Goals, Reflections, Writing and Action
How to do New Year’s resolutions when you hate doing New Year’s resolutions.
It’s now a little while into the new year.
Maybe you’re still on holiday or maybe you’ve gone back to work by now, head down bum up… focused, focused, focused.
Have you done the new year’s resolutions thing, this year?
Or are you, like me, over the whole “Goals for the year” idea? New Year’s Goals and resolutions haven’t worked out so well for you (or me) in the past and it’s all a bit depressing, and anyway, you’ve got too much to do to think about that stuff.
Trust me, I hear you.
The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to think, reflect and plan. And New Year’s resolutions done well (more about how to do New Year’s Resolutions the right way from The Ethics Centre) can really get your year underway well.
I know, I know it’s it was New Year a few weeks ago, but in Australia, we tend not to take life too seriously until after Australia Day (Invasion Day) anyway, so I suggest you follow this process along with me. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Reflecting and writing
A friend of mine asked me the other day if I had any resolutions for the year, what I was most worried about for 2023 and what I most wanted 2023 to look like.
I thought about it for a few days and decided I don’t feel the need to set Goals of any type again this year, but that it could be useful at least to reflect on what last year has been about, what I am pleased with, what went well, and where I improved.
And to write it down. Reflecting on things in writing can often mean we deepen our thinking and come to more powerful insights. We force our thinking processes to be more thorough and we force our random thoughts into coherent sentences.
My adventure for the year
So that’s what I’m going to do here. As I write this sentence, I have no idea what will come out, or what insights it might lead to. I am going on an adventure, if you will, and if it does lead me to some useful insights, I might decide to do something with those for the coming year.
Why don’t you have a go yourself?
I’ve been on a few of these reflecting and writing adventures myself in the past, and one thing I promise you: It’s always been interesting and mostly much more useful than you expect.
To help me be as constructive as possible I I’ve decided to frame a few questions and then answer each of them in turn and in order, as fully and honestly as I can. My experience is that asking good questions and committing to answering them as fully and honestly as you can, will always lead to great outcomes and insights.
These are the questions I’ve come up with (you can skip to any of the questions by clicking on them):
- In what specific ways do my business and life look different now from a year ago?
- What am I most pleased or proud of for the past year?
- What am I worried about for the year ahead?
- What would I like this year to be about?
- What are the big challenges I’ll likely be facing?
- How am I going to meet those challenges?
So here we go… Let’s start this adventure and ask the first question:
A year ago, we were all still a bit shell-shocked from the pandemic and the lockdowns and I felt weird. Financially I’d come through the pandemic quite well, but I was worried about the future. Where were my clients going to come from, would any business even consider engaging someone like me, how was the economy going to recover from the onslaught? Questions like that were big in my mind in January, a year ago.
Also, on a personal level, I had some concerns about my marriage, about my health and fitness, about the fact I’m getting older and also about finding useful and interesting things to do with my free time (of which I have quite a lot these days).
On another personal level, I was trying to work out how to re-engage with the mainland, as it were (we moved to Tasmania from Sydney about a year before the start of the pandemic). Prior to the pandemic I used to fly to Sydney at the drop of a hat, to catch up with family and friends. The pandemic put a stop to all that running back and forth, and now in January 2022, I didn’t want to do it all that much anymore either.
All of these things were going through my head a year ago.
What was going through your head about your business and life, a year ago?
Now, today, life looks different. My business has fared well during the year. I’ve had enough new clients come in, I’ve been asked to come on board with a very interesting government-funded small business support program, one day a week, and I feel comfortable with the work I have done and continue to do with my clients over the year. Financially I’m in a fairly comfortable place.
On the personal front, things have changed a lot as well. I feel fitter and healthier than I’ve felt for a while (not that I’ve lost any weight worth mentioning, because food is, after all is said and done, what makes life worth living in my book). I’ve found an exercise form that works for me, hiking and climbing up steep hills. I’ve found a couple of hiking buddies and it means you’ll find me up a mountain or in the bush somewhere with a mate just about every Monday. My arthritic knees are better than they’ve been for a while too.
Marriage, study, cooking, friends, kids
My marriage is also healthier than it’s been for quite a while, we’re having a lot of fun together and there’s a lovely feeling at home.
I’ve taken on some study projects, done a lot of work in the garden, cooked up many storms over the year, developed some really solid friendships in our new home state, and read a lot of great books. I’ve only been to the mainland a few times during the past year and some of the friendships I had in Sydney and surrounds have started to lose some of their intensity and focus, but I’m ok with that because I think it’s just what happens… life moves on. Finally, the bonds with my kids, their partners and the grandkids have strengthened, and that’s really nice to notice.
