Your Roadmap for the Next 12 Months

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  All the news stations do a recap of the significant events of the previous year, and most people take a moment to review the events of their own lives over the last 12 months.  As important as I believe this reflection is I also believe it’s only one half of a very important process.  Equally important is looking to what lies ahead in the upcoming 12 months.

I believe that each of us have a tremendous amount of control to design and build the type of year we’d like 2014 to be.  Will things that are beyond our control occurring next year?  Count on it!  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t look ahead, decide what we want out life to look like on December 31, 2014 and take daily steps that move us in that direction.  The greatest tool we can employ to this end is to write down our goals for the year and review them regularly throughout.

Our goals are the roadmap that will guide us through the days of 2014 toward the life we desire.  It is important to know what you want out of the next year, otherwise the year will just drift by and you’ll find yourself 12 months older and no different, or closer to where you want to be in your life, than you were a year ago.

If you want to cause something to happen in your life this year, I suggest writing out goals for yourself in each of the following categories:

  • Family
  • Financial
  • Development
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Career

For each of these categories, write out what your goals are for the upcoming yearAnd be specific.  Don’t use phrases like, “Be better about exercising”.  Write out exactly what your goal is like, “Exercise 30 minutes a day 4 times a week” or “Lose 25 pounds by June 3rd”.  Make them specific and measurable with a timeframe attached.  That way you’ll be able to see what kind of progress you’re making.

I’ve found goal setting to be a worthwhile exercise that is both fun and encouraging in building the life you desire.  And don’t get too worried about achieving every goal.  Your goals should be big and require effort without being so easy that success is guaranteed.  Stretch yourself.  Besides, if someone sets a goal to lose 25 pounds by December 1st and they only lose 19, are they a failure?  Not in my book!

Spend some time planning out how you want your life to look next year at this time.  Write down your goals to get you there and review them regularly throughout the year.  Doing so will provide purpose and direction for your life and move you toward the life you want in the upcoming 12 months.

Here’s to your best year ever!

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What’s Needed to Avoid Being Reactive

Have you ever had those days, weeks, months, or even years, where so much is going on in your life that you feel like you’re just reacting to everything as it happens?    You know how it goes.  Something comes up, it commands your attention so you work on it until the next urgent thing comes up, at which point you stop working on what you were previously working on and focus on this new task, without any sort of plan or method to prioritizing or completing it.  Whew!  It’s draining just thinking about it!  Perhaps you feel like that at home, at work, or at school.  (Maybe you feel like that in all 3 places!)

Regardless where it happens, this cycle of reacting to the last task that comes in places our focus on other people’s agenda and causes our days to be filled focusing on someone else’s priorities.

I’ve been experiencing this during the last few weeks at work and have been thinking about the causes and solutions to avoid staying in this crazy cycle.  In my case it seems that the reason for getting in this cycle is not primarily due to an increase in workload or requests, but rather my lack of prioritizing or having systems in place to handle this workload.

It’s easy to handle a couple of tasks without a system or prioritization process.  Anyone can do that.  It’s when the volume of requests starts to climb that we need the structure of good systems and direction of clear priorities.  Systems tell us how requests will be handled, and priorities tell us what we should be spending our time on.  Without systems and priorities, we lack the necessary tools to help us navigate and process our requests.  How can we expect to cause something to happen if we lack the tools to do so?

Are you feeling overwhelmed at work, school, or home with multiple requests and tasks?  What areas of your life would benefit from having systems and priorities in place to guide you?  Once you identify these areas, spend some time developing the systems and priorities necessary to help you become more effective.  If you need assistance in this area, I recommend reading Work the System by Sam Carpenter and Getting Things Done by David Allen.  Both of these books are excellent and provide great ideas that you can implement immediately.

Even if you’re currently busy and overwhelmed by requests and tasks, take some time to develop the systems you need to handle them. It will be an investment in your productivity and well-being.

