Happy New Year! Have you thought about making 2018 your best year ever? To do so, you may want to consider a three-pronged attack. That is, your vision, your goals, and your One Word for the year (more about that later).
Stand-up comic Anita Wise had this to say, “I’m a little upset. I just found out I have to have this little procedure done. Nothing complicated, but they tell me it is going to improve my vision about 70 percent. But I’m a little nervous. I hate getting my bangs cut.”
I’m glad to hear Anita Wise is improving her vision. But how is your vision? I’m not asking about the condition of your eyes, but the clarity of your focus. I’m not asking whether you have 20/20 vision, but whether your mind’s eye, your imagination, is clearly focused on a dream.
You see, many live lives too small for their spirits. Our spirit and potential are infinite. They know no bounds. So, why is it so many of us choose to live mediocre lives? Perhaps we haven’t learned to see with our mind’s eye, our imagination. When we use our mind’s eye, we open the door to infinite possibilities. For imagination allows us to see beyond what is to what could be. By focusing not on what we are, but what we can become, we discover the key to unlocking our potential.
Look within to gain insight. For as Carl Jung wrote, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” Pick your dream carefully because we can become only as large as our vision. The size of your dream limits the size of your accomplishments. Although poor eyes limit what we can see, poor vision limits what we can do.
Instead of tuning into TV, tune into yourself. Tune into your dreams and aspirations. To grow, plants stretch to reach the sun; your hopes and dreams are the sun that nourish your growth. Also, heed the words of Harriet Du Autermont: “No vision and you perish / No Ideal, and you’re lost / Your heart must ever cherish / Some faith at any cost. / Some hope, some dream to cling to / Some rainbow in the sky / Some melody to sing to / Some service that is high.”
Our vision, then, is like a map that shows our destination. Once we know where we want to go, we can work backwards, figuring out what roads to take to get us safely to our destination. Once we know which way we wish to go, things start to happen. Without a map, or vision, we cannot predict our future, but with a map, we become seers. We can see into the future because we knowingly create it. However, as the Japanese say, “Vision without action is a daydream and action without vision is a nightmare.” After all, action without vision is action for action’s sake. It is misdirected, for it doesn’t take us where we wish to go.
Once we envision the person we wish to become, how do we step into it, putting it on like a new set of garments? The following six steps will get you to where you wish to be.
1. Take a look at where you are today and compare that to where you wish to be. List the qualities you need to become the person you wish to be.
2. List the steps you can take to develop those qualities in you.
3. List the qualities you now have that are holding you back.
4. List the steps you can take to develop qualities that are opposite to those that are holding you back.
5. Take the actions you have outlined in steps #2 and 4.
6. Check your progress daily and take corrective action when necessary to stay on course.
Let’s look at an example. Tom has been working for a year as a clerk in an office and dreams of moving up the ladder by becoming a supervisor, later a manager, and eventually a member of senior management. Here are the steps he has taken to start on his journey.
1. He examines his strengths and weakness and decides qualities he needs include the ability to inspire others, better communication skills, and a better understanding of the overall goals of the company he works for.
2. He lists steps he can take. Realizing that he cannot inspire others until he is inspired, he decides to do his absolute best with every assignment the company gives him. By doing so, he will become inspired by his own achievements. Also, he takes a public speaking course to improve his communication skills. Finally, he carefully reads the company newsletter and bulletins to fully understand company goals, and asks questions whenever he seeks clarification.
3. Tom believes his habits of wasting time and procrastination are holding him back.
4. To quit wasting time he reads and applies what he learns from books on time management and organizational skills. To end procrastination, he develops the self-discipline to start working on each new task as soon as he gets it.
5. He takes action, carefully taking the steps he outlined in #2 and 4.
6. He monitors his activities daily to make sure he stays on course.
If we continually focus on our vision, it will enflame us with passion. And that passion, or fiery enthusiasm, will propel us past self-doubt, fear, and complacency. It will fill us with hope. It will keep us inspired. Peter Schultz, former CEO of Porsche, gives an example of the differences between ordinary workers and one that is inspired, “Three people were at work on a construction site. All were doing the same job, but when each was asked what the job was, the answers varied. ‘Breaking rocks,’ the first replied. ‘Earning my living,’ the second said. ‘Helping to build a cathedral,’ said the third.”
When we first set out on the road to our vision, we start out by doing whatever is possible. Then, inspired by our own achievements, we move on to doing whatever is conceivable. Finally, we muster up the courage to attack the inconceivable, using as our battle cry the Nike motto, “Impossible is nothing.” At this stage it is not surprising to have big dreams, for how can we succeed beyond our wildest dreams unless we first have a wild dream?
