Where are you going?
If you have no destination, anywhere will do. That may be why you are in a place you do not wish to stay. Begin with the end in mind. Write out your personal mission statement and the outcomes that are important to your life. Declare your future in a manifesto that you can refer to again and again during the year ahead. Pare it down until you feel you’ve captured the essential elements and make it specific.
Why does it matter?
To say “no” to the unimportant, trivial, distracting options that will present themselves to you every day, you need a bigger “yes”. Be clear about what’s at stake. Describe the consequences you will experience if you don’t follow through. This will help you create leverage for change. Read this often as you review your goals, mission statement or manifesto. The initial pain or motivation will fade so you must regularly remind yourself why you started this process.
Are you any closer?
Consider the goals you have created in the past. Make an honest assessment of your progress. Did the battle lines move since you last set out to take new territory? If you don’t change the odds the results will be the same. This is critical to recognize and accept, otherwise, you may be tempted to cycle through the same approaches you’ve used in the past. If you have made progress, think about what worked and how you can build on what you achieved.
What’s in your way?
Take a personal inventory. There are things you need to do more and things you need to do less. There are things you need to let go. Typically we just add more things to do without letting go of anything. This leads to burnout instead of a breakthrough. Try to focus on how you can simplify and focus your time and energy, (life units), on the things that matter most. Your stop-doing list may be longer than your start-doing list.
Who’s on your team?
If you’re trying to do this alone, you will struggle. You will likely fail. Yes, those are harsh words but that doesn’t make them any less true. You need support, encouragement, accountability, feedback, and grace from people you trust and who you are committed to walking with you. Find those people. You may also decide that some of the people you’ve been clinging to need to move out of your life.
When will you start?
Now you can choose a few changes you wish to focus on to get started. Don’t pick 20 things or you will quickly lose momentum. Target a few key areas and define short-term steps to begin the journey. It may be as simple as making a phone call or sending that first email to start the process. Establish traction and momentum as quickly as possible and try to nudge it forward every week.
I’ve found these questions to be very helpful in reflecting on my life, my progress and in planning for the future. I am not suggesting specific tools or methods of documenting, tracking or otherwise managing your goals. I think those matter less than the foundation you create to support them. Find what works for you.
A friend recently shared a question I found very powerful and I think it can be applied to this entire process. I share it here as a final thought on this ongoing quest to become the best possible version of you.
“Does this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller? The usual question is “Will this make me happy?” – but few of us, if we’re honest, have much of a clue about what will make us, or our loved ones, happiest. Ask whether a choice will make you larger or diminish you, though, and surprisingly often the answer’s obvious.”– James Hollis
Thank you for supporting and contributing to this blog during 2017. I hope some of what is shared here has been helpful to your personal growth, leadership development and contribution to the workplace. I wish you success on your next trip around the sun.