:

• Become consciously aware of strengths and limitations.
• Make a conscious choice about what to do with these strengths and limitations.
• Improve upon, maintain, modify, or eliminate them.

In other words, if you’re a square peg, trying to jam yourself into a round hole will only result in pain. There are innate ways that you are wired to excel. It’s in your DNA… it’s a part of your blueprint.

These natural gifts must be harnessed. Once discovered, you can then improve upon your findings. Likewise, there are limitations to your abilities. If you’re a giraffe, forcing yourself to be an elephant ain’t gonna happen. Be the best damn giraffe you can.

9. Stop living vicariously through others and/or using them as guideposts.

Too often, outside influences dictate our life strategies, desires, or aspirations. This is largely due to the infiltration of media into every moment of our lives. Social media only exacerbates the problem by providing a glimpse behind the curtain as to how ‘the other half’ lives.

Many people create expectations based upon society’s warped view of normalcy.
For example:

• The car you should drive.
• The vacations you should take.
• The clothes you should wear.
• What your body should like.
• What your mate’s body should look like.
• The sex you should be having.
• The bling you should be flashing.
• Etc., etc.

It’s easy to become enchanted with the lives of others. It’s certainly fine to be inspired by their accomplishments and to learn from their examples. But when you spend your days obsessing about those you believe are “living the dream,” you lose precious time you could be investing in the creation of your own ideal life.

Consider the goals and objectives you’ve created. Are these your goals? Or, are they based upon what you’ve seen others realize in their lives? Gain clarity and learn to get comfortable in your own skin. In the end, there’s only race you should be running… yours.

8. Stretch… don’t fantasize.

A powerful strategy for creating goals is to leverage the SMART mnemonic. While there are many definitions, SMART usually stands for:

S – Specific (or Significant)
M – Measurable (or Meaningful)
A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented)
R – Relevant (or Rewarding)
T – Time-bound (or Trackable)

Setting a specific or significant goal requires you to provide detail that clearly outlines your objective.

A measurable or meaningful goal puts an actual number on the board so you are clear on whether or not you accomplished what you set forth to do.

An attainable or action-oriented goal means identifying what is realistic and not based on pure speculation or far-fetched objective.

A relevant or rewarding goal is built from the foundation of identifying what is applicable to your business or industry.

A time-bound or trackable goal is one that is tied to a specific date for the attainment of the objective set forth.

For example, stating that “your business will realize annual income of $1MM” does not meet the criteria of SMART. Stating that “your business will realize $1MM in personal development product sales by the December 31, 2016” does. These subtle, yet important, details are paramount to your ability to hone your focus, achieve your defined goals, and maintain enthusiasm for doing so.

That said, if you’ve never made more than $35,000 per year in your life, stating that you want to earn $500,000 this year is only setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s not my intent to be a killjoy, but reality dictates certain constraints if you want to set goals that are actually attainable.

7. Listen to, but avoid the teachings of, Homer Simpson, “If something is too hard to do, it’s not worth doing.”

A big reason why most people lose site of their New Year’s resolutions by February 1 is that, more often than not, it becomes clear that accomplishing what they’ve identified is HARD and it takes a lot of work and concerted effort over a prolonged period of time.

My Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach, Carlson Gracie, Jr., once said about a group of my peers earning their black belts after 10 or 15 years of learning, conditioning, and sparring, “Here is a group of strong willed, determined practitioners who never stopped training.”

No one, and I mean no one, will clear the path for you. As Jim Rohn, the author and motivational speaker who helped launch the careers of Tony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen, and many others once said, “You can’t hire someone else to do your push ups for you.” If you want to achieve your stated objectives, day in and day out, YOU must do the work.

6. Become crystal clear as to what you want versus what you actually need

New Year’s resolutions are, too often, built from the foundation of what one believes that they want versus what they actually need. Consider the goals and objectives you’ve identified.

Perhaps you wrote down that you’d like to have $250,000 in the bank by year’s end. While a laudable goal, is this what you actually need? Think about it this way—if your monthly expenses are $4,000, having $250,000 in the bank provides you with enough cash to not work another day for over 5 years.

