Let’s face it, we’ve all come up with New Year’s resolutions and goals and intentions – and then inevitably failed to follow through. Coming up with a word or a phrase – a theme – is a much more effective approach. It’s specific enough to give you a clear direction, and flexible enough to allow things to evolve over the year.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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One word for the new year
Hello there and welcome to the final episode of 2020. I know it is a bit of a relief that we’ve come this far, we’ve reached the end of this year. It’s a little bit funny, a little bit ironic perhaps, because this idea of 2020, it’s such a round number, it’s a new decade, 20/20 vision. And I think a lot of us came with a lot of hopes and aspirations which perhaps haven’t quite materialised, perhaps they have for you, in which case, congratulations. For most people, many people, it’s been a pretty tough year. So I think we’re all quite relieved to start a new chapter, albeit at a bit of an arbitrary one because it’s really just the calendar that we’ve introduced in our human modern day society, but there we go.
Nonetheless, it is the last episode of the year and hopefully you’re doing something fun with your loved ones as you were last week, hopefully having a bit of a digital detox, really enjoying yourself in whatever strange limited capacity that we’re able to do so this year. But I really, of course, wish you first of all, a wonderful New Year’s Eve, New Year and all the best for everything still to come.
However, in the meantime, I did just want to come on to talk about one topic, which is again, in the vein of setting your vision for the new year, your intention and so on.
Of course, when we wake up tomorrow morning, a lot of us will perhaps be feeling a little bit worse for wear and thinking, “Oh my goodness, I have to set lots of resolutions and I’m going to go to the gym more often, I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to do this, that, and the other. I’m going to change my job. I’m going to write a book,” whatever those New Year’s resolutions might be. Unfortunately, those really aren’t very effective and I probably don’t need to tell you that because I’m sure after decades of trying to set these goals, or maybe giving up altogether, you haven’t been particularly successful in achieving them. In fact, there’s a stat that gets floated around since many years from, I think a Harvard research study, that said around 8% of people who set New Year’s resolutions will actually achieve them. Of course, that’s only the people who actually set goals. So people who don’t set goals will achieve them even less, unfortunately. So, that’s not particularly productive.
Now, I don’t want to go into the details of why I think that’s not working, but as you can imagine, I think we haven’t really bought into them, they’re not very meaningful goals. We just latch onto these the last second. They’re the classic one that we always say want to do. We know that we’re not going to stick to them and so we already know that we’re not really believing ourselves, we’re not trusting ourselves. Going to the gym all the time at the beginning, January. Great, doing well. February, a little bit … a few exceptions here and there. March, April, suddenly the gym is pretty much empty and back to normal with the people who are proper gym bunnies and not those of us, who’ve set that as a goal for this year. So, unless we’ve really reflected and thought about, of course, that big why that we’re always talking about, what’s our definition of success? Why is this particular goal or resolution so important, meaningful? Why now, why this year? Of then there are all sorts of things we can do in terms of support systems and accountability and so on. Unless we’ve done that due diligence, which let’s face it, we’re not going to do tomorrow morning on New Year’s Day, then New Year’s resolutions, perhaps not so useful after all.
So instead, and this is something that I’ve been doing for some years now, I think almost six, seven years. I came across back in 2013 as I was navigating my initial career and lifestyle change, this idea of having a theme, a word, or a concept, and I’ve seen more and more people pick up on this as well, recently in recent years.
The idea is to have a word or a phrase, a concept, a theme that guides your year. Now, my take on this is that it’s sufficiently specific to give you a direction. To guide you, to give you that guiding star, the path to follow, to help you make decisions and tough priority calls and so on as you move forwards. However, the good news is it’s also sufficiently, I don’t want to say vague, but loose, flexible, and fluid to not be too rigid and not to restrict you too much during the year because things change and evolve and you can’t possibly foresee all the different decisions and things that are going to happen through the year. So I think it’s really powerful to have this idea of a theme, a guide that you can latch onto.
