Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Year: Completions and New Beginnings

The New Year is a time we associate with completions and new beginnings.  We have the opportunity to review from where we’ve come, and consider where we want to go.  For the coming year, I share a modified version of an exercise I call Looking Back, Looking Forward.  This one places more direct focus on three key aspects of creation: Be/Do/Have.  

Grab a journal or open a new document on your computer or tablet, and let’s dive in…

Part 1: Looking Back

To move forward, we must first look backward.  We start by reflecting on our successes and lessons, and finish by declaring completion and celebrating both what we have and have not achieved.  We get to define what we consider “success,” as winning is in the eye of the beholder.  Many of our most significant accomplishments have involved “failure” to help us gain insights or knowledge into ourselves and others, and perhaps what we want, need, or will/won’t do.  

By reflecting on these successes and lessons, we are better able to choose who we want to be as we engage and interact with the world.  And we must then let it all go by completing and celebrating the past and choosing to move forward without regret or attachment to what coulda/shoulda been.  

Looking at who you were being (Be), what you have done (Do), and your results (Have), reflect and respond to the following questions:
  • Successes: What have I created/accomplished this year, and why is that meaningful?
  • Lessons: What have I learned this year, and what are the impacts of those lessons?
  • Completions: Whether I achieved them or not, what goals from last year do I want to declare “complete” and move on (without guilt, regret, or “should”)?
  • Celebrations: What do I want to acknowledge as my biggest takeaways from this past year, and how will I celebrate them? 

Part 2: Looking Forward

I don’t believe in resolutions and feel they can be detrimental to a person’s experience of themselves.  This is because resolutions are typically created from a “fix it” point of view, and often result in negative feelings if/when they aren’t achieved and sustained.  I also caution against creating too many goals or changes at once.  There are studies that show that likelihood of success declines as the list of goals/changes grows. 

It is far more effective to identify and commit to 2-3 key SMART goals/targets that are personally meaningful and born out of choice and not should.  Let’s now focus on looking forward into the new year with an eye on creating and committing only to what you really want.

I.  Assess Your Current State
Start by taking a litmus test for where you are right now.  Consider how fulfilled you are in various areas of your life – career, health, relationships, etc.  Take this Wheel of Life assessment to get a sense of your levels of satisfaction and expression. Or you can jump straight to the results section for a list of questions to ponder.

II.  Visualize Your Future
Now that you know where you are, take a long view on who you want to be and what you want to do/have this year.  Project yourself out to December 31, 2014 and reflect on all you’ve experienced, created, and learned over the past 12 months.  
  • What will you include on your Looking Back for 2014? 
  • What does it feel like to have these successes and lessons?  
  • What value, impact, and meaning would that have for you?  
  • Who were you being that made that possible?

III.  Set Targets
Identify 2-3 targets that are important to you this year.  The more challenging the targets, the fewer you’ll want to commit to.  Don’t be tempted to take on everything.  If you are concerned about follow through, perhaps you may want to focus on only one critical, meaty target this year.  

Examples of broad targets: “focus more on health and fitness” or “be more patient with my kids.”  Specific targets may read like: “grow my practice's revenue by 20%” or “get accepted to grad school.”  However you define the targets, you will be more successful if they align with your vision above, are grounded in your personal values, and you truly want them enough to commit wholeheartedly.  Half-ass commitments make for half-ass results (if any).

IV.  Define Your Approach
Be-Do-Have Model
For each target, you will want to get super clear on the details.  Your level of specificity and commitment has a direct relationship to the likelihood of achieving your end goal.  If you find it challenging to complete the Be/Do/Have, you may need to go back and refine/revise so each target is clear and meaningful to you.  Taking each target one at a time, complete the next section.