While on one hand this would be phenomenal—on the other, why have you clarified this to be one of your goals for the year? Yes, it sounds great, and having the cushion will certainly provide solid peace of mind. However, so would having $48,000 in the bank by year’s end.

Think about it—$48,000 would provide you with enough cash to not work another day for the next 12 months. This is certainly a much more attainable objective.

And, if you’re like most people, you’ll likely get bored to tears of not doing anything within two or three months. Odds are good that you’ll be back in the work force or starting your own entrepreneurial initiative long before the money runs out.

5. Think long term… and break the process down into steps you can get started with TODAY

Goals are most effectively set in the following manner:

1) First, create your “big picture” of what you want to accomplish (over, say, the next 10 years), and identify the large-scale goals you want to achieve.

2) Next, break the “big picture” down into smaller and achievable targets (e.g. what can you realistically make happen THIS year) you can accomplish on your way towards bringing your vision to fruition.

3) Lastly, once you have your plan, START working on the first target and begin your travels down the path.

By starting with “big picture” goals, it then becomes possible to create achievable objectives for what you want to bring to fruition five years from now, next year, this year, next month, next week, and finally, today.

Creating a daily to-do-list is a very important part of the process. Starting with what you can do immediately, and completing those tasks, will provide small victories that inevitably breed a sense of confidence that provides encouragement to continue the charge.

Early in the process, your goals may include simple, achievable tasks such as gathering information, attending events, networking, or perhaps reading books. This will help you to improve the quality and realism of your goal setting.

As you become more comfortable in your ability, and disciplined in your approach to achieve the goals set, setting bigger challenges is a natural next step.

5. Understand the two ways to use your time.

Though we all like to think of ourselves as immortal, the truth is that our time on Earth is finite—and precious. So it’s important to use it wisely and recognize that there are only two ways to use your time: Spend it or Invest it.

Spending Your Time

Spending your time is essentially the same as spending money. You have a limited amount of money and you spend it to fill various needs and desires. Once you use up the money, it’s no longer available for buying something else.

The same is true of your time. When you choose to devote an hour to something that doesn’t advance your life’s goals, you’ve spent that time. It’s no longer yours to use; and there’s nothing you can do to get it back. You weighed your options as to what you could do with your time, and you chose to spend it on an activity that didn’t help you become who you want to be.

Investing Your Time

Investing money typically means putting your assets into stocks, real estate, and other areas that—you hope—will pay off in the long term. Similarly, investing time means focusing on activities that—you hope—will reap meaningful rewards, both as you’re doing them and down the road. Quite simply, this is focusing your time on realizing your stated goals and objectives.

Most people stray off course because life happens and it’s hard to regain your footing. The key is to avoid the time sucks.

You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done if you put your mind to it. If necessary, schedule your day so you have a clear understanding of what you’ll be doing, and for how long. Take control of your time…and then take on more than you believe you can handle.

In the end, it’s likely that it’s time for you to get rid of the kid-size Elmo saucer that you’ve been balancing your life on. You’re ready for a bigger plate.

4. Embrace the fact that goals and objectives are fluid… you’re not building monuments

The key to success and fulfillment is staying the course and modifying your plans as necessary. Remember, life is an organic, fluid process. Your goals and objectives can, and should, be modified over time.

You just can’t predict life events, personal disruptions, changes in tastes, etc. Therefore, it’s important to retain flexibility as you navigate the year and adapt to the current landscape.

It’s not unusual to review, and alter, your stated goals and objectives several times throughout the year. Embrace the fact that modification does not equate to abandonment. It simply means that you’ve gotten smarter as the year progresses and recognize that you hold control over in which direction you steer the ship.

3. Embrace being a creator, not a critic

Instead of spending most of your time consuming the creations of others, focus your time on becoming a creator. Creators are a rare breed. Only a small number of people have the patience, will, and guts necessary to take something from an idea to a tangible form and put it out there for the world to judge. Virtually everyone is a critic.

It’s easy to be a critic, but hard to be a creator.

Think about it. You go see a movie, watch a TV show, eat at a restaurant, etc. and you immediately have an opinion. Your critique of this blog post began as soon as you started reading or, perhaps, when you became familiar with it.