All in all, big changes, but I just like to note this for myself as much as anything else: Few if any of the changes that occurred are the kind of big changes we set Goals for. They have all been slow gradual changes, incremental steps; Two steps forward, one step back, try something new for a while and then try something different. No Big Hairy Audacious Goals, no strategies, no plans and no milestones. The changes are just those that develop as long as you make sure you always keep moving.
Always moving is the key.
And you? What’s the end of 2022 looking like now?
I’m pleased with myself for a couple of reasons I think:
First, again in my business, I am pleased that I said ‘Yes’ when I was invited to come on board the small business support program I mentioned above. It’s turned out quite different from what I expected and some of it has been right out of my comfort zone. But I’ve learned a lot, I’m getting better at delivering in the program and I feel I’m adding something useful to the mix with the other advisers. I’ve also done some great work with a few of my regular clients, and they have clearly benefitted from working with me. I’ve done well getting myself established and connected in the business community here in Tasmania, as evidenced by being approached for the program, for example.
Part of a new community
On a personal level, I’m pleased with how I’ve created a circle of people in this town whom I call real friends. Getting established in a new community can be challenging, but I believe I (and my wife) have done it well and quickly.
Also, as mentioned above I started realising that I was at risk of becoming mentally lazy and bored. I gave myself a couple of swift kicks up the backside and took on some study projects that are engaging me and are a lot of fun besides.
I’m pleased with how I’ve committed to my health and fitness so that I can now do 4 to 7 hr hikes in the Tasmanian mountains on a regular basis. A few years ago, when we first came to this town, I could barely walk up the stairs in my own house with my arthritic knees, now I’m climbing steep mountain tracks.
Finally, I’m pleased with how I’ve proactively done the work that needed to be done to re-energise and re-vitalise my marriage, and we’re in the best place we’ve been for years.
All in all, now that I’ve written it all out like this, I am forced to admit that I have every reason to be quite pleased with myself. I reckon I’ve done all right last year… Attaboy!
Your turn: What are you pleased with yourself for? What would you like to give yourself an Attaboy for?
I highly recommend that you take some time and write it down. As you’ve read above, I did just that, and writing it all down, has put me in a great frame of mind.
Shift the focus to 2023
So far so good. It turns out there is a lot more to feel positive about than I’d expected. I still have no idea where it will all go, but I know, that having gone through the exercise above has put me into the right mindset to see something useful and interesting pop out the other end. I am getting more and more excited about this little adventure, to be honest.
How about you? Are you pleasantly surprised on reflection too?
The first of the new year questions:
On a business level, I am worried about a few things for the year ahead:
Firstly, I am concerned that my clients will continue to keep finding me through Google. Google (and my website) has, on average, given me about 50% of my clients over the past 20 years. For a bunch of reasons, I won’t go into now, I’ve generally ranked quite well in Google searches since the early days of my coaching business. Over the past couple of years though, there has been a slow but undeniably backwards trend in Google-led inquiries.
Again, there are many reasons for this trend, which I won’t delve into now. But for most of last year, I’ve worked with a high-level SEO expert to turn the trend around. I worry that I haven’t seen a clear shift yet.
Secondly, the government-funded business support program I am part of has another half year to run, but there is no clarity yet, on whether the program will continue to run or whether I will be able to continue to take part in it.
Thirdly, I had hoped to be able to launch a new group program to support business owners in northern Tasmania, as a joint venture with a friend, in February. For various reasons that has been put on hold. There’s no guarantee we will be able to launch it this year at all.
On a personal level, I am worried about a few things too (I know, I know, I am a worrier).
I am worried that the newfound joy and fun in my marriage is going to run out of puff and that we fall back into old patterns.
I am worried that I’ll lose my enthusiasm for keeping up the exercise, walking and hiking I’ve been consistently doing over the past couple of years and that I’ll lose the health benefits from that enthusiasm. (On a side note, I am also worried that I’ll get too enthusiastic on some boulder field on the side of a mountain and break a leg)
I am worried that my daughter and her family are planning to set off on a year-long van-life trip around Australia at some point and that we won’t get to see them very much when they do.
Lastly, I always, always, always worry about a couple of things:
- That I don’t give enough attention to friends and family and that they’ll feel ignored by me.
- That I get slack, in my business or personally. That I won’t keep up with my study, health, cooking, home chores, business development, marketing etc.
