Want to Be Truly Successful? Then Stop Doing This!
Success. It looks different for different people. There are a lot of factors that play into one’s vision and definition of the concept. The bottom line, however, generally includes a solid reputation, doing work you love and achieving the results you desire, whatever those may be.
Success (or the lack thereof) is inevitably a result of decisions made along your own personal journey. Based on your own desired outcome and the information available to you, you will decide to use your skills or outsource to those who have the skills to attain certain results. You will decide to establish certain policies and procedures. You will decide to follow certain schedules and timelines. You will decide to invest in particular individuals and projects. Sound, solid decisions are at the heart of success.
Every so often your decisions don’t land well with others. Perhaps your customers or clients are put out. Maybe your team or staff disagrees with your decisions. Maybe your family is confused by your decision. When others question or otherwise disconnect with your decisions, it is tempting to defend your choice. Some would say that defending your decisions is natural. What I want you to know, however, is that every time you DEFEND your decisions, you undermine your success.
This may seem counterintuitive. After all, when someone questions you, isn’t defending your position normal? Natural? Understandable? Perhaps it is, to some degree. The challenge, however, is that the act of defending is experienced as less than powerful. It actually undermines your credibility to a certain degree. So often, when you defend something, your emotions kick into hyperdrive and any semblance of grounded, solid decision-making is replaced with something close to raving lunacy.
So, what can you do instead of defending when your decisions are questioned? Two simple things: listen and be grateful.
The ability to listen is the hallmark of a successful individual. Listen to your customers, your clients, your peers, your competitors, your team, yourself. Listening does not mean agreeing, necessarily. It simply means being quiet (don’t talk!), hearing what’s actually being said, taking it in with a view to understanding what you’re being told. You don’t have to change your decision in any way; just listen to what’s being presented to you.
Once you’ve listened to those around you, express gratitude. “Thanks for sharing” – said sincerely and graciously, goes a long way to enhancing and bolstering your credibility, your confidence and in turn, your success. The individual sharing his or her perspective feels heard, and you don’t come across as needy or over-exuberant in any way.
Bottom-line: if you want to be experienced as a successful individual, leader, business person, teacher, or anything else, you’ve got to stop defending yourself. The act of defending undermines true success, every time. Learn to listen with an open heart, and express thanks to those who take the time to share their thoughts with you. Defense has no part in the successful individual’s toolkit.
“I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.” How often have you heard that said? How often have you yourself said it? If you’re like most people I know, I’d hazard a guess that this phrase has made an appearance in your life, in one way or another, MANY times. You go away on vacation to rest, to get away – and perhaps to take in some different sights and experiences – and end up coming back to your regular life exhausted, depleted and not at all rested. What is that about?
We all need vacations. At its very core, a vacation is intended to serve two purposes: first, to rejuvenate and replenish your spirit, often by experiencing a change of pace and scenery; second, to allow you the opportunity to learn a bit about a different culture or environment, depending on the type of vacation you take.
When you plan for a vacation – particularly a vacation “in a foreign land” – what does your planning focus on? In other words, what are the things you research or build into your itinerary, in order to make your vacation worthwhile? Having talked to many people about this, and witnessed many clients, colleagues, friends and family engage in the “vacation planning” process, what I know for sure is that you spend a lot of your time planning excursions, tours, visits to historic sites or relatives (sometimes one and the same). Your planning incorporates a lot of “things to do.” Your planning does not allow for much time to just “be” which is why you come back from vacation more exhausted than when you left.
If I were to ask you at the outset of your vacation planning, what you hope to get from your time away – or your time off – I know that I’d hear some version of “I just need a break” or “I just need some time to veg out.” I get it; I understand what it’s like to need to decompress, step away from the demands of the office and replenish your energy stores. So my question is this: if your primary objective is rest and rejuvenation, why do you plan so much “busy” time? Why don’t you plan more days of just sitting poolside, or on the beach, or on the wrap-around-porch, with your eyes closed and soaking up the sun? Why do you try to DO so much on your vacation?
One of the pitfalls of our society is the compulsion we’ve all got, to constantly be “doing” something. The danger with this way of thinking, this misguided belief, is that we forget that our bodies, minds and spirits actually need time to rest between times of “doing.” We forget to spend time “being.” And so, our vacations end up being filled with more things to do, rather than giving us any time to just be. Can you see the fundamental mistake in this?
If you really do want to do things on your vacation, by all means, go ahead and do them. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you miss out on the opportunity to check out the Great Wall of China, or to explore the Mayan Riviera. What I am asking you to do is get clear on what your goal is for your vacation. And if getting a modicum of rest is a part of the expectation then make sure you build rest time in to your itinerary. Your vacation cannot replenish you if you don’t factor replenishing into the equation.
Bottom-line: get clear and get real about your vacation expectations. Once you’re clear, plan accordingly. Make your plans align with your expectations, so that when you get back from vacation, you can talk about how you got what you set out to get, rather than about how much more you need.
Direction. It’s an interesting word to me. You’re always heading in a direction. And, you always need a sense of it. Without direction you actually can’t figure out what it is you’re heading toward. You’ll still be moving, but you won’t know with what purpose, or to what end. When it comes to living your life, no matter who you are, how old you are, what your culture or gender, having a direction – a sense of direction – is important.
What I’ve noticed is that children often have a clearer sense of direction than adults. The direction of children may seem simplistic, trivial, or basic. No matter how simple it is, however, it’s still a direction, a sense of what they’re moving towards. Perhaps more importantly, children seem to know intuitively how to deal with the challenges that arise that might require them to course-correct. It’s as though they have an inner GPS that tells them, “since that way is blocked, go this way instead – if your objective is what you say it is.” And while children, like adults, have varying degrees of tolerance for life’s obstacles, when it comes right down to it, they know what they want, how to get it and they’re able to maintain a singular focus (yes, even children with ADD can do this). The question is, how do they do this? And why are you as an adult less able to do so?
It all comes down to this. You’ve got the same inner GPS, you’ve just lost your satellite signal, so to speak. Your satellite signal is your knowledge of what matters in any given moment. In this world in which you are so inundated with the demands and expectations of others, you’ve allowed your own personal needs, and your sense of what it is that you’re headed towards, to be buried beneath the needs and directions that others put forward. There’s a way that you, in your effort to stay abreast of all that’s happening, keep up with the times, and get everything done that needs doing, have disconnected from your values. The result? You’ve got minimal sense of direction.
So, what do you do about it? You go back to the basics, my friend. If you want to reactivate your inner GPS, if you want to reclaim your sense of direction, you’ve got to reconnect with what matters to you, right here, right now. This can be a challenge, no doubt about it. Indeed, it’s what many of my clients end up exploring from time-to-time – what matters in this moment? In this scenario? And once you determine that answer, ask yourself what it is that you need to do, or how it is that you need to be, in order to honour that thing that matters right now.
Bottom-line: to paraphrase the words of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you’re heading, then it doesn’t matter what road you take. If you’re okay with that, if you’re okay with just ending up wherever you end up, then fine. Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you really want to fulfill your purpose, then take a moment and get clear on where you’re heading. Check in with your values, and adjust your direction accordingly. This will ensure that where you end up, is always where you are meant to be. Happy travels!
Over the years I, like you and every other person on the planet, have had the opportunity to be on both the giving and receiving end of apology exchanges. I know this isn’t uncommon. In western society in particular, apologies are fairly regular occurrences: apologies for bumping into someone, apologies for misspeaking or interrupting, apologies for being late, apologies for being early – you name it, depending on your perspective, you can probably find a reason to apologize. Personally, I think that apologies are often over-used, thereby diminishing the power and sincerity that’s necessary to make the apology meaningful.
All that being said, however, the thing that I’m most curious about – the thing that I’ve been curious about for a very long time now – is how we as individuals receive apologies. Think about it. What’s the usual response you give when someone apologizes to you for something? I’ll give you a minute to consider this. If you’re honest, I’m willing to bet that you generally say some version of “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry about it” if you’re desiring to be gracious; or if you’re really ticked off or hurt, you may respond with some version of “Yeah, okay” or “whatever”. My sense is that, anyway you slice it, these responses to an apology are inadequate. So let’s backtrack for a moment and consider the impetus for an apology, before I clarify how I believe one can respond.
Apologies are generally given when an individual has either done or said something wrong, something that hurts another, or something that in some way had him or her fall short of expectations. Whether it is being late for an appointment, making a snide comment at someone’s expense, or physically injuring another, an apology is an individual’s attempt to
a) acknowledge their mistake or take responsibility, and
b) make amends before moving on.
So, when you hear an apology being given and you respond with a phrase similar to “that’s okay”, how does this align with the person taking ownership of their mistake? Let’s get really concrete here to illustrate what I’m talking about. Imagine that your child has hit a playmate while at the playground. Knowing that she shouldn’t have done that, she apologizes to her friend, and then hears, “Oh, that’s okay.” What’s the message? The child knows – because she’s been taught – that hitting someone else is hurtful. And yet, her apology is being met with “that’s okay.” Really? Is it okay? I don’t think so. Such a response certainly doesn’t allow the apologizer to acknowledge their mistake and take responsibility. It lets them off the hook instead. Which is a mixed message at the very least.
Similarly, had the injured party in the above scenario responded to the apologizer with a statement such as “Yeah, okay” or “Whatever”, there’s an implication that the apology is not being accepted. In other words, it doesn’t matter that the first child wants to make amends, the injured child won’t allow it. That’s the energetic subtext. Can you see what I’m talking about? Can you relate to times when you have experienced this disconnect, either as the giver of an apology or as a receiver?
If these typical responses aren’t in alignment with the intention of an apology, how else can you respond? Well, I believe that there is a really simple response that not only can be, but needs to be, used when someone apologizes. Simply put, the response that’s required is nothing more and nothing less than “thank you.” When someone apologizes, and you say “Thank you” the message is simple: “I accept that you feel badly, I appreciate that you’re trying to make this right.” And that’s it. You don’t need to absolve the person of their wrong-doing, you don’t need to make them feel better and you certainly don’t need to make them feel worse. You just need to meet them where they’re at. Why? Because it keeps the interaction clean, clear and honest. It allows both of you to move past the experience with grace, without any sense of how moving forward might look. That’s a whole different conversation. And that, after all, is the point of the apology.
Admittedly, there are additional factors to consider when it comes to apologizing. For example, someone who repeatedly apologizes but never changes the associated action calls into question the sincerity of the apology. I mean, it’s not enough to accept responsibility for your behaviour if you’re not going to change that same behavior. The apology becomes meaningless. And as a result, it’s challenging to express gratitude for that sort of an apology. So, when you’re giving an apology for the same scenario over and over again, as the giver of said apology it really behooves you to ask: what are you apologizing for? And what are you actually willing to change?
Bottom-line: apologies are not meant to be taken lightly. They are not to be given lightly, and they are not to be dismissed readily. Instead, thought must be given both by the giver and receiver of an apology. As the giver, know why you’re apologizing and do so with sincerity and commitment to not have to deliver the same apology again. And when receiving an apology, remember that your job is to do so with grace; express gratitude without either minimizing the hurt or making it bigger than it need be. An effective apology is about both the giver and the receiver. Give with sincerity, receive with grace. This is the way to make apologies work.
Groundhog day. It’s a North American tradition – specific to Canada and the USA as far as I know. Basic folklore says that on February 2nd, otherwise known as Groundhog Day, the groundhog will emerge from its burrow and if it sees its shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If it doesn’t see its shadow, then it’s only 6 more weeks until spring. Or something like that.
This tradition has baffled me for many years. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand it; I heard it as “if the groundhog sees its shadow we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter; otherwise, it’s spring!!” This, of course, doesn’t make any sense at all. According to the calendar there are 6 more weeks of winter regardless. The official first day of spring doesn’t arrive until March 20th (or is it the 21st??).
At any rate, folklore aside, what I want to point to is this: Groundhog Day and its corresponding folklore is a powerful example of the power of perspective. Perspective can be defined as the way you choose to view things. Understanding and being aware of your perspective is important because the way you choose to view something, the perspective you hold on a given situation, influences the choices you’ll make and the way you’ll show up in the world. Why does this matter? Because the choices you make and the way you show up ultimately determines the quality of your life.
Let’s say, for example, that you choose to say that “there will be six more weeks of winter” as opposed to “there are six more weeks until spring”; where is your focus? With the first statement, your focus is on winter, right? Not only that, your focus is on the fact that there’s more winter to endure before the arrival of spring. When you make the ever-so-slight shift to the statement, “there are six more weeks until spring” your focus is on spring, and on the ensuing countdown. It’s a perspective of anticipation as opposed to endurance. And when you’re anticipating or expecting something, the way you approach it is different than when you’re enduring something. Do you see what I’m talking about?
So, if you take this lesson and extrapolate it to your life, the question I’ve got is this: are you enduring things? Or are you anticipating things? Are you putting up with things? Or are you looking forward to something? There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these perspectives. Each one is valid and rooted in a modicum of truth. What changes, however, is the resulting attitude you’ll hold, the choices you’ll see and the outlook you’ll embrace. When you stand in the place of anticipation, looking forward, there’s a way that you hold a certain excitement and joie de vivre. When you stand in the place of enduring and putting up with things, your approach is instead one of trepidation and despondence. Which one will serve you better?
I know that there are times where endurance is what makes sense. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a crisis of sorts. And yet, even in that crisis, when you can shift your focus to one of anticipation – if only for a moment – there’s a way that you can navigate the challenges with just a bit of ease. Understand, this isn’t about pretending that the challenge or crisis doesn’t exist. Instead, it’s about understanding that even while the challenge is there, there is something to look forward to. No matter what storm you’re weathering, the sun will come out in the days ahead.
Bottom-line: when it comes to getting the most out of your life, living it as fully as possible, and creating all that you want for yourself, there’s something to be said for getting deliberate about your perspective and approach. Over the next six weeks, will you endure? Or will you anticipate? Or will you choose something else altogether? Find out what will serve you best. Then choose that approach to your life.
The February blues – or blahs, as the case may be – are upon us. The initial excitement and enthusiasm of the New Year has started to wane, winter feels like it’s been around forever and slowly but surely, your productivity and focus are diminishing. Goals that you set for yourself feel like they’re a little out of reach, right? And you’re starting to wonder what the heck you need to do to get your mojo back. Well, the answer might surprise you.
So far, you’ve probably tried re-energizing yourself. You’ve played some motivational music and tried to pump yourself up. Instinct says that this should work. And it might for a bit, however, slowly but surely it too will fail you unless you make time for one important thing. Do you know what that thing is? Simply put, it’s time to RECHARGE.
Recharging is essential to your ability to perform, to achieve, to succeed. This has been proven repeatedly and yet, too few people engage in recharging effectively. Why is this?
Well, first of all, too often people are misled by their innate resilience. Think about it. Your body, your mind, your spirit are capable of doing and handling so much. Just when you think you can’t do any more, you manage to find resources to keep moving forward, to keep plodding along. The problem is, however, that you’re plodding. You’re not actually moving with enthusiasm, vim and vigor. Just because you seem to be capable of doing a lot, doesn’t mean that you’re doing that stuff well.
Secondly, there seems to be a misconception that recharging is for the weak, that those who need to recharge are somehow less capable than others. Not so, my friends. Recharging is an essential practice to maintaining a high quality of life, of productivity, of success.
Third, many think that recharging requires time and energy that they don’t have. Wrong again. I mean yes, you do require time and energy to recharge, but to think that you don’t have such time and energy is misguided. It doesn’t take a lot of time and energy. It just requires a deliberate decision to focus your time and energy to this end.
So, how do you recharge? What are some easy ways to do so? Let me give you a few simple strategies:
- Give yourself permission to take a nap every day. 15 minutes will do it. 15 minutes where you shut the door, turn off the phone, close your eyes and recharge. Simple, easy, and effective.
- Eat to nourish and recharge, not to fend off boredom. Make every bit you put in your mouth serve you. Skip the chocolate bar and savour an apple instead.
- Breathe deeply – 3 conscious, deliberate breaths will go a long way in restoring your soul.
- Build small breaks into every day, rather than waiting for weekends and vacations to recharge.
- Create moments of silence. Turn off the radio, turn off your phone, and sit in silence; it’s a powerful restorative energy.
Bottom-line: if you want to be more productive, stop doing so much without taking a break. Take time to recharge instead. It sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me. Recharging your batteries ensures that you’ve got what it takes to be your most productive self.
There seems to be a little bit of confusion out there in the world right now. The employment landscape is shifting as the economy shifts. In an uncertain economic climate, more and more people are looking carefully at their vocational and career choices and trying to find a reliable barometer by which to gauge whether or not they’re making the best choices for themselves. Countless books exist on the subject of finding a career path that serves you well. And there appears to be a push to find “what you love”.
Confession: I subscribe to this exact philosophy. My personal sense and experience is that when you’re doing what you love, there’s a joy, a sense of purpose, and liberation that you can’t find when you’re simply doing something because you have to. There’s a different energy involved, a different investment you make of yourself; and investments can only yield results relative to what you put in, you know?
Here’s the problem with the whole “do what you love” philosophy, however. It’s misunderstood, or perhaps more importantly, misapplied. In a quote attributed to Confucius, you are advised to “find a job that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” The challenge – the misunderstanding – lies in the application of the last half of the quote. At first glance, it sounds like Confucius is equating a life of doing what you love with a life of easy leisure. One might picture bon bons, hammocks and fruity drinks with umbrellas. I would say that this is flat-out wrong.
Doing what you love does not mean that you won’t have to work. It means that the work you engage in will be fulfilling, meaningful, and rewarding in some capacity that goes beyond the activity or product being produced. “Not working” as it’s referenced in this quote, is about not feeling burdened or overwhelmed, and having a reliable, inner compass to guide you on YOUR path. It’s about recognizing that each and every one of us is well-suited to some things more than others. When you align yourself with the things that you’re suited to, the things you love, the work inherent in those things feels less “work-like” than it does for someone who gets no enjoyment out of the same activity.
Here’s another thing: sometimes, doing the stuff you love is HARD WORK. It’s challenging, it stymies you, it uses up energy and drains you a bit. And yet, because it’s something you LOVE, the draining or depleting is of a different nature than if you’re doing something that you don’t love.
Let me illustrate: my daughter is a competitive dancer. She LOVES to dance and seems to do so in her sleep. She dances down the street; she dances in the living room; she dances when she’s studying. This kid just dances, period. As you watch her, most of the time you don’t even think she’s working. Everything looks effortless, fun and moreover, you can see pure joy in every feature of her face. That being said, this is challenging stuff. She is continually pushing herself to mastery, learning new moves, perfecting postures, stretching herself (literally and figuratively). And both the physicality and mental capacity required is challenging. It’s not easy. But this is actually part of what she loves. The inherent challenge in this difficult endeavour is what makes it so enjoyable. Does she love what she’s doing? You betcha. Is she working hard? Absolutely. The two actually go hand in hand. And because she loves it, the hard work is something she embraces.
