We’re moving from one year to the next. The counter is ticking over.

Why does it matter?

When I look back at my career and business growth, it’s clear that the most important times are directly linked to when I was intentional. I proposed to my girlfriend. I decided to write a book. I decided to go after the foreign service assignment. I changed my business model and joined up with Small Fish Business Coaching.

It came down to making a decision and commitment to myself, even if the path forward was unclear.

That’s the true power in the kind of reflection that we do at this time of year. The calendar year results finally become apparent, and winter can be a slower season for many families and businesses. So we tend to turn inward and ponder the shiny new year.

We all know that this end-of-year timing is artificial, but that’s quite OK. As long as we’re doing some deeper thinking, that’s what’s important.

I will often do a year-end exercise with my clients. We’ll look back at how much progress was made in the last year and what new focus areas to take on. This is almost always an uplifting, fruitful exercise.

I don’t want to focus on all the missteps, regrets, and missed goals. We all have those; it’s part of being human. Instead I ask the client to look at the positives, primarily what new resources were uncovered and what was learned.

I do this because I find that optimism is a critical tool for self-management and motivating others.

Then we’ll look for the new opportunities that have arisen. How has the market developed? What new customers and partners are showing potential? What are the underlying enablers that are helping employees to show success?

If you look for opportunities, they’re always there. Even in the face of a recession or uncertainty. Sometimes open doors come from others that are slammed shut.

But I’m asking you something deeper today: What’s special about 2018? Why is this going to be the year of a powerful breakthrough?

Imagine that you’ve made a commitment to, say, develop some new partnerships. Right now, you’re a bit fuzzy on what those are going to be, so the first step is going to be to write down what your goal is in this area. Market expansion? Offload work that’s not core? The joy of having people who are on your side?

So let’s take a couple of weeks and write that down. It doesn’t have to be perfect; call it a first draft if you like.

We know that’s just the first step, so after that, you’ll start talking to more people. And thinking around each discussion, “How might this develop into a deeper partnership?”

Then you’ll start prioritizing, tweaking, and developing. Over the course of the year, if you stick with it, you’re going to take some huge steps forward.

C’mon, we know this isn’t rocket science. It’s straightforward psychology: Setting intentions, plus sticking to it, plus tracking your progress, equals sustained change over the long term.

You do this with your employees, and you can do it with yourself.

I find that the challenge is that piece about “sticking to it.” That means developing some persistence so you won’t get distracted from the Most Important Things. Even when it gets boring or you run into obstacles.

That’s the reason why you should speak your goals out loud to a friend, colleague or coach. Or write your goals in your journal, if that helps keep you on track. And review progress every week.

It’s about keeping your special goals at the top of mind, even for years. If it’s a few words taped to your bathroom mirror, great. Whatever works for you.

Otherwise, the daily issues in your business will consume every waking moment. You’ll be busy, but the important goals will get pushed into the background.

So if you have one Most Important Intention for 2018, what’s it going to be?

This article was first published in Bizwest.