Told you, I’m a worrier. But writing them all down turns out to be really useful for me. When I see all these things written down it lowers the energy of the worries. For one, I realise, that most of these worries have been around for many years, some as long as my entire adult life or even longer. Given how many good things have happened last year for example, in spite of many of the same worries I had at the start of it, I’m reminded that I’ve proven myself equal to the challenges and worries. Now at 64 years of age, you might say I’d be justified to trust that I can meet the challenges again. That’s a great feeling. Secondly, having clarity over my worries, which of those worries I have control over and which I don’t, means I can decide where to focus in the year ahead.
What about your worries? Are you a worrier too?
Starting with my business again. I’d love it if the business support program continued with me being a part of it, a day a week.
I really hope that my SEO guru and I can get on top of the whole Google thing so that there’s a reasonable flow of inquiries again (I only deal in small numbers, 4 to 6 actual full fee-paying clients from Google in a year is perfect).
I’m hoping for a similar number (4-6) of paying clients from word of mouth and relationships here in Tasmania or Australia-wide.
Even at the low end, 4 paying clients from Google as well as 4 from word of mouth, plus a day a week with the business support program, would be a great year for me, financially, and it would mean I can continue to fit my business nicely in the 4 days a week I work now (see my hiking adventures below under “personal 2023”).
Finally, I would love it if we can get the once-a-month group program off the ground, with at least 8 participants. If my friend and I do that and we find a formula that means the program continually attracts new people as existing participants leave, we will have created something useful to support business owners in the local community. It could also be quite lucrative for us, strengthen my relationship with my friend, give me more visibility in the local community and be a lot of fun besides.
All of the above would make 2023 one of my best years yet.
My personal 2023
On the personal front, all I want 2023 to be about, is more of the same. There’s nothing I’d want to change.
In my marriage, I want to continue to develop and get better at the new changes we’ve introduced and the way we’ve started to “do life”.
I want to get to the end of the year having done lots of great hiking adventures with my hiking buddies and feeling more confident on boulders and scree in the mountains. It would also be lovely if I’d managed to do a couple of overnight hikes, such as the Three Capes Track and overnight at Lady Lake hut on the Higgs track. I don’t need to be much stronger and fitter than I am now, maintaining my strength and fitness level, would be good enough.
I also want to continue to eat moderately healthily. In my case, that doesn’t mean I’ll lose weight so much. It’s more that I eat good quality food most of the time. Besides eating good quality chocolate and croissants, that means remembering to eat fruit and vegetables (once a month, whether I need it or not… kidding).
I want to continue to feel well connected in the community, with good friends to hang out with who are interesting and whom I have great conversations with. No small talk.
I want to maintain friendships with a couple of old friends on the mainland, even though I’m unlikely to see them during the year much or even at all.
Continue to read widely, mostly fiction, and a couple of great non-fiction books about history, psychology, philosophy, and such, stuff that tickles my fancy.
Continue to do some study projects from time to time on topics that spark my interest. Most of them will be history related in some way, I expect.
Continue to get better at cooking, explore different foods, especially explore more vegetarian options, and explore really good “quick dinners”, that my wife likes too.
Continue to make time for my kids, their partners, and the grandkids. Get more comfortable with what it means to be Poppie.
As you see, nothing new much, apart from maybe the group program with my friend. Some of the items above I have little control over. Whether or not the business support program continues or if I’ll be asked to continue with it, for example, are largely out of my control.
Mostly, especially on the personal front, it’s about maintenance and continuation.
What about you? What do you want 2023 to be about?
This is a tough one, I think. Mostly, the biggest challenge I have (I’ve always had), is what’s looking back at me from the mirror.
What do you think, is that person your biggest challenge too or am I alone in that?
Starting with business once more:
On the SEO and Google front, I must continue to be disciplined and do the work that needs doing to get the Google ranking to improve again and stay high, for the right queries from the right people. It means regularly writing stuff, good, high-quality stuff, that connects to the people I want to talk to and proactively looking for opportunities to have my stuff shared on various media platforms (and dare I say it, social media… aaarrrgggghhhh!). It means doing some interviews with past clients and creating some nice stories around those interviews along the lines of “The 7 habits of highly chilled business owners” I wrote some years ago (download the whole E-book here)
I’ve got more to say on testimonials and reviews below as well.
It also means continuing to optimise the content of my website to make it more attractive to Google and the users. And it might mean creating better email marketing content. Discipline is the challenge here. I’ve found it difficult to keep doing all that stuff month after month and year after year and to do so in a consistent and well-considered manner.
Out of my control
The continuation of the business support program is to a large extent out of my hands. The only thing I can do is be consistent and disciplined in how I do the work for the program. That means I’ll be doing my bit to to ensure the program delivers what the government expects of it and give me the best opportunity to be involved again.