It’s never too late to have a dream, embrace it, and bring it to life. Many dreams have died by the wayside because of nagging self-doubt, because of the belief “it is not in me.” But if an inspiring vision ever flashed into your mind, it is only because it is in you striving to get out. Don’t kill the dream; kill the self-doubt. The weapon of choice is action. Follow the six steps already mentioned, and if you persist, it is impossible to fail. For if you keep moving forward, no matter how small the steps, you will reach your destination.
Remember, a spirit without a vision is a life without a mission. You owe it to yourself, the community, and the world to follow your dream. As Woodrow Wilson said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
Your life can’t go according to plan if you have no plan. Without goals and plans to reach them, we would be like a traveler lost in the wilderness without a map. It’s time to map our future, for success comes to those who plan. What happens to those who don’t? Well, Ben Franklin has the answer, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
A poor plan, however, can do more harm than good, so don’t act too quickly. For as Matthew Prior wrote, “Who walks the fastest, but walks astray, is only furthest from his way.” Therefore, take your time and be thorough. On the other hand, don’t get stuck in the planning stage.
Don’t become paralyzed because your plan isn’t perfect. Just make sure you have a clear destination in mind and have listed all the steps you have to take to get you where you want to go. To help you get started on your way, here are some goal-setting tips.
- Write down your goals. Doing so helps you to focus on them. As you write them down and refer to them in the future, they will clarify in your mind and lead to new insights. Always ask yourself what do you want from life, what is preventing you from getting it, and what are you going to do about it. Use the power of questions to develop your plan.
- Define your goals. Get down to specifics. Be precise. Avoid vagueness. For example, “I want to be rich” is a poor goal because your subconscious does not know how to define “rich.” Your subconscious can be a powerful ally in helping you achieve your goals, but it needs to be told precisely what you want. “I want to earn more money” is another example of a poor goal. Why? Because merely earning one dollar a month more than previously would result in successfully achieving your goal! So once you did so, your subconscious may stop looking for more ways to earn money. Here is an example of a good goal, “I will earn $100,000 a year by age 40.” Make all of your goals equally clear.
- Set goals that make you stretch. If you’re overweight, trying to lose one pound a year is an example of a poor goal. To be worthwhile your goals should lead to significant improvement. But don’t overreach either. Trying to lose ten pounds a week, for example, would most likely lead to failure. Far better to set your goal to one pound a week. Overreaching ends in failure, while goals that are too easy prevent growth. Strive for balance. Your goal should stretch you, yet be attainable.
- List the benefits. How will you benefit from achieving your goal? Write down the answers to this question and keep them handy. Why? Well, there are two voices in your head, and both are saying, “I want…” One is saying “I want to do what feels good” and the other is saying “I want to do what is best for me, even if I have to make an effort to do so.” Both voices are competing for your attention. One is focused on immediate gratification. It is the voice that urges you to avoid your responsibilities and seek pleasure. For instance, if it is time to go to the health club to exercise, the voice may say, “I can go next week. Instead of exercising, I want to watch TV, or go drinking with friends, or go shopping, or take a nap.” To avoid listening to the wrong voice, refer to the benefits mentioned above. Focus on them to remind yourself why it is important to maintain your exercise program. Focusing on the reasons to change will help you to stay motivated.
- Set deadlines. Without a date, it’s not a goal, but a wish. Each step you have to take to reach your goal should have a completion date. Each task is a mini-goal, and as one is completed, the next one begins. Each task or step you take brings you closer to your goal. As long as you keep taking steps, it is impossible not to reach your destination.
- Subject each goal to a reality check. Don’t become unrealistically ambitious. True, it may be great to improve your golf game, lose weight, hang out more with your friends, take a computer course to improve your productivity, learn ballroom dancing, make a rec room in the basement, and design a flower garden for your backyard. But wait a minute! Do you have the time? Don’t engage in wishful thinking. Instead schedule each activity so you know exactly how much time is available. And don’t forget to include extra time for emergencies. Summing up, are you fully committed? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to succeed? Do you understand that anything worthwhile needs some effort to achieve? Are you willing to pay the price? If not, instead of wasting time, switch to a goal that you can commit to.
- Make sure your goal is measurable. That is, you need to have a way of measuring success. For instance, your goal may be to lose 1~2 pounds a week, drink 8 glasses of water a day, walk 10 miles a day, or read 10 pages of a book each day.
