Begin Again—Again

Creating your future, one year at a time

The turn of a new year has always been a time to consider change. Whether you are making personal resolutions, floating a new company budget or getting yourself and your subordinates to deliver a new set of objectives, this cusp of the calendar has been a significant influence on the cycle of change since time immemorial.

There is no magic about the start of a new year, mostly it’s about being able to demark the past and focus on your clean version of the future. There is something refreshing about being able to drop a bit of last year’s baggage, toast a few past achievements and then have a blank canvas in front of you. When I used one of those big, paper-filled, briefcase-sized, planners I would even be refreshed by the smell of all that new paper. Today I have to be satisfied with the electronic glow of a blank calendar.

In cultures without a calendar, there is a cycle of change prompted by some seasonal event. I personally look at Halloween as the alarm of change, often pressing the “snooze” button with the hope of getting up to the challenge of the New Year in about 61 days. Hey, it works for me.

So what can you do about stepping up to the challenge of change brought on by this annual event?

Review without regret.

Look back at the past year, find some way to record and recognize those things you achieved. This inventory of successes represents your life’s curriculum vitae. Seek the positive accomplishments you made in your relationships, your personal life, your leadership growth, and your career success. Look closely at the lessons you learned and if you feel you truly have improved, as a result of those lessons, then forget about them. Regrets are the hostages of an unhappy life–set them all free.

When my children were very small I kept each and every thing that physically recorded their achievements. This includes everything from report cards, swimming certificates, and, more recently, (shudder)  the results of their driving tests. Every success was recorded. On regular occasions, when they were grouching about some pending doom, I would often pull out this “success book” and refresh their memories of their own life of achievement. Make sure you have your success book to remind you of what you have done and who you really are.

Value the vision.

Take some time to review the main things in your life. Relationships, personal development, health, and perhaps career development all need a bit of care. Spend some time in the beginning of your year to address the vision you have about what you will be. It’s like cleaning the windows to your most important view. Begin by looking at what you had envisioned the last time you thought about the main reason you exist, and determine what new or different elements need to be addressed. Creating or modifying the vision of your future is not an exercise in precision but rather an effort to capture your thoughts and desires in a broad fashion so that it can become your beacon for the future.

Check the mission.

Life is too short for you to be doing things that are low value, don’t matter any more, or don’t interest you. If you have a personal mission statement, its time to review and reinforce what it was that prompted you to create it. If you have no personal mission statement its time to create it. In any case, your mission can be the one thing that provides you with a guiding light in directing your career and life. For some practical tips on creating or adjusting your personal mission statement, check out George Morrisey. George is one of the world’s best thinkers in the area of planning.

Subjective Objectives

The objectives you achieved last year are important, but the most critical thing for you to complete now is the 5 0r 6 main objectives that you plan to accomplish next year. Objectives outlined effectively will do more for your career, and your personal life, than any other single effort you can complete. In writing your objectives, you must be very specific. The following points may help you to detail you own objectives:

  • Make your objectives very specific. Be diligent in ensuring you are clearly describing the things you will accomplish,
  • The only objectives that mean anything are those that are measurable,
  • Be realistic about what you can accomplish but be aggressive,
  • Objectives created in a vacuum, just to get them done, are not worth the paper to print them. Make sure that your objectives are highly relevant to your life (or job). You will be spending the majority of your time working on these objectives, so they must be relevant,
  • Be clear about when you want to accomplish these objectives. Goals without time boundaries are fantasy.

Work the plan

So now, it is time to get down to work. Develop a series of action plans that will get you on the road to accomplishing your goals. Your actions plans should be specific in terms of tangible achievements and specific due dates. The action list gets you to be able to “eat the elephant” one spoonful at a time. Manage your time against the action list and if something gets out of kilter, it’s a possible sign you need to do some course corrections. At any rate, you will know what is not working and what needs to be adjusted.

You can do it!

Never start a new year without at least working you way through the list above. Doing this, just once, can cause you to make a quantum change in your life. Get at it.

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