Happy New Year lovelyites! It’s a new day, a new dawn, a new year of possibilities that I’m sure we’re all busting to make the most of. So whats the best way to turn intention into action?
I’m going to be controversial.
You will not make 2017 awesome by setting goals.
Stay with me! Most of us, myself included, have been taught over the course of our lives that goal setting is the way to get things done. However, there’s an increasing body of thought that says very particular or rigid (especially ‘SMART’) goals may constrain us more than they enable us.
How could a specific goal possibly be a bad idea?
Specific goals are useful when the circumstances are static… but when was the last time you were able to perfectly predict a sequence of events? The research has shown that when life throws us even the slightest curve ball, it can become impossible to meet our ambitiously-set, specific, measurable, achieveable etc etc goals. The result: disappointment, that heavy feeling of failure, embarrassment all of which can set us back rather than propel us forward.
Even if circumstances do enable us to meet our super specific goal, sometimes specificity itself can create tunnel vision and close us off to other possibilities and options which may be even better than the original plan.
What’s the alternative?
The last subject I studied in my Masters was on career planning and transitions and we had one message drilled into us above all else: while having a super specific plan can mean setting ourselves up to fail, the exercise of planning is absolutely useful.
Taking the time to think through possibilities, options, aspirations and desires makes us better equipped to adapt to change, recognise good opportunities and bounce back when things don’t go the way we hope.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, we should still work through planning, but the outcome shouldn’t necessarily be a plan.
… But we all want something tangible right? Something to give us direction and keep us on track. Me too.
Enter Dr Jason Fox
Dr Jason Fox describes himself as a ‘modern day wizard-rogue’ (don’t let that put you off!) who has little time for ‘motivational rah-rah and pithy business cliches’. His business is genuine motivation and leadership and for the last few years he has been encouraging people to find one word to serve as a ‘fuzzy beacon’ for the year ahead. NB: DJF is far from the only person encouraging the adoption of ‘one word’ but he’s the person who most helped me embrace the concept so I’m making him guru.
Just one word?
Yes. One big, contextual, umbrella-word to help give you direction. Dr Fox (coolest dang name around) likens our lives to a quest – one where we are all aiming to develop, better ourselves and find meaning. If that life or quest was in a book, and you were to take a step back and look at the chapter of 2016, what would the them be? What do you want the theme of the next chapter to be?
Unlike a goal or a resolution, a word can’t be broken. A word can grow and adapt with you and a guide, a reminder, an intention, a promise.
In 2013 Jason’s word was Kingly which to him meant ‘things like ‘stepping up,’ ‘taking responsibility’, ‘serving others’, avoiding petty gossip, being magnanimous and growing a beard (among other things)’. In 2014 he chose Prime. In 2015 he chose Pirate which he said ‘conjures the qualities of the opportunistic explorer. Commercially focussed and savvy, pirates are also jolly and buoyant. They drink rum and look after their mates.’
So as is clear from Dr Jason Fox’s own choices, the word doesn’t have to be a super serious one, but it does need to be distinct and meaningful to you.
My 2016 word
Last year, I chose the word Actualise. I’ve never had any problems dreaming up ideas… my issue is with the follow through! I chose Actualise to keep me on track to getting it done, turning plan into reality, making the rubber hit the road, and bring things from idea into action.
For me, having a one word to remind me what I was trying to achieve was helpful in big scenarios like deciding whether to take on a project, and small situations like when I was hesitating over the way forward on any particular day. GET IT DONE, LADY. It was also great to have friends keep me on track and reward me for staying true to my word, I had a couple of ‘great actualising!”s and ‘you actualised the shit out of that’ which made me swell with pride and propel me forward in a way that achieving any single likely would not have done.
Jason’s tips for choosing your word!
1) Rush it – the value is in the reflection, remember?
2) Anchor it to outcomes – we’re on a quest not a mission and the purpose is to enable your path to flex and change.
3) Care too much about what other people think – it’s your word, don’t be afraid to be bold, risky or risqué.
1) Test it – run it by the people who you want to keep you accountable. Do they see something you missed?
2) Make it fun for your friends – the people around you have a big impact on your world. Your word is a social trigger. ‘Make it easy for them to hold you accountable to your meaningful intent’.
3) Chose it a word that makes you a bit uncomfortable – get out of your comfort zone!
I’ve taken these tips from Dr Jason Fox’s far more comprehensive, lol-worthy and excellent posts here (2014) and here (2015), they also contain stories about other people’s words to inspire some more. DJF also recorded this video at the end of last year with three and a half mins of tips on finding your own word:
Once you’ve got your word Jason suggests choosing three projects per quarter that help put your word into actions. Projects because they are more about action and learning and doing on your quest rather than an aspirational, rigid goal. Three because one would lead to procrastination, two would make you feel as if you’re constantly dividing your time, so three.
I’m working on my 2017 word and I wholeheartedly encourage you to join me! I’m wanting 2017 to be a year where I build on foundations laid, take things to the next level, share what I know and give back. I am peculating on a few words and will report back when I’ve landed one!
What do you want the theme of your next chapter to be? Have a word suggestion based on my descriptors? Love to chat further in the comments! Here’s to a bloody great year!