I’ve been a fanatical list writer for as long as I can remember. In fact, I write out two pages of to-dos each day and rewrite my goals and dreams for life and business every week. If you consider that a little obsessive, then you’re spot on. I believe if you don’t have dreams and goals mapped out, then you’ll never achieve them. And while the act of writing them down doesn’t guarantee that they’ll happen, it helps you to stay laser focused on the things that matter and prevents you from drifting from year to year hoping things might change. Because my goals are outlined weekly, I find it’s easy to transfer them to annual goals at the end of each year. But one additional task I love to do is map out principles that I’m going to explore during the year ahead so I don’t go through the year on the same path as the previous years. I want to grow in the ways in which I think and engage with others throughout each new year.
Here are ten Uncommon Sense principles for the year ahead that I hope inspire you to think about how you’ll grow throughout 2015.
1. START STRONG, FINISH STRONG
Start your new year by designing a meaningful event to kick it off both at home and at work. Celebrate the beginning of this exciting new chapter that you can fill with opportunities, new experiences and people who will add richly to your life. Start the year off with renewed energy, passion and intentionality. You’ll remember the year if you don’t just roll from last year into the new one.
2. BUILD YOUR OWN ADVISORY BOARD
Who do you go to for candid feedback and advice? Who are you accountable to? It’s time to form your own board of advisors and let them hold you accountable. Identify three or four people whom you respect in different facets of your life and invite them onto your board. Set expectations and let them know you need them on your journey through the year. Set up a monthly call or coffee with each of them and ask them to help hold you to your annual plan.
3. HOW ARE YOU DOING (REALLY)?
You grow through life when you live it consciously and are aware of the impact you have on others around you. We ask our customers what they think of our products and sit through performance reviews at work, but when was the last time you put a survey together and asked your spouse, your kids, your friends and your closest colleagues to give you written feedback on how you’re doing, how you impact them and what you can do to help make their lives better. A great way to know how to grow is to know where to focus. Try a survey or two and become consciously aware of your most important relationships.
4. STOP, START, MUST-DOs
Seeking simplicity in life is one way to create the margin of time, but daily life seems to get more complex every year and time can slip through our hands like sand. One simple exercise is to list the things that you need to stop doing in the year ahead. List the distractions, the time-wasters and the headache-inducers with the reasons why—these are your STOPS for 2015. Then make a list of the things you’d like to start doing, the things you’ve talked about for a long time but have never gotten to, the really important things that never make the list––and write down the reasons why. These are your STARTS for 2015. Then there are those things you must continue doing. These are your MUST DOs for 2015. Take the time to do this exercise, it’s liberating, will help you focus and it will give you back time in 2015.
5. FIND THE MEANING IN EVERYTHING
I feel privileged to work with some of the smartest executives in the world, and have the honor of facilitating meetings with hundreds of people each year. I see a huge opportunity for so many to put a clear sense of purpose and context behind what they get up to do every day. Designing your actions with purpose and intentionality is an opportunity to inject more satisfaction into your days (and nights). If you can answer the question “Why am I here and why am I spending my time doing this?” you’ll waste less of your valuable time in the year ahead. Design your days with intentionality.
6. LOVE CONQUERS ALL, SO CAN YOU
Starting your day off with a sense of gratitude for the life you live, the people you spend it with and the country you live in is a great way to tee up your attitude to positively impact those around you. They say it’s easier to smile than to frown and easier to be kind than to be mean-spirited. My friend Bob Goff wrote a bestselling book titled that’s filled with stories of spontaneous love and laughter. Be deliberate about designing acts of kindness for the people you care about. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee in the line at Starbucks. Say thank you more often. Give love a go.
7. SMALL GESTURES GO A LONG WAY
My wife recently reminded me that it’s the small gestures, rather than the grand ones, that make a difference over the long-term. It’s the every day, run-of-the-mill, important but sometimes mundane acts that show you understand other people’s needs and that you care about what they need from you. Make a point of asking and understanding what’s really important to the people you live with and work with. Make it all about them, not all about you.
8. SHUT UP AND LISTEN MORE
How many meetings have you been in where you watch the flow of a conversation? People repeat what the last person just said, but with slightly different words. The question that just got asked was completely ignored in favor of someone else wanting to make his or her point. As human beings, we waste so much time talking about meaningless crap because we’re not really engaged in a two-way conversation or more, we’re in our own monologue and think that being heard is more important than listening. Try being the quiet one in the room and listening a whole lot more than you talk. Ask more pointed questions and see what reactions you get and the impact that approach has on your own productivity. Quiet confidence creates intrigue.
9. BOLD STRATEGY. CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION. FLAWLESS EXECUTION.
Define and cement your purpose and what you want to get done in 2015. Map a clear and bold strategy for the most important initiatives you’ll embark upon. Create your mission and share it with your team, the consumer and your partners. Know what you’re going to focus on and then execute against it flawlessly. Get your team together, cook them breakfast, serve them burgers and tell them what you’re doing, and why and how you’re going to do it. Communicate successes, failures, rockstar moments and misses. Do this often, celebrate the small wins and share the losses. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
10. WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?
Make sure to put people at the center of everything you do. It’s not about you, it’s not about profits and it’s not about products. Passionate, engaged people move mountains. Enough said. Turn up the love on your people. Understand them. Know them. Thank them. Communicate with them and involve them often.