You don’t have to be 9 Feet Tall to be a Giant

There has been a lot spoken about the life of Nelson Mandela in the weeks following his death.  His legacy is being compared with the likes of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  One thing is certain; on the world stage, Nelson Mandela was big.

I was familiar with his imprisonment and how he forgave his captors as well as him being the first black president of South Africa.  What I didn’t fully understand about this great man was the degree to which he was loved by the people of South Africa.  He was held in high regard by them and often referred to as “the father of the nation”.  In the hearts of the South African people, and people around the world, he wasn’t just big, he was a giant.

Wouldn’t you like to be a giant like that?  I would!  What a great legacy it would be to have had such a positive impact and influence on so many people around the world.  Nelson Mandela was a unique figure in history.  People such as him don’t come along very often.  There are few people that have, or will, leave a similar mark on the world stage.

But don’t lose heard, because there’s good news!  Every one of us has the capacity to be a giant.  We can be giants in our families, our communities, and our circles of influence.

So how do we go about being giants?  What does being a giant in our circles of influence look like?  Here are some actions you can take toward becoming a giant to those around you:

  1. Love those around you and those closest to you.  Don’t just say you love them; show them with your actions and how you live your life.  If you’re not sure what love in action looks like, check out 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. Be a “value add” in the lives of people.  Encourage others.  Listen to them.  Help them out when you can.  Forgive them when it’s needed, or seek forgiveness when it’s needed.
  3. Be present.  When you’re with someone close to you, let your actions show how important they are to you.  Turn the cell phone off and focus on the interaction with them.  Remove distractions and pay attention to what they’re saying.  Ask questions.  It’s a big deal when someone you care about decides to spend some of their time with you.  Their time, like yours, is valuable.  Honor them by being present.

Wouldn’t we all like to know that we were a significant part of the lives of those closest to us, and that we made a difference to them?  We’re all capable of being giants to those around us.  We need only chose to do so and follow that decision up with consistent action that shows those around us that we value them.

Start becoming a giant today.  You’ll feel great from the positive impacts this will have on your relationships, and others will be blessed by having a giant in their lives.

Glacier-like Persistence

I love glaciers.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have several opportunities to see them throughout the year.  They’re remarkable objects of nature that come in all sorts of sizes and make up some of the most beautiful, striking, and unique landscapes on the planet.  Still, the characteristic of glaciers that I admire most is their persistence.

Glaciers aren’t the fastest moving things in the world.  In reality, they quite slow.  Even so, a glacier’s movement can forever change the landscape it travels crosses.  A huge valley can be left in a glacier’s wake.  Enormous alpine landscapes are reshaped as a glacier makes its slow decent down a mountain’s face.  The results don’t happen quickly, but the evidence of their steady, persistent progress can be staggering.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a glacier?  No, I’m not asking if you move at speeds that would make a tortoise look like Formula 1 race car, but rather have you ever thought of yourself as a powerful force, which is persistent in applying continued effort in the direction of a long term dream or goal?  Our dreams are usually not achieved in a minute, an hour, or a day, (If they are, then we need to dream bigger!)  Their achievement is usually the result of daily effort applied over a long period of time.  If you observe the results of only a few days spent perusing a long-term goal, you’re likely to be left unimpressed and under whelmed.  If, on the other hand, you look at several weeks, months, or even years of consistent daily effort, you’ll likely to see significant results.  That’s the power of glacier-like persistence, and it’s available to each of us.  We only need be willing to apply it.

What areas in your life could uses some glacier-like persistence?  Is there a habit you’d like to start or stop doing?  Perhaps there’s a lifestyle change you’d like to make.  Determine today what that is for you and commit to making small incremental progress every day.  And not just when it’s convenient, or only when you feel like it, or until you’re tired.  No, instead choose to move ahead with long-term glacier-like persistence, knowing that one day you’ll be able to stand back on look at all that you were able to accomplish.