Sailing Into a New Year – 8 Secrets to Success

Girl Playing Violin

By Michal Lloyd

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” — Seneca.

It is the time of the year when we make amends for our misdeeds, like the excess we indulged in over the holidays. The days get longer, the eating slows down, the exercise increases and spending comes to a screeching halt. The fog of overabundance is now hidden from sight, along with the tinsel, and wrapping paper, so the cycle goes. We begin to pay penance for our bad choices, like eating fudge and purchasing on credit. The lashing is not necessary, but something else is. It is time to map out a plan to help you quickly get where you want to go.

Personal goals are essential whether you are helping your child reach their goals or trying to reach your own. No one can tell you your destination, and no one else can deliver your dreams C.O.D. If you help your child pick a goal, ensure it is their goal, not yours. Try to avoid pushing your ideas about their plans; if you do, they might miss out on a learning opportunity. 

Encourage Hard Goals -Think Big Fish

It is hard to reach the impossible dream, but we should encourage ourselves and our children to aim high and conjure a mighty long-term goal. Even though admitting we have big dreams is hard. The secret is we only have to admit it to ourselves. Your child doesn’t have to post it on the school whiteboard. It can be their little secret that they want to be the drama club president. Telling ourselves that we want to do something way out of our reach is an accomplishment. All your insecurities will come up and tap you on the shoulder, “Hey, I can’t do that. I’m not smart enough.” I recommend ignoring that voice. That voice doesn’t wish you well. 

When you create impactful goals, you are out on the open sea. It can feel dangerous and exhilarating because it is fully living life. There will be storms and sea monsters but battling the high winds and going through the doldrums is how we build resilience. 

Our Kids Need Challenge

Another reason to encourage your child to aim high is that research on the brain tells us that teenagers need to challenge themselves to help the brain mature and learn. You could blame lack of purposeful activity on youth who graffiti walls or say their brains are seeking greater demands[DT1] . We need to give it to them. These graffiti artists may need a different task. They might need a big fish to catch.

Just Pick it Already

Oh my, what if I pick wrong? Hemming and hawing are what I do best. What about you? The problem with not picking is that we don’t move forward. We stay in one place. If your goal is to climb Mount Borah, you will eventually have to pick a path and start packing. Won’t you? Indecision is a dream assassin. It is what stops us right in our cement loafers. We fret so much when we should just be trying things on. The act of mulling ideas around in our heads is exhausting. Just settle on something because the only wrong answer is not picking. Time will go by whether you work toward a goal or not. But choosing something will give insight. You might learn that you don’t like playing the guitar. Then you can move on. Bravo!


In Greek mythology, the sirens sang sweetly to the sailors as they passed through the strait of Scylla and Charybdis–a dangerous passage where sailors shipwrecked. In The Odyssey, the hero Odysseus sets out on his journey and prepares for obstacles. He knows the sirens will entice the sailors toward the rocks, so he gives them wax to plug their ears and ties himself to the ship’s mast. Foresight gets them through the strait where others crashed. 

Odysseus was smart. He knew there would be trouble, and he planned for it. We need to prepare for obstacles. The sirens are indecision, procrastination, forgetfulness, and fear in real life. 

Take Yourself Seriously

Another reason we don’t aim high is we don’t take ourselves seriously. Like Marlon Brando in On the Water Front, you can be a contender. You are the one who Is standing in your way.

Small Steps – Big Pay Off

Small daily steps add up. I’m guessing that walking 4,000 steps daily is probably better than walking 28,000 steps weekly. You can’t always do a last-minute cram session for life. Small daily steps build momentum, which creates habit and automates you. Consistency is more important than perfection. Don’t be afraid to work on your goal for five to ten minutes daily.

Remind Yourself Throughout the Year

Frankly, I have to be reminded about my goals. Sometimes we need to be reminded where we we’re going, or we will end up in the exact location we started. You can add your goals to your task list or schedule an email to remind your future self. Many email programs have a scheduling function. Set a twenty-minute timer and schedule email reminders to yourself or help your child do the same. 

Don’t Forget the Reward

You might help your child pick a reward for themself in advance for when they accomplish a task. It is best if they pick, and the rewards don’t have to be big or monetary. I am a trickster, promising myself a reward and not always delivering on it because I think I should have done more. Our brain loves reward, which is part of the cycle of reinforcing good behavior. 

For example, now, I am rewarding myself with a happy dance. 

Looking for healthy challenges to try with your family? Check out these additional resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics: