“Begin with the end in mind.” ~Stephen Covey, Habit #2
The holidays arouse a number of feelings in many of us. There is a vague awareness that, as we get ready to pull one calendar off the wall and post the next one, something significant is happening—something meaningful that we usually don’t stop to consider.
The end of the year calls for a pause. A thoughtful look back at what has happened and a strategic look forward at what’s coming next. This is the time for setting goals that, when accomplished, will not only produce meaningful results for everyone, but will alter our course.
Only 3 – 5% of the American population have written goals at any given point in time. Why is this, when the research overwhelming speaks to the effectiveness of this simple practice? A 2008 study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, demonstrated that people are 42% more likely to reach their goals—merely through the act of writing them down! And when people not only write their goals but create action steps and send weekly progress reports to a colleague, their effectiveness rate leaps to 78% over those who keep their goals in their heads.
How would you like to be 78% more effective in 2015? Carve out an hour for this a powerful journaling exercise to produce high-value goals.
Imagine & Emotion. Imagine yourself five years in the future. You’re approaching New Year’s Day 2020. Now describe the life you see in your mind’s eye, writing in the present tense. This is where I am personally and professionally. Here’s how my career, my health, my friendships and community service are making my life rewarding. Write it all down…and then attach an emotion to each vision point. People do what they do because of emotions—and then justify their choices with logic. So the most effective visioning processes tap into emotions.
Planning. Now that you have a long-term vision you need a short-term plan—a one-year version, that will be your first step toward your five-year destination. What are the accomplishments you would need to see this year? Build in benchmarks and timelines you can put into your calendar. By what date will each benchmark need to be achieved? What are the repeatable daily, weekly and monthly tasks that will lead you toward your goal? Make the actions specific and measurable. Then add in some accountability.
Roles & Epitaphs. With the vision you’ve just described, divide your life into the various roles you occupy: professional, spouse, parent, friend, etc…and write your epitaph for each role. What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone in each of these departments? What would be your most memorable qualities, values, and accomplishments? Write those down.
Actions. For each role, what are the one or two things you would need to do in order to make the epitaph you’ve created a reality? For example, let’s say that your career epitaph is “To consistently over deliver to my company and team as they advocate for quality of life for all seniors.” Your one or two action steps might be, 1) to commit yourself to three specific measurable goals each month and, 2) to attend a continuing education seminar each quarter.
By the time you walk through these 4 steps, you will have a solid set of written goals…and you’re well on your way toward being 78% more effective in the coming year. Congratulations!