Key steps to prepare for the year ahead

Today, I’m not proposing that you set new resolutions (because we all know that they rarely last more than a month!). Instead, I’m inviting you to take an essential step: prepare your year ahead by setting for yourself concrete goals and clarifying your intention!

A key preparation in your life as a humanitarian aid worker or expat spouse

It’s particularly important if you’re a humanitarian or an expatriate spouse! Why is it so important? Because you face far more uncertainties than most people.

You don’t necessarily know how long you’re going to stay in your current country, what your next destination will be, whether you’re going to keep your current job and what your next job may be.

And if you know, you’re already wondering what the unexpected may happen, because in your life as a humanitarian and expatriate, there are never any certainties! Nothing is ever guaranteed or taken for granted!

And it’s precisely because you’re immersed in these uncertainties that it’s essential that you prepare for the year ahead! Clarifying your course, your vision, what you really want, gives you the permission and the possibility to make it happen, no matter what!

Stepping back to prepare for next year.

I bet your day-to-day life is so busy that you end up living in automatic mode, letting external circumstances define your priorities.

To make sure you make room for what really matters to you, the key is to take a step back. This is what will enable you to put the essential back at the center of your life!

To do this, I suggest you take a reflection break, where you withdraw from your frenetic life for a minimum of two hours! It’s a time to reflect, to take stock of the past year, to identify your goals and your intention for the coming year!

Personally, for the past few years, I’ve been giving myself a pause for reflection twice a year: at the end of the school year and at the end of the calendar year. This habit has an enormous positive impact on my life. Each time, I learn useful and constructive lessons, and above all, I refocus my course!

Here are a few steps to help you get started.

Step 1: Plan your reflective pause.

There’s nothing more effective than a little planning to make sure you have time to think!

Make an appointment with yourself!

Grab your diary and figure out exactly when you’d like to take two hours out of your daily routine for a reflection break.

I know, I know, you’ve already got a very busy schedule! Well, now’s the time to dare to put yourself first, even if it means refusing a commitment, delegating a task, or postponing an appointment. Two hours, it’s possible!

Think of it as a rendezvous with yourself, a moment of well-being, a time to yourself, for yourself. These two hours are a real gift you’re giving yourself to enable you to find your rightful place, to regain control of your professional and personal life!

By blocking this time in your diary right away, you’ll be sure to make it happen.

Choose an inspiring place.

Choose a neutral place, out of your routine, that inspires you and that you love: a nice cafĂ©, the studious atmosphere of a library, the lobby of a beautiful hotel or, if you live in a country where it’s warm in December, a nice place in nature, a deckchair by the pool or the sea!

If you’re in the field, in an environment with security constraints, you can create your own cosy place in your bedroom or apartment, with candles, essential oils, soothing background music and a good cup of tea or coffee!

Equip yourself with a pretty notebook and colorful pens. If music inspires you, grab your headphones and your favorite playlist.

Make sure that during these two hours you’re not reachable: no phone on, no access to emails, no notifications.

Step 2: Take stock of the past year.

Start by revisiting your past year, both the good times and the not-so-good times. It’s an opportunity to savour what worked, while learning from the difficulties you encountered. Without this assessment, you’ll be left with a hazy idea of what you’ve achieved, one that’s sometimes far removed from reality. It’s also often full of surprises because you’ve probably forgotten quite a few events and moments!

To make this assessment, you can consider every area of your life: your professional life, your financial life, your personal life, your love life, your family, your friends, your social life, your hobbies, your health, your vitality, your environment, your travels.

If you need to, don’t hesitate to consult your diary, month by month, for facts and concrete examples of what your year has been like!

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the three biggest positives points of this past year?
  • What were the moments that made my heart sing?
  • What were my big and small successes of the year?
  • What were my three main difficulties? How did I overcome them? What lessons did I learn?
  • What did I plan to do that I didn’t? What were the obstacles? What could I have done differently?
  • What were the surprises, the discoveries, the opportunities?
  • What did I learn about myself?
  • What do I absolutely want to keep from this year for the coming year?
  • What do I absolutely want to eliminate from this year for the year to come?

