As 2008 begins, I would encourage you to find some time away from the holiday madness, and take a few moments with a pencil and paper to reflect about the past year, and get your thoughts, your priorities, and your vision ready for the next. Things don’t always work out the way we plan, and that’s why goals need to be flexible and responsive to work. From time to time, it’s good to sit back, reflect, and ask questions about where you’ve been and where you’re going. When you do, here’s eight important questions to consider:
1) What did you accomplish in 2007 that you were really proud of? This is rubber meets the road time. What did you do that worked? What meant something to you? Take a minute and congratulate yourself. It’s easy to forget that we actually do good stuff during the year, and worth taking a minute to enjoy it.
2) What slipped through the cracks? What did you want to accomplish, but because of a variety of reasons didn’t? It may have been budget, time, scheduling, resources, apathy, opposition, or a million other reasons. But make a note of it. Perhaps you need to take another shot this year, or pass on it completely.
3) In 2008 – think “responsive goals.” Up until Napoleon’s time, battlefield strategy involved a predetermined goal. Generals told their troops to take a specific hill, and come hell or high water, they went for it. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But Napoleon came along and adjusted that strategy. He realized that taking a specific hill might be desirable, but along the way, if he noticed a spot on the front lines where the enemy was weak and he was strong, he would divert and attack there. He exploited the changing battlefield and was responsive to the ebb and flow of war. As a result, he became a legend. There’s much to say for that approach with our personal lives and in business. Goals are great – but remember that Bill Gates original goal was to sell hardware. When that didn’t work, he had the foresight to look at the potential of software, and became the richest man in the world. Keep the big goal in mind, but be ready to attack other areas as circumstances change.
4) Control the technology monster. Learn to put down the Blackberry or cell phone during meetings. Look at people in the face again. Never say something in an e-mail you wouldn’t want shouted from the housetops, because once you hit the “send” button, you have no idea where it might end up or how people will use it. Thin out your software. About 7 or 8 years ago when I switched from PC to Mac, I had tons of different programs on my PC. At first I was stunned to realize how few programs a Mac has – but then I realized how few I really need. Keep your computer lean and mean, focus on programs that actually help you work, and delete the others from your system. Stop wasting your time “futzing” with technology. Control technology, and don’t let it control you.
5) Learn to speak well in public in 2008. Nothing will help you more in your career path that knowing how to speak to a group. Take a class, read a book, practice. Lead a workshop, or address your team at work. Learn to be comfortable in front of a crowd, and know how to verbally encourage, inspire, and motive your team.
6) In 2008 fight cultural polarization. Newsweek reports that the political divide in American isn’t from the red state / blue state issue, it’s because of the media. With the advent of talk radio, cable TV news, and blogs, at least 20% of the population has become “news junkies” and are unusually passionate about their views. The majority of people that used to be considered “moderates” or “the vital center” by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. have been eroded, because of these extremes in political and cultural opinion. The bottom line is that we’re drifting farther and farther apart as a nation. How do we fix it? Listen to more opposing opinions. Develop close relationships with people who don’t agree with you. Get out of the bubble. Read magazines and books you don’t agree with. Try to understand the other side. We don’t have to agree with others, but we need to understand, value, and respect them – in the same way God does.
7) Discover yourself. Not in a wacky new age way, but to learn how you’re wired. There are inexpensive resources like the Personality Page, or Mark Gungor’s Flagpage that will help you understand your personality. More extensive resources like Myers-Briggs or DISC profiles are available as well. Whatever you pick, these options will help you understand why you think the way you do, and liberate you. I spent my life being frustrated at my short attention span and being easily distracted until I learned I was wired that way and re-focused my life with that in mind. Now, I realize my creativity and openness to change is a key part of that genetic make-up. Stop being frustrated with yourself, and learn how God created you to overcome.
8) Finally – look backward and forward through the lens of your priorities. Most people spend the vast majority of their lives doing things that just don’t matter. Re-think your schedule, your to-do list, and your job from the prospective of your priorities. What is really important to you? How many things that you hate are you doing simply for other people? Service to others is great, but don’t live your life based on other people’s approval. Decide what’s really important in your life, and focus on those things. Success matters far less than the knowledge that you’re doing what you were born to do…