A.  Be (Who/Why): Start with the heart. Consider who you want/need to be to achieve this target, and why it is meaningful to you. Your motivation to start and sustain anything will be impacted by how connected you are to the value and meaning your targets have for you. Also consider what is the mindset and sets of behaviors that will make it possible for you to hit your target? Do you care enough to fully commit to this target? Complete the following statements:
  • This target is personally meaningful to me because...
  • To achieve this target, I commit to being...
Example - Be
Target #1: Create and engage in a health and fitness regime that works for me
  • This target is personally meaningful to me because... my health is critical for my own mental and physical well-being, and it plays an essential part in me being able to be/do/have everything I want in my personal and professional life. A focus on health and fitness will give me more energy, allow me to better manage stress and anxiety, and help me overcome my issues with insomnia.
  • To achieve this target, I commit to being... present and intentional, in integrity about doing what I commit to, and willing/open to seek support and allow others to hold me accountable.
B.  Do (How): Create a plan of action.  Identify the actions necessary for accomplishing this target, and then break those down into baby steps. Be as SMART as possible: Be specific, put the steps into time (by when), and note any resources needed (tools, people, dollars, time commitments) to be sure you are super clear about what you are undertaking and whether it is realistic and achievable.  

The example below shows how to break down a broad target like “exercise” into specific actions you can take -- to build a roadmap for achieving your target.  It will look like this: Target >> Activities to reach that target >> Clearly defined baby steps/support structures for accomplishing those activities

Example - Do
Target #1: Create and engage in a health and fitness regime that works for me
  • Activity 1A: Exercise for 1 hour minimum 3x/week
    • Define activity options [such as 3 mile run, stretching, cardio/weights, palates class, etc.]
    • Renew gym membership by January 7 [or join a softball team, or…?]
    • Download JIFIT app for tracking my workouts by January 10 [for accountability and measurement]
    • Identify 1-2 workout buddies by mid-January [for accountability and support]
    • Etc.
  • Activity 1B: Be mindful about what I eat
    • Cut out refined sugars and processed food
    • Identify healthy eating options near my office
    • Bring lunch to work 2x/week
    • Etc.
  • Activity 1C: Focus on my fluid intake
    • Limit alcohol to 1x/week (wine/beer only) through February 28
    • Drink 64oz of water per day
    • No soda or artificially sweetened drinks
    • Etc.
  • Activity 1D: Create structures for mental and spiritual wellness
    • Identify a therapist by January 15; commit to 1x/week
    • Attend a yoga class 2x/month
    • Meditate daily for 5 min. every morning at 7am
    • Research approaches to managing my stress and sleep issues
    • Etc.
C.  Have (What/When): Define measures, milestones, and results. What will be the indicators that you are making progress? At what points will you reassess and what accountability structures will keep you on track? What will be the results, outcomes, and impacts if you are successful in achieving your target?

Example - Have
Using the same target as above, here are some potential options:
  • Measure your body at the start and create points (monthly, quarterly?) at which you will measure change in inches (decrease for weight loss; increase for muscle gain)
  • Track your activities and progress (however you define it) by using your calendar, Excel, an app on your phone, or even a wall chart with gold stars (if that motivates you)
  • Keep tabs on how you will feel (more energy, longer/better sleep, improved mood) by keeping a journal or asking for periodic feedback from people around you
The main objective is to be super clear about what you are shooting for as your results, and how you will measure them along the way. This will help you evaluate progress, and to fine tune the actions and baby steps to keep moving toward your goal. Be sure to create some rewards (big and small) for accomplishments of all kinds (big and small).  There needs to be some play in this if you want to keep yourself motivated over the longer-term.  

V.  Take Action
This is where the rubber meets the road.  What will be your first steps (i.e., today, this week, etc.)?  Do you need to create some structure and accountability by putting things in your calendar, finding an accountability buddy, or partnering with someone so you don’t have to do it alone?  If you are really serious and committed to achieving your targets, consider all the resources you have at your disposal, including people.  In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help. 

Final Note

You have the power to create your experience this year by being conscious and intentional about who you be and what you do.  What you will discover over time is the “have” is part results and part impact.  It’s a process of “becoming” as you continue to commit, take action, refine your approach, and allow the tangible and intangible results to unfold.  What you learn and how you grow can sometimes be just as if not more significant than what you actually achieve.  Be open to that and you will likely enjoy the experience more.