You can put it on a poster. You can, if you’re more artistic, draw it beautifully, you can find an item, find a tangible little token that will represent that. We’ll talk about vision boards as well, there’s all sorts of things we can do to bring these words and themes to life. So that really you feel, yes, this feels intuitively right. It can really instinctually guide you and it’s going to be something that you’re going to want to stick to throughout the year.
Now, of course, we’re not talking smart goals here, a theme is not specific and measurable in all these things. So it’s not that at the end of the year, we’re going to be able to tick a box and say, “Yes, 93%. I ticked this theme and I achieved it.” It’s really more of an intention, a guide for the year.
So if you’re interested in trying this process, well okay, what might be some examples? I was looking back at a few I had, and I retrospectively gave myself bold decisions, bold decisions back in 2013 when I initially quit my job. So fair enough, I came across the idea of the theme after I’d already quit. So I was a bit cheeky there, giving myself a theme, but it might be then follow through for the following year, I believe. Because after I’d made those decisions, as it turns out, actually there’s a lot of following through, sticking to your guns and so on. So that could be interesting.
One of my colleagues had first things first, I think. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and try to do lots of things at once, but okay, first things first. One step at a time might be another one, for example.
Focus. Focus, I think I’ve had before as well because again, it’s so easy to have that shiny object syndrome and so on.
Consistency. Again, rather than trying new things all the time and seeing whatever sticks and so on, I’m going to show up. Showing up could be another one, consistently. It’s all about that, not so sexy, but oh so important, being consistent, showing up every day, every week, over a long period of time. So, consistency could be interesting.
There could be something around, I think I had externally focused. So it’s so easy again, to be very caught up in, “I’m going to tweak my website for the 300th time, and I’m going to do this strategy and this template and so on.” No one’s ever going to see it unless we actually become externally focused, so really looking out at the world, pitching yourself to the media, going on other people’s podcasts, writing on LinkedIn, connecting with people, hopefully meeting people in person and so on. So, being externally focused could be interesting.
So, you can see there all sorts of things. Now, I’m suggesting a little bit of a focus on business here, but of course it could be much broader and if there’s another aspect of your life that’s actually more important, or something that’s all-encompassing, a kind of umbrella theme, even better. If that can guide you personally and professionally, then by all means, and I think that’s often the case.
So, I don’t want to give you too many ideas because really it’s up to you what this theme is going to be. I don’t want to give you a list of themes that you can then choose from. I want you to really feel what feels right. To be honest, that’s the way in which I’ve arrived at my theme most years. However, one year, I think 2017, I did come up with more of a structured theme and I was using that a little bit more in my annual webinars with my clients and so on. It’s not so scientific, but what you can do is, either online, there are free mind mapping tools, for example, Bubbl I believe one’s called, or just grab a big piece of paper and put 2021, I guess we are now, with the new year in the middle, or even your name, or whatever you want to call it, or theme and then you can just start branching out.
Now, you can do this in a few different ways. You can keep it completely free and just plot any words that you think of, or why not try the five Ls, which you may be familiar with if you’re part of my community. So the five Ls are the different areas of your life that might want to be considered in this kind of vision setting exercise. So live, love, learn, lead, laugh. Live is wellness and wellbeing. Love, relationships and romance. Live, love, learn, development and growth. Lead, career and impact and laugh, fun and spontaneity.
Then you can branch out from those and maybe there’s something going on in relationships that’s really important. Then you can see that there’s a pattern between that and what you’re saying actually in the development phase or the career piece, and maybe you might be able to draw patterns across these and actually there’s an all-encompassing word that’s really going to cover the main themes, the main focus areas, that you want to look at or really make changes in, in the coming year. So you could use those five areas.
You could use other areas in your life that you feel are really important. You could use the different roles in your life.
I’m a mother, I’m a sister, I’m an uncle, I’m a son, I’m a brother, that sounds like a song somehow, I’m going to get into some kind of rap, but don’t worry, I won’t. So you can think of the different roles in your life as well.
