Archive | December, 2014

Seven Steps to Setting Clear, Compelling Goals in 2015: Part 2

In my last post, I introduced a seven-question system to prepare you for setting clear, compelling goals in 2015. Having covered the first three questions last week, here are the final four.

Setting Clear, Compelling Goals

4) What do you feel that you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?
At some point in our careers, we’ve all experienced times, especially if you work for a large organization, that some of your best work goes virtually unnoticed. If so, then you need to build in your own self acknowledgment. Michael Hyatt puts it this way: “If there was an end-of-the-year awards show, what would you be brought up on the stage for… personally and professionally?” For me, this includes recommitting to consistent, weekly blog posts, stepping up to new speaking engagements that required significantly more time commitment, and getting into the best physical shape of my life.

Once again, these positive outcomes are the things you will want to set your goals around.

5) What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
In Jim Collins landmark book, Good to Great, one of the distinguishing traits of great companies is what he identified as the Stockdale Paradox, after Vietnam veteran Admiral Stockdale. When he was interviewed after spending years in a brutal North Vietnamese POW camp, Stockdale said that the men who survived the harsh conditions of imprisonment were those who faced the brutal facts of their existence, but never lost hope. Addressing not only what worked, but also what didn’t work, allows you to confront your past failings and move on. It’s also important to pay attention to patterns in your answers. If the same ones repeat themselves over several years, you may need outside intervention. For example, this could be a personal trainer, marriage counselor, life coach, or another professional who can help you break your pattern.

6) What was missing from the last year as you look back?
Asking this question in this way, rather than framing this question as “what went wrong last year?,” helps prevent you from focusing on regret instead of seeing opportunities for the coming year. Examples include better planning, margin in your life, addressing your physical fitness, etc. The key: Being alert to emerging patterns in your life and trying to embrace those with the greatest potential.

7) What major life lessons did you learn from this last year?
In answering this question, take everything you’ve learned and processed and summarize into a few core life lessons. For example, here are a few of my life lessons:
– The most important priorities in life – marriage, health, relationship with God, personal development – must be contended for. They will not happen by accident.
– When it comes to accomplishing more in life, less is more.
– Never underestimate the importance of a strong marriage.

Asking these seven questions will lay the groundwork for New Years resolutions and/or setting clear, compelling goals in 2015 that will inspire, motivate, and positively change you all year long. Before you start, here are four important reminders:

1) Set aside some secluded, uninterrupted time to develop your thoughts. Don’t rush it!
2) Commit your thoughts to writing. Remember, “Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips.”
3) There are no right or wrong answers. You don’t need to have three responses for every question – it can be a narrative, bullet points, any way you want – as long as it reflects what you really think.
4) Once you’re done, turn the page, put it in your past, and move forward with setting specific, meaningful goals for the coming year.

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Seven Steps to Setting Clear, Compelling Goals in 2015: Part 1

One of the many things I love about the Christmas holidays is reflecting and planning: Looking back on the key themes and accomplishments of the year gone by while setting ambitious goals for the coming year. Over the years, I’ve learned about some helpful tools from influential mentors that I want to share with you between now and the New Year.

via iStockPhoto

The first tool is a thought-provoking process that consists of seven reflective questions designed to lay the groundwork for your best year ever. Developed by Stu McLaren and Michael Hyatt, I’ll cover three of the seven questions in this week’s post and the final four questions next week.

Think of these questions as pump-primers for crafting the most productive and deeply satisfying year of your life. Some of the questions are out-of-the-box, but stick with me!

1) If the last year of your life were a movie, what would be the genre?
What I like about this question is it acknowledges a subtle truth: Your life is not a series of isolated events; instead, your life is connected to a bigger story.
Think of yourself as a movie producer charged with filming your life this past year. What would be the genre? How would you envision yourself answering this same question next year? Be specific — and be honest.
For example, here’s how I described my “movie” at the end of last year: “In 2013, my life resembled a long-running TV program: Somewhat predictable, ratings driven, with quality content and steady growth, but not overly adventurous.”

2) What are two or three major themes that kept recurring in your life this year?
As you look back on the things that captured your attention and occupied your thoughts this year, what were the things that kept bubbling up from your subconscious to your conscious mind? (If you journal, go back and review your entries.) These are the things you want to establish as priorities and set goals around.

3) What did you accomplish this year that you are most proud of?
Before you set your agenda for the coming year, it’s important to take time to celebrate your accomplishments in 2014. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in your victories. What causes you to feel deep satisfaction looking back on the year? Write them down — and enjoy the moment! Maybe you finally got serious about exercise, earned a promotion at work, or restored a relationship that was dormant for years.

As Socrates famously — and boldly — proclaimed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Indeed, I have found that creating space in my life to engage in self examination is both highly productive and deeply satisfying. And it’s a great way to start the New Year with purpose and momentum.

I encourage you to take some time this weekend to engage in reflection on these questions and write down your thoughts, then look for the final four questions in next week’s post.

via iStockPhoto

In the meantime, please share your thoughts with me — I’d love your feedback.

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Decision Paralysis: Could Too Many Choices Be Limiting You?

Jelly Choices - iStockPhoto.comColumbia Business Professor Sheena Iynengar conducted some interesting research on consumer choices. She studied how shoppers responded to a presentation of jams and jellies during the peak hours at a busy supermarket.

Given five jars to choose from, only 30% of the people stopped to look, but of those who stopped, 30% bought something.

By contrast, when there were twenty four jars to choose from, more than 60% of the shoppers stopped, but less than 3% purchased anything. In other words, people were six times more likely to purchase a jar of jam if they encountered five choices than if they encountered twenty-four choices.

Conclusion: Although people, especially Americans, are attracted to the idea of having more choices, we’re less likely to actually make a choice if we have too many of them.

To reinforce Iynengar’s research, psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane independently concluded that the current abundance of choice often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness.

Aside from the obvious retailing implications, how might this research be applied in other areas, like our health, finances, and spiritual lives? What is the threshold of choices beyond which we end up in some form of “decision paralysis?”

I think of friends, for example, who live in big cities full of outstanding restaurants who admit they rarely venture beyond a small circle of three or four eateries. Or think of the times you’ve stopped at your local video store and stared at the “new releases” section like a kid in a candy store trying to figure out what to rent.

“The presumption is, self-determination is a good thing and choice is essential to self-determination,” says Barry Schwartz, PhD, a Swarthmore College psychologist and author of “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” (Ecco, 2004). “But there’s a point where all of this choice starts to be not only unproductive, but counterproductive – a source of pain, regret, worry about missed opportunities and unrealistically high expectations.”

Schwartz advises: “Study the options, then settle on something you feel good, if not perfectly, about… don’t compare your acquisitions to others’ and don’t wallow in regret – since, in the long run, people feel worse about inaction than action.”

Fact Based Decision-Making via

In light of these findings, here’s a bigger question to ponder: We live in a culture that attaches tremendous importance to personal autonomy. The more options we have, the better. From the time we were young, we’ve been told by parents, teachers, and coaches that we can be whatever we choose to be. The sky is the limit. If you can believe it and conceive it, you can achieve it. There are simply no limits to your options.

But is this the right message we should be taking away from the research findings? Are we putting undue stress on our children, for example, by exposing them to a world full of so many options? What about ourselves? As a Christian, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ strong advice in the Matthew’s gospel: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Could too many choices be limiting you? As counterculture as it is in our modern, western, radically individualistic society, what would embracing the idea of “less is more” mean to you… and to the quality of your life?

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