I am looking out my window and seeing the trees echo the image above. A wet snow has been falling, gently, for several hours now, serving as a beautiful backdrop of the day.
The very brown-and-whiteness of the entire vista brings a memory to mind.
It was Thanksgiving, and my husband and I were driving (over the river and through the woods) to Williamsburg, VA, to visit family. When we’re on long road trips we usually entertain ourselves with games like “Six Degrees” and “I Spy.”
This late November trip didn’t offer us much for I Spy, especially driving at night.
“I spy… something black.”
“Is it the road?”
“Is it everything else except the road markings?”
“Okay, my turn. I spy something white.”
“Is it the road markings?”
Fortunately we had CDs of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Series with us.
We humans are natural categorizers. We love to identify what we find. We feel comfortable when we can put each person, place, and thing into a category that we understand.
While this penchant for categorization puts us in situations where labels don’t serve us so well (gender, for instance, or your coworkers’ personality problems), we can use it when we are looking ahead to the coming year and setting goals for ourselves.
This month my blog posts are walking you through, step by step, creating a plan that can help you have a better and more productive year in 2017 than you had in 2016. Last week’s post focused on reviewing the past year to see what you actually did. By reviewing that list, you will get a sense for what it’s actually possible for you to accomplish in a year, a month, and a week.
As you are reviewing all of that, you will start to see categories of activity and accomplishments. These will vary by individual, of course. Here are some of the categories and activities that started to come to the foreground for me last year when I went through this process:
- Business courses
- Business practices
- Coaching Hours
- Content creation
- Service, Networking, and Meetups
- Speaking Engagements
Your own list of categories should include not only those things that make you feel like you’ve accomplished something (whether it’s public speaking, mountain climbing, or asking people out), but also activities you enjoy, that contribute to a positive experience of life.
Who do you want to be?
The next step is one of the most challenging if you’ve never done it before, and that is to define your sense of purpose or mission, or at least a description of the kind of life you want to lead (eventually). It does not have to be something you can anticipate being able to fully live out in 2017, but something you would like to work toward. What kind of impact do you want to have in the world? What do you want people to remember you for?
Once you’ve outlined your sense of purpose or desired life, use that to help you identify the kinds of action steps to begin taking now. Those action steps will also fall into some general categories. Some of these might include physical and financial fitness and volunteering/community service. Add these to your list of categories that you started above.
Set some goals
If the list feels complete, start brainstorming measurable goals for each. Measurable means you’ll know whether or not you’ve achieved them by some outward evidence. For instance:
- Which certifications?
- How many coffee meetings each month?
- Which trails will you hike?
- How much weight will you be able to lift?
- How much money will you have saved?
Try to come up with 3-5 goals for each category. Strong goals are SMART goals — specific, measurable, actionable (it’s possible for you to do what it takes), realistic, and timebound (i.e. with deadlines). I’ve also seen the suggestion that you add an “E” at the end (for SMARTE) — the “E” signifies the emotional impact or reason of achieving the goal.
Next week, we’ll look at the planning steps you’ll take to achieve those goals.
That might be an exciting thought — you can actually do it!
PS. After you complete these steps, it makes sense to start figuring out what would be involved in starting to engage in those activities, maintaining them, or achieving those goals. (Click on that link, and you’ll go to post three.)