5 Questions to ask yourself before setting goals for the new year

This morning I woke up to learn it was -7 degree Fahrenheit outside. This was not the wind chill estimate, but in fact the actual temperature. It was a moment of horror that soon gave way to reflection because the sheer fact it’s possible for such a cold to set in can mean only one thing, and that is that we are almost to the end of 2016. A new year is less than three weeks away and to be completely honest I am not at all prepared.

Working online is a constant battle between what you want to be doing and what cultural trends demand that you do. Maybe you want to write a daily editorial on something that matters to you, but you also need to exist on social media, actively market your existing work, and plan for what you will do over the next several days, weeks, months, etc. Heck, I spent more than three hours of my weekend scheduling tweets to run during the holidays so that I might spend a little more time with family and a little less staring at my phone (note I said less and not ‘no time at all’ because – let’s face it – that simply isn’t a reality for most right now).

So there I was, avoiding the cold and contemplating the approaching new year. The one thought running through my mind over and over was what it was I wanted to do in 2017 that I have as of yet been unable to accomplish. I’m sure many of you have or will find yourself internally debating this same question in the days to come if you have not already begun to do so. Most of us never thought we could get a foot in the door of this business, so usually we’re pretty happy just to be here in the moment working on whatever is immediately in front of us, but we owe it to ourselves to look up and think about what could lie on the horizon. It took a world of belief in yourself to get this far, so you – and I – can’t stop now.

Here are a few things I encourage you to think ask yourself when contemplating the places you will go in the year ahead:

Is what I’m doing right now making me truly happy?

No one gets into music because they dislike music, but just because you’ve gotten your foot in the door or found a role that helps pay the bills does not mean your journey has to come to an end, or even stall. We have all spent our lives being told that next to no one makes it in the entertainment business, and because of this we have a tendency to not want to risk what little success we have already found. This may be good for the sake of security, but in the grand scheme of existence all you are really doing by not chasing after exactly what it is that you want to do is restricting a part of yourself. You are preventing yourself from becoming the person you feel you were meant to be in order to please someone or some thing other than yourself. That may provide short term happiness, but it will absolutely create longterm regret. 2017 should be the year you focus in on what makes you happy and pursue it with all the strength you have in your bones.

Am I making the most of my time?

Laziness is a disease that infects us all to varying degrees. What few people will tell you is that the extent laziness impacts your life is entirely in your control. Just like how we all have a habit of settling for the first opportunity that comes our way we also have a habit of wasting time we know could be better spent focusing on our goals. Maybe you tweet too much (guilty), or perhaps you scroll Facebook even after complaining to everyone you know about how awful Facebook is these days (also guilty). Maybe you sleep until the last possible minute every morning and rush to work without eating a good breakfast or exercising (guilty again). Whatever the case, there are things you do on a regular basis that deep down you know are nothing more than a waste of time and resources. Identify those elements in your life and set to minimizing them in the new year. I’m not saying you shouldn’t relax, but if you feel something you are doing is not right you need to listen to that sensation and correct your path.

How can I work towards my goals without sacrificing something I need (work/money/etc)?

Reaching almost any goal requires some kind of sacrifice on your part, but you have to be smart about what you sacrifice or else you may get yourself into trouble. If your passions lie outside your current workplace and you have no other way to make money then you probably shouldn’t quit your job to pursue your dream full time. Dreams require money. Life requires money. You have to make sure your needs are met in order to have the mental clarity needed to pursue your passions. I like to say people should sacrifice within reason, or sacrifice what they are able, as long as it does not interfere with their quality of life in such a way that they are doing harm to themselves and/or their families.

What can I do to improve life for those around me?

If your bucket list for the new year reads like the agenda of a person who has the world’s biggest ego then your brain is leading you down a broken path. Happiness in life comes from much more than personal gain. You know that saying about how it’s cold at the top? People say that because they often reach the pinnacle of their personal journey and realize they have left behind the people, places, and things that mean the most to them. Victory doesn’t have to be a lonely thing, but you have to be conscious about your actions if you wish to lift up everyone around you in 2017. Helping others often improves happiness far more than personal accomplishments, and it does so while developing better relationships with those who mean the most to you.

How will reaching my goals for 2017 help me in 2018 and beyond?

Life is about the journey, not the destination, so you shouldn’t be looking at 2017 and thinking it will be the last year you ever have goals. Knowing where you want to be in two, five, or even ten years can help you figure out what you need to do in the coming months in order to achieve your long term goals. Once you reach them, set more and repeat the process over and over again until you die. Life is for the living. Keep your head up, your hopes high, and never let a bad day, week, month, or even year deter you from chasing after the things you want.

It’s important to note that not all goals have to be long term. If you want to eat the world’s biggest slice or pizza or work your way to running a 5k those things can be done in a relatively short amount of time. My advice is to balance the big goals with smaller, more easy to accomplish ones so that completing those tasks will help keep you motivated to fight for the bigger picture.


James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also the Film Editor for Substream Magazine and the host of the Inside Music podcast. You should follow him on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.