- What are the obstacles you have to overcome? How will you overcome those roadblocks? What other hurdles could appear and how will you overcome them? Anticipating and preparing for the obstacles you are likely to face will increase your likelihood of success.
- Plan your work; then work your plan. If your plan is completed, carry it out. Put it into action. Implement it. No matter how small, do something each day to bring you closer to achieving your goal. Check off each task as you complete it. Seeing your own progress will inspire you to continue.
- Regularly monitor your progress. Life is synonymous with change. Expect the unexpected. Changing circumstances may make it impossible to stick to your original plan. Remain flexible. Look for options, solutions, and opportunities. If you can’t do the best thing, do the next best thing. Adjust and adapt your plan when necessary. You can change your direction as often as you wish, as long as you keep moving forward (closer to what you want or what is possible). Review your goals daily to remain focused on them.
- Do it for yourself. Don’t be pressured into anything. Remember, to succeed, your plan must be a passionate one. How can you be passionate about something you don’t want to do? Decide on what YOU want from life and focus on those goals. Granted, there may be things you should be doing, but don’t want to. That’s fine; it simply means you’re a human being. The good news is that as we accomplish goals we WANT, we develop self-discipline. In other words, you’ll have the strength to work on bigger goals later.
- Persist. If you come across bumps in the road, don’t be discouraged. Just pick yourself up and continue. How can you develop your skills if it’s smooth sailing all the way? You need to experience a few storms before you can become the Captain of your ship. If you persist, it is impossible to fail. In fact, failure doesn’t exist, only learning experiences do. If you learn from your mistakes, they become stepping-stones to success.
- Nothing succeeds like success. Let your achievements fan the flames, keep you motivated, and spur you on to bigger and greater goals.
It may seem like many steps to take, but the prize is most certainly worth the effort. Finally, I’d like to leave you with these words of inspiration, “Plan more than you can do, then do it. Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it. Hitch your wagon to a star, keep your seat, and there you are.” Just do it!
Your One Word for the Year
In their book, One Word That Will Change Your Life, authors Jon Gordon, Jimmy Page, and Dan Britton write about the power of adopting a single word as your guidepost for the year. The power lies in its simplicity. No long vision statement to remember, but a single word to act as a constant reminder of your personal focus for the year, A single word to envelope all facets of your life: thoughts, words, and deeds. One word to guide how to handle your emotions, relationships, finances, career, and all other aspects of your life. One word for one year to improve your life….
Below are some example words. Because we are all unique and have different needs, our words will be different. Moreover, we will choose a different word to guide us each year.
But how do you select your word? You don’t. Rather, you allow it to select you! That is, you discover your word, not with your intellect, but with your heart. It probably will take 3 days to a week to discover it. Let’s look at the process step by step.
1. Set aside 10 minutes a day to discover your word.
2. Use this time as quiet time. That is, make sure you are not disturbed.
3. Start off by asking yourself what word may be your word for the year.You should be able to think of several. Write them down.
To help yourself think of possible words, ask yourself the following questions:
What do I need?
What is in my way?
What do I need to stop doing?
What do I REALLY want to do or be this year?
Why do I want to embrace this word?
What am I going to do differently this year?
4. This exercise jogs your subconscious and it will begin working in the background, preparing to reveal your word to you.
5. Continue doing this every day until your word spontaneously pops into your mind. It will resonate with you. You will have an aha! moment and know, “This is it!”
6. Once you receive it, let it grow by collecting quotations for inspiration, writing your insights in a journal, and making a wall sign of your word to keep you focused every day.
7. Now that you know your one word for the year, live it.
For example, my word for 2018 is LEARN or LEARNING. Life is all about learning, isn’t it? I learn by reading, taking video courses, and studying YouTube educational videos. I also learn by listening to what all the people I interact with have to say. I learn from my mistakes and successes, too. Moreover, I learn what is possible by listening to the promptings of my Higher Self or Inner Wisdom as well as studying the inspirational lives of others. I love setting goals, but whenever things don’t go according to my plans, I don’t worry because I’ve learned that Life has better plans in store for me. Finally, because the best way to learn is to teach, I do seminars and write articles. The purpose of learning is to implement what we learn. That’s why I love learning; it makes us more powerful doers.
Now that you are familiar with the concept of One Word for the Year, what do you think your One Word for Year 2018 may be?
One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Jimmy Page, Dan Britton
Navigating Change: A Field Guide to Personal Growth by W. Gary Gore
How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by John C. Maxwell
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
Brian Tracy: How to Set Goals: 80/20 Rule for Goal Setting