What’s important is don’t stop there. Don’t just write, “Build the business. Okay, done. That’s my word.” No, no. So why is it you want to build the business? We’ve talked before about the five whys, so go deeper. Or what is it about that? “Well, I want to scale more clients, be more prominent in the media,” just keep going to the next level. Okay, what does that look like? Well, that means actually being more courageous, maybe that’s an interesting area to pursue. It means showing up, it means getting help where I need it, asking for help. Working with an expert perhaps in PR in that case. So really for each of these branches, make sure you’re going deeper and taking it further, going one level deeper.
What exactly do you mean? Why is this so powerful? Why is it so meaningful to you?
So have a go at that again, mind mapping online. I think I’m always a big fan of pen and paper. Put the theme 2021 in the middle, or whatever year it is when you’re listening to this episode, perhaps you’re listening in the future and then branch out the words. Either follow a structure of the different areas you’re considering, or if you want it to be specifically for business, perhaps just look at it through the lens of business and think, “Okay, these are the areas.” More passive income, more leveraging your time, more work-life balance. Work-life integration, as I call it. Collaboration, partnerships, more credibility and authority, more celebrity perhaps, maybe you want to speak, you want to do that TED talk, book. IP could be an interesting area. Systems, processes, outsourcing, getting team support and so on. There’s … what else? The adminy side, accounting, finances, money, profit, really making more of money, getting on top of your finances, perhaps that’s an important area.
So it could be branding related, or business model, structure. It could be your routine, your structure of your week and so on and freeing up more time, working less, getting more out of it. It could be getting the support systems in place and automation and tools and so on. So even if you’re focusing on business, there are so many different areas that could be, don’t just focus on, “Grow my business.” Not so helpful.
So again, hopefully that’s an interesting exercise to do at this time of the year, whether it’s happening today, probably not, or later on in January perhaps, if you haven’t done it already. But really coming up with that word or sentence, sentence, more like a concept, a phrase, a theme, that’s again going to guide you, it’s going to be so much more meaningful, instinctual hopefully. Also, if you have done this exercise, you’ll really know that yes, it does really sit nicely across these different areas and I can really see … Ask yourself, okay, if you were faced with a decision there between doing X and Y in your business, would this theme help you make that choice? So, if your focus is all on consistency and focus and that kind of thing, then probably that’s going to help you when you come up with a new idea to do something totally different, maybe park that and go, “No, I’m going to focus, be consistent and I’m going to stick with this particular strategy for now until I see results, or until I see no results and then I’ll know it’s time to pivot.”
Or if it’s around systems and processes and always, “Should I do this myself? Well actually, no, I should probably invest in this tool. I should get the support here. I should automate somehow,” and so on. So make sure it is meaningful and you can see in a practical example, how it is going to guide your decision.
So again, it’s meaningful, it’s focused enough to be that guiding star this year, but at the same time, it’s loose, it’s fluid enough to really allow for that flexibility that we all need throughout the year, as we’ve discovered this year, when things really change and evolve unexpectedly.
So enjoy that. Enjoy finding your one word, your phrase. Of course, as ever, I’d love to hear from you what your phrase, or concept, or theme is. You can get me at email@example.com or of course on any social channel where you’re following me, in the Facebook group, on Instagram, LinkedIn, wherever you’re connected with me, and do make sure you are connected with me. I’m all over the place and I’d love to hear more about how you’re enjoying the podcast and in particular here, how you’re getting on with this particular exercise.
Again, I want to say thank you so much for listening to me this year, we celebrated a hundred episodes recently, two years as well and now of course, want to close out 2020. Thank you so much for sticking with me. I hope the episode, the focus, the shift, the pivot this year has been valuable too through a difficult time. Again, I’d also love to hear questions from you. So if you ever want to propose any topics or suggest anything else or just say, “Hey, this was really useful, could you do more of that?” Then again, get in touch on your favourite social channel or at firstname.lastname@example.org. But thank you so much for being a listener. Do you make sure you subscribe, if you’re not already subscribed, to make sure you don’t miss an episode. There’ll be lots of goodies coming up in 2021 as well.
I wish you a wonderful New Year’s Eve, if you’re listening on New Year’s Eve and happy, happy, happy, happy, happy New Year, lots of happyness. I hope for all of us that it’s going to be a good one. Thanks so much for listening. Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2021. Bye for now.
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