Step 3: Identify your goals for the year ahead.

You don’t necessarily need to plan drastic changes. It’s often enough to change certain habits. Research in positive psychology has shown that it’s not the major events in your life, but rather your daily habits, that over time have a lasting impact on your level of life satisfaction.

Identify your goals.

To identify your goals, you can proceed as follows:

  • I define at least one goal for each area of my life.
  • For each goal:
    • What are the benefits of achieving this goal?
    • What are the consequences if I don’t achieve this goal?
    • What do I want to do to achieve it?
    • What are the potential obstacles and how will I overcome them?
  • What would I like to be able to celebrate at the end of next year?
  • What will have changed in my life?

Define a quality goal.

For your goals to be effective, they need to be of good quality.

A goal that is of good quality is:

  • Positively formulated (rather than saying “I do not eat sweets”, write “I eat vegetables and fruit three times a day” instead).

  • In line with your values.
  • Congruent (it comes from you, not from outside).
  • Motivating (you feel an irresistible urge to achieve it!).

  • Assessable (you can measure your progress and adapt your goal if necessary).
  • And SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

To help you define goals that are of good quality, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve with this goal?
  • How will I know when I’ve reached my goal?
  • When will I have reached my goal?
  • Is my goal relevant?
  • Does it motivate me?

Write down your goals and display them prominently.

Writing down your goals increases your chances of success! Putting them in plain sight too! You can post them where you’ll see them regularly, for example on your desk, nightstand, or computer wallpaper.

Step 4: Define your strategy and action plan.

A study has shown that new-year resolutions are only achieved in 8% of cases! What differentiates a goal from a new-year resolution is the plan that accompanies it. That’s why you need to clarify exactly how you’re going to achieve them!

“An goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

Start by breaking down your annual goals into smaller ones: quarterly, monthly, weekly. Your brain needs regular positive feedback to stay motivated!

By identifying small, concrete actions you can take right away, you’ll keep your motivation intact:

  • For each goal, define the steps you need to take to reach it, with a deadline for each step.
  • Consider potential obstacles and how you can overcome them.
  • Identify what support you need and put it in place.
  • Celebrate every little step you take towards your goal. Reward yourself!

One tip to consider helping you achieve your goals is to identify a person with whom you will communicate regularly about your goals and progress. Research has shown that having someone to whom we are regularly accountable for our goals increases our chances of success by 243%! And that’s just the beginning!

Step 5: Clarify and connect with your intention.

Now that you have clear, concrete goals, you can set an intention for the coming year! The word intention means “action to direct towards”. Setting an intention is a bit like sending a command to the universe!

This intention is an opportunity to connect with what you really want!

You can formulate it in one word or a maximum of one sentence!

Here are a few examples:

  • Balance
  • Energy
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Daring!
  • Change!
  • Move forward!
  • Respecting my priorities and values!

This word will be with you all year long! It’s simple, powerful, and easy to remember! It allows you, in an instant, to reconnect with what’s essential to you, your essential!

You can write it down and post it wherever you like. One trick I use is to integrate it into all my passwords so that every time I write it down, I’m reconnected! As a side benefit, my passwords change every year!

You can also choose an object that symbolises your intention.

A pause for reflection that’s always worth planning!

Personally, I love this rendezvous with myself!

It’s a unique opportunity to refocus on my priorities, take stock of the past year, clarify my current needs and desires, make sure I’ve defined concrete goals for my life and set a clear intention for the year ahead.

The need for this pause for reflection is all the greater when I’m faced with major changes, uncertainties, and questioning.

In the midst of these uncertainties, focusing on concrete goals and connecting with my intention helps me stay on course, despite the unexpected!

So, are you going to give yourself the gift of a pause for reflection?

P.S.: If you find it complicated to do this reflection on your own, and you feel the need to be accompanied in clarifying the next professional or personal chapter in your life as a humanitarian or expat spouse, contact me, so that we can evaluate together whether one of my programs corresponds to your needs. It’s free and non-binding! You can book a place: I book a place for a discovery session with Nancy

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