You may have started out 2024 with great intentions and everything “planned”...and then life hit.
Or, maybe, you never did that planning you meant in December, so you felt a little directionless all of January.
Regardless, there is no time today to get started, moving forward with direction and intention.
Be clear about what you want
This isn’t the place to get into the differences between goals and systems or various visioning exercises (there are great people out there doing great work in all of these areas, and if you need guidance, reach out, and I can suggest a direction!). But you do need to be really clear about what it is that you want. It needs to be so clear that when you close your eyes, you can picture it and feel the feelings. And then when you open your eyes, you need to be so excited to get there that you’re fully ready to enjoy the process. Regardless of your specific methodology, consider…
If you’re thinking about this personally, who do you want to be? How do you want your life to look and feel?
If you’re thinking about this professionally, what kind of impact do you want to have?
If you’re thinking about this as part of a team, what is the collective vision driving the work you are doing?
Figure out what it is that you truly want – and why!
Break down what you want into small pieces
And that clear idea of what you want and why can be a little overwhelming. So, take that big picture and break it down into projects or areas. Break those into smaller milestones. Break that into individual tasks. By breaking down the big picture, you make it more tangible and manageable, and it seems like something you can do.
And then move it to your calendar in a way that is actually achievable!
Maximize the Fresh Start Effect
The Fresh Start Effect is a psychological phenomenon that speaks to the power of a “fresh start,” meaning that people have increased motivation, usually around a time-bound milestone. It’s why people love resolutions that start on New Years. But it can also be triggered in other “fresh start” ways – that feeling of starting a fresh journal or working with a new coach or tackling a new role. Keeping this in mind, consider how you might incorporate the Fresh Start Effect into motivation to move towards what you want.
What is happening on the calendar? A new month or Rosh Chodesh, a new quarter or semester, your birthday, a specific holiday – any of these could be a time-bound milestone, great for a fresh start
What other fresh starts could there be? A new office space or configuration to your work area, a new team member, a new project – all of these represent fresh starts as well
Find your fresh start and start!
Take radical responsibility and make choices that align
In order to really get what we want, we have to adopt the mindset that we are responsible for getting us there. There is no room for blaming circumstances or others (even when they are totally at fault). When you take responsibility for all the things (including the bad), it empowers you to take responsibility for the good as well. This doesn’t mean that, as a leader, you shouldn’t be holding others accountable. Rather, it means you should be even more diligent about accountability for everyone around you – that is your responsibility. And make sure your actions align. Always ask yourself, “Is what I am about to do going to bring me closer to my goals or further away?” It can be a really powerful lens.
Take responsibility for getting what you want!
Give yourself grace
Life is not linear (as a linear thinker, this is maybe one of the most frustrating truths I’ve had to admit). No matter what, there will be bad days and setbacks and iterations. You’ll lose an important team member. You’ll have a really challenging conversation. You may not act or respond in a way that feels good. And when that happens, take a deep breath. Be kind to yourself. Act in ways that feel authentic and align with your values (and where you’re headed).
Give yourself grace and give yourself permission to move forward!
Surround yourself with good people
There is something so powerful about the collective energy of a group. When you are with people who take a problem-solving approach to the world, so will you. When you are with people who are constantly seeking to learn and grow, so will you. When you are with people who love what they do, so will you. And, if that’s not who is around you, it can be really challenging. Are there people on your team/in your organization/in your network with whom you align (either who you are now or where you want to be)? How can you maximize time with them? And, an added bonus of surrounding yourself with the right people is that they'll happily support you however you need – whether it be advice, thought partnership, a second set of eyes, a recommendation. And when you can trust them, you’ll feel more comfortable asking for the help you need.
Find your people, surround yourself with them, and ask for help!
There is actual research in the field of social science that shows that gratitude can support health, happiness. Having a regular practice of gratitude rewires and strengthens your brain, calms your nervous systems, boosts your immunity and heart health, enhances your connections, and more. And it’s so simple to make a part of your life.
As an individual:
Keep a gratitude journal where you write down three things for which you’re grateful every day (or, if you don’t feel like you have time for that, speak them aloud on your morning commute).
Make a practice of sending five messages each week (text, email, snail mail) thanking someone in your life for something.
Expressly thank people throughout your day, whether it be your local barista, your mailman, or the stranger who holds open the door – take an extra five seconds to look that person in the eye and say, “thank you.”
As a leader:
Incorporate gratitude into the start of meetings, sharing a few words about certain people (in the room or not) for whom you are grateful.
Institute a system for gratitude in your organization – whether it be a section in the newsletter, a bulletin board, or a gratitude box, having this sort of regular visual reminder will help reinforce the messaging for everyone.
Model gratitude with your own practice – subconsciously those around you will pick up on your behaviors and begin to integrate into their own lives.
Take time to recognize all of the good along your journey!
There’s a cheesy parenting line that says, “The days are long, but the years are short.” And it’s true. And it’s just as relevant for leadership as it is parenting.
There are those days that feel like they will never end. There are those weeks when you are doing everything you can just to get through. And some months seem to defy the laws of time and go one for 67 days.
And, before you know it, it’s a new year (fiscal, school, however you track your time). We’re already in the middle of February. Spring is around the corner. Summer will be here before we’re ready.