My post title is a quote attributed to author Karen Lamb — with the intent to get you started on that project you’ve been putting off. What if that project you’ve been putting off is YOU?
I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading blogs about how to start off the new year on the right foot. A meme I found on social media suggested lifting your left foot in the air right as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. Get it? Start the year on your right foot? Well, I have a less corny and more effective way to offer. It has three practical steps.
Step 1: Write a 1-year Vision
If you look ahead to December 31, 2021, what does your life look like? What has changed? What hasn’t? How are you different? What does it look and feel like to be you one year from now? Consider all the aspects of your life. What change do you want for yourself? What does it look and feel like when it’s here?
Whether you write in paragraphs or bullet points, be as vivid in your description as you can. If you prefer, create a vision board with pictures, colors, sayings — anything that helps you define your vision — how it looks AND how it feels to have achieved it. Make your vision as real as possible. Don’t worry about “how” you will do it yet — we’ll get to that soon. For now, capture the what, the end game.
When you think you have everything, read through your vision. Read it out loud to yourself if you can. Notice how you feel as you say the words, whether out loud or in your head. Are there any parts that you are neutral or less than neutral about? Are there any parts that defy physics? And are there any parts that feel like something you “should” do, rather than something you want for yourself? Consider revising those pieces or eliminating them.
Try on your vision like you would a pair of expensive jeans. It should look great and feel fabulous. Try it on as often as you need until it soundly resonates.
Step 2: Align your identity.
Change happens from the inside out — and we behave with relentless consistency in alignment with who we think we are. That is, your identity (who you think you are) defines what you will or won’t do. But who you think you are now may not work for who you want to be. To align your identity with your vision, consider this question:
To have what you want, who must you become?
I avoided the gym, for a variety of reasons, until two years ago when I included statements about “better health” in my vision and joined a gym. To be successful, though, I knew I had to “become” a person who worked out regularly. I decided to be a person who works out 6 days a week at 6 a.m. while I built the new workout habit. In 2021, I added to the “better health” part of my vision and I’m becoming a person who puts my health first, before some other things that took priority before.
I used to be a person who slept in and needed her coffee first thing in the morning. Today, most days I’m up and in the gym first thing, and treat myself to coffee mid-morning — with few exceptions. Making this change has helped me build confidence in my ability to make more changes as I continue to align who I think I am with the vision of who I want to be.
Remember, the same old thinking will bring the same old results. Your identity — how you think about yourself — drives your actions. What do you need to change in your identity to BE the person who can DO what is necessary to HAVE your vision? This new identity is already inside of you. To achieve your vision, you need to activate it.
Step 3: Create an Action Plan
You’ve defined your vision and considered who you need to BEcome to achieve it. Next, create an action plan: What will you DO?
This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
Action is what impacts results. I won’t get in better health by thinking about working out; I actually have to work out — to move my body. Your sales won’t improve by thinking about improving them; you have to take action — to do what successful sales people do. And so on. The DOing part is where you focus on taking action, and over time, adopting new habits that are aligned with who you need to BE (your identity) to HAVE what you say you want (your vision). Taking consistent action completes the BE-DO-HAVE equation.
I find it helpful to break down my vision into 90 day increments. Using the 1-year vision, what does life look like in 9-months? 6-months? 3-months? Create a “picture” of success for each of those calendar points. Then set specific goals for achieving the 3-month version. The 3-month version and its goals go on a dashboard; post the dashboard where you can see it every day and track your progress each week. In some cases, I’ve tracked my daily activity and my weekly progress. Tracking activity, on a calendar or other visual tool, has helped me behave more consistently.
Where I have not achieved goals, I have not aligned my identity and goals with my vision.
The number one reason we don’t achieve a goal is because we quit. As embarrassing as this may sound, I’ve abandoned goals within days of setting them. I’ve argued for my excuses — and I won, or so I thought. What I won was my old self, even though what I wanted was something different. Whether it’s a personal or a business goal, the key to success is aligning vision, identity & goals.
Real change starts with a decision to think about yourself differently. It sustains when you think about yourself in this new way every day. It means MAKING A CHOICE FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR VISION every day. And when you get off track, you recommit and go again, as often as it takes.
Who will you decide to be this year? Make this year the year you lead yourself well. Create your vision, align your identity, and break down your vision into segments and goals.
“A year from now you’ll wish you started today.”