When was the last time you put something forward to be critiqued? Better yet, when was the last time you created something you weren’t asked to create? When you were a child, you created things all the time. You drew, you painted, you made statues out of Play-Doh, and you made up stories for you and your friends to take part in. If you’re an artist or inventor, then you never really gave up these activities. Otherwise, you probably did. At some identifiable point, your period of creation came to a screeching halt.

It could have happened for any number of reasons. Maybe when you were five, someone said your game was dumb, and from that point forward you wouldn’t put yourself out on a limb again. Or maybe when you were seven your parents told you to stop getting paint on the floor, and you decided that art wasn’t worth the risk of being yelled at. Now ask yourself this question: “How long am I going to let these moments in my past control who I am today?” Your answer must be: “Not one second longer!”

Stop continuing to give power to those who have long since moved beyond whatever it was that happened years ago. That includes you. Don’t let your past control your present and future. Whatever the reasons were that drove you to stifle your creative process—let it go.

The time for you to rekindle your creative energy is now. There’s only one you. You’re unlike anyone else on this planet and you have unique Gifts to share and important contributions to make.

If you’re going to bring your New Year’s resolutions to fruition, it will be necessary for you to gain comfort in becoming a creator… and, most importantly, embracing and creating, a new version of you.

2. Don’t Feed The Trolls

An integral component of achieving your New Year’s resolutions is to stop feeding the trolls. While I’d love to take credit for this awesome expression, kudos goes to Randy Gage, who’s featured in my New York Times bestselling book, What Is Your WHAT? Discover The ONE Amazing Thing You Were Born To Do, for coining it.

Feeding the trolls is Randy’s analogy for what far too many people do—listen to, respond, and be affected by, those who incessantly whine, complain and throw negative energy towards you… and worse, discourage you from moving in a new direction.

While everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, trolls thrive on being included in your life and providing their two cents as often as possible. Odds are good you can identify someone (or perhaps many people) in your circle who fit this description.

They’ll call you and eat two hours of your time talking about the boyfriend who broke up with them six years ago. They’ll dissuade you from going to work out and encourage you to go to the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet that just opened down the block. They’ll bitch and moan that, as you shift towards rocking the planet, you’re not the same person any more.

When you embark on new journeys, those who know you best often become uncomfortable. You no longer fit nicely into the file they’ve created for you. And, you have the nerve to defy how they identify who you are.

Apparently, once you move beyond their comfort zone, you’ll become the objective of their ridicule. They may even try to recruit others in your circle to get you back on path (theirs) or alienate you if you don’t.

As you move forward on your path towards achieving your goals and objectives, you’ll inevitably come across your fair share of trolls. When you do, take a deep breath, chuckle, disengage, and maintain your focus on adding value to our world.

1. Reinvention is a process, not a switch you can simply turn on and off

In today’s instant gratification society, we want what we want, when we want it, and if we don’t get it, then damn it we’ll look elsewhere until we find someone (or something) else who will give it to us. It is this mentality that leads most people away from achieving the goals and objectives they’ve identified when the path becomes unstable.

It’s at this exact moment that you have to dig deeper, access mental and physical abilities you may not have known previously existed, and maintain your stated course. This is precisely what those who accomplish their goals do.

While you can absolutely change your life on a dime by modifying your daily rituals, habits, and ways of being, doing so is a whole other story. By simply recognizing that reinventing your life takes significant effort, you have embraced the mindset of perseverance.

It is this mindset that will push you through the challenges of not eating that second serving, failing to show up for your 7am workout, or investing another hour at the office to be properly prepared for tomorrow’s meeting. Too many people expect miracles and are inevitably disappointed when the genie fails to grant them their wish.

Reinvention absolutely can happen, but you must be patient, commit to persevering and, perhaps most importantly, be kind to yourself. If you’re ready to reinvent your life in 2014 and become who YOU were born to be, I’d love for you to join me at The Reinvention Workshop. The next one is taking place in San Diego, January 24 & 25. Find out more information HERE and attend as my guest (receive a FREE $297 ticket) by entering promo code TRW at checkout. I look forward to meeting you and helping you to discover, share, and monetize what you were born to do!

Steve Olsher