Something to note: sometimes, circumstances are such that you find yourself doing something that you don’t love (in my world, this would be laundry – I really do NOT love that). That being said, my experience is that even this task, whatever it is for you, can hold within it some particular thing that you do love. When you can focus on that, the burden of said task dissipates, at least to some degree. For me and laundry, the thing I love is the feel of warm clothes as I fold them fresh out of the dryer. I do love that. And I do love folding laundry when I’m watching tv; there’s something about that experience that feels enjoyable, whereas folding laundry by itself does not. I can get behind that, you know?
One more thing: just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you love it. Sometimes being good at something means nothing more than that. You can do; you can do it well; and you get no enjoyment from it. Good to know. You can still do it. AND, if you can find those things that bring you joy? That’s even better.
Bottom line: when it comes to doing what you love, it’s important to recognize that it’s not about letting yourself off the hook, or abdicating hard work. Instead, it’s about recognizing what brings you joy in spite of the inherent challenges. You cannot avoid hardship or challenge AND you absolutely can find hardship and challenge that is contained within the constructs of what you love. They actually go hand-in-hand. Doing what you love is what you’re meant to do. Those things you don’t like doing? There’s somebody else that does. And when we can each do what we love, everything gets done.
The last few weeks in my world have been a whirlwind of busy-ness and change, a veritable frenzy of activity. This is bound to be the case when managing the schedules of 4 highly-engaged individuals in one family, namely, my own (I have a daughter who dances competitively and is at the studio 4 nights out of 5, a high school-aged son who plays varsity basketball, rec hockey and works as both a hockey referee and timekeeper, a husband who is a grade 5 teacher, coaches basketball and hockey and sings in our church choir, and me who is chair of council at our church, hosts a radio show, coaches clients, is writing the final draft of my book and works at the local library as a way of decompressing in my spare time!). Ordinarily, I manage this busy life very, very well. It takes a little bit of organization and focus, and it is totally doable and mostly enjoyable.
And then last week, it hit me — the recognition that I was heading straight for the proverbial brick wall, brought on by an underlying sense of overwhelm, unless I did something drastic. The laws of physics tell us that a body in motion will stay in motion, unless forced to stop. And I knew for sure that I needed to stop. The question was, how would I do this without dropping every ball that I had up in the air?
Here’s what I realized. The task of stopping (read as “slowing down”) wasn’t all that difficult. It only required my own willingness to do so, a willingness to embrace “down time” as a necessary part of my experience. No matter how busy I was, I had to consciously work in some “down time” in order to keep myself restored and energized.
This is not a new notion. I know about the importance of carving out time for me. And, I believed that I had plenty of downtime worked into my days: daily baths, time to read, regular cups of tea (decaf of course). On the surface, anyone looking at me would say that I have more downtime than most! The problem, however, is this: downtime is only downtime if you’re actually allowing yourself to slow down. Soaking in the tub is good; and if you’re spending that soaking time planning your day, you’re not really slowing down. Reading is great; but if every book you read is related to work (or if you’re thinking about work while you make your way through the novel in your hands) you’re not slowing down. And if you’re enjoying that cup of tea while responding to emails, you’re not actually slowing down.
Once again, I know this stuff. The new learning for me last week was this: no matter how much you know and understand about the importance of slowing down, if you don’t do so consciously, the rest of your life will creep into those “down” moments, uninvited by you, and interfere with your capacity to restore yourself. That’s what had happened for me; and that’s what will happen for you, unless you get conscious and deliberate about taking time for you.
Bottom-line: if you want to be successful, then there are things you need to embrace: goals, specific plans, and clear vision are all necessary. And, perhaps most important of all, you’ve got to embrace concrete down time. Get deliberate about slowing down, and you’ll actually accelerate your achievement of success!
Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them objectives. Whatever you call them, at this time of year, you’ve probably got at least a few new ones. A new year always lends itself to the clarification of what it is you want for yourself and stating these in the form of goals is a great way to keep them front and center. Goals give you direction, they give you a purpose, they give your eyes something on which to focus. Indeed, when it comes to achieving goals, you’re often told to keep your eye on the prize (aka, the desired end-result).
Here’s the thing. If you want to reach your goal, keeping your eye on the prize simply isn’t enough. In fact, keeping your eye on the prize and the prize alone can actually be detrimental to achievement. Because when your eye is on the prize only, you aren’t adequately prepared to reach the prize; you just know it’s there, beckoning, like a lighthouse or a beacon. Beacons can be good guides; but you need something more, something concrete to actually get you where you’re going. In short, you need a specific plan.
I recently read an article (although do you think I can find it now? No!) in which the author of said article talked about focusing on systems in order to achieve your goals. This is the same, in my opinion, as having a plan. Your system or plan answers the question of how, exactly, you will achieve your goal. If your goal is to visit a certain location, how will you get there? Will you drive or fly or sail? Will you travel alone or with companions? Will you use money from savings or will you use your year-end bonus cheque? What is your plan?
The beauty of a plan is this: it consists of mini-goals that can be achieved and celebrated along the way to your primary goal. Plus, the series of mini-goals can be tweaked and modified as curveballs get thrown at you (which they will). If your goal is to meet 20 potential clients by month-end, and your plan is to meet one individual a day for every work day, and you get sick on one of those days, then you can modify your plan. You can see two new clients on one day to make up for the missed day – and you’ll still achieve your objective. If, however, you don’t have a plan, if you fly by the seat of your pants and simply keep saying that you’ll meet with 20 potential clients by month-end, the possibility of your achievement remains somewhat hazy. You might reach your goal; and you might not. And you won’t know what to do differently going forward because you never had a plan in the first place.
Bottom-line: keeping your eye on the prize is not a bad thing. That being said, when it comes to achieving your goals, it’s also not the only thing. If you want to achieve a goal, your focus must be two-fold: keep your eye on the prize and work your plan at the same time.
I know. Anyone who’s been on my ezine subscriber list for some time knows that I’ve talked about themes before. The information really is powerful, however, and so it bears repeating.
Every year as you stand on the cusp of one year ready to enter into the next your very human nature takes you down the path of thinking and planning for the year ahead. This is a good thing. And yet planning for anything is so much more effective when said planning is anchored in something really solid, tangible, something bigger than the plans themselves. In the years that I have coached clients to the achievement of their goals and dreams, I have come to refer to this “something” as a theme.
What is a theme? Simply put, it’s the bigger vision – perhaps the biggest vision – of what it is you’re setting out to do. It’s the context, the container in which your dreams, goals and aspirations can become reality. Taking the time to define your theme allows you to think more broadly, particularly in those moments when your current objective feels elusive.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to defining your theme. The essential piece is that you choose a theme that has deeply, resonant meaning for you. Your theme should be something that lights you up from within. When you say to yourself (or to someone else) “2014 is my year of ______________” or words to that effect, you’ll know that your theme is exactly right because you’ll feel a sense of giddiness. You’ll feel elated, lighter, excited. Connecting with your theme can energize you when the actual work of achieving your objectives seems a little daunting (and it will). Themes can also provide direction when the path seems a little obscured by fog. Not sure of what to do next? Remember your theme and allow that to guide you.
Need examples of themes? Really, it could be anything. And, here are a few ideas: focus, achievement, mindfulness, joy, perseverance, fun, growth, expansion, creativity. The list could go on and on. Your job (your opportunity) is to ask yourself what you want to achieve and WHY – this WHY will likely point you in the direction of your theme.
Bottom-line: planning can be fun at times and daunting at others. Always, however, planning is more effective when it is rooted in a solid understanding of the big picture. Defining a theme for your year provides this sort of big-picture vision. Define your theme and you’ll always have something to lean into, even when the going gets tough.