The group program with the friend is largely out of my control at this point. It’s for my friend to decide if he wants to and can commit to doing it with me. If he’s not, I don’t think I’ll do it on my own. So, unless and until he says Yes, there’s no challenge and no strategy.
Continuing to find the right clients in northern Tasmania from relationship building and such is more discipline. The discipline of going to the networking things that come up, even when I don’t feel like it. The discipline to make sure I present myself in the right way at those events. The discipline to do the follow-ups and to organise one-on-one catchups with business owners I might meet from time to time.
The other marketing discipline is to pick up my act on getting testimonials and google reviews and stepping out of my comfort zone to ask for some video testimonials from current and past clients. I hate doing that stuff, but it matters, and I just need to do it again.
Do you struggle with this stuff as well?
I hope you do; I’d hate to think I’m the only one in the world who finds it hard to keep up with this annoying stuff.
And that brings me to all the “continuing” stuff in my personal picture of what I want 2023 to be about.
It’s all about continuing what’s currently happening. More of the same. Obviously, the biggest challenge is again looking at me from the mirror.
Discipline and consistency are hard for me. I tend to let things slide once the novelty wears off. I don’t particularly like that about myself, but it’s simply undeniable. I do things for a while and then one day, I just stop doing them.
This has been a feature of my adult life really. In the past, I’ve tried to fight that tendency by being really tough on myself and driving myself to keep doing the thing, whatever the thing is at the time. But I’ve realised that that only works for a while. At some point, no amount of whipping myself into compliance continues to have the desired outcome.
Instead, I’ve started experimenting with the opposite approach over the past few years. I’ve started consciously looking for the Joy in doing certain things. Doing life with Joy, instead of doing life with discipline.
In other words: The major challenge in everything I want 2023 to be about is finding the required amount of discipline to do all the things that need to be done for the “continuance” of all the good stuff that’s in my world now. Maybe I need to turn that challenge on its head and replace the word discipline with the word Joy.
Nice thought to finish this question off on and now I’m ready to explore the last question.
Back to you, what are your biggest challenges for 2023?
I hope you find a similarly interesting set of thoughts and insights to prepare you for the last question.
And that brings us to the last question. This is where the rubber hits the road, because now we go from reflecting, thinking, and visioning to action. And action is the only thing that makes the world go round.
Starting with business, once more:
The list of all the things I have to continue doing around marketing is quite large. It’s unrealistic to assume I’ll do everything and everything all the time. So, the first step is to prioritise.
Doing more writing (apart from what I’m doing at the moment) is actually not all that useful, when I think about it more. I’ve written so much already, my website is stuffed to the gills with articles, E-books, books, podcasts, webinars and reports I’ve written over the years and a lot of it is still perfectly fine.
More useful maybe would be to make a list of the topics I am most interested in at the moment, find the articles and other resources I’ve already written about those topics. Then pick my favourites and look for ways to update them, to “refresh” them, and provide better linking to them. Once I’ve done that. Create a plan for sharing them. I think that’s a strategy to work through for the next 3 to 6 months, the first half of the financial year.
Action: Collate article groups around topics for update and sharing. 6 months
Next, and what’s more important, in fact, is to obtain some new and fresh testimonials for my testimonials web page, from current and recent clients. I actually have some of those already in google reviews and I can simply copy them onto my web page. To be honest, that’s so simple to do, It’s silly I haven’t done so for a long time. I’m putting a note on my desk to do so in the next week or so.
Action: Transfer Google reviews to the webpage
Also important is to ask two or three recent clients if I could get a short little video testimonial from them. Probably best to write three or four simple questions, that are the same for all of them and go and interview them with those questions, either via zoom or face-to-face with my phone camera. I’m diarising to get started with that in February.
Action: Start video interviews past clients, in February
On networking stuff: First, keep reminding myself that it is important and to continue to look for opportunities to attend events and put other things aside for it. Make sure I dress at least mildly professionally, turn up, smile, and make an effort to find out how I can help people. Invite people I meet to come along to other things (the local business group I mention below), follow up, have coffees… all that stuff. It matters, I’m actually quite good at it (if I put myself in the right frame of mind) and it can be fun too.
Action: Networking opportunities
Lastly, I’m a member of a local business referral group (BNAA). I lost a bit of enthusiasm for the group over the past couple of years, but I am going to re-energise myself in the group and do all the things that make me a good member and supporter of the group’s other members.
Action: Do the right stuff in BNAA
In the business support program, I just have to keep reminding myself to do things well, dot the I’s, cross the T’s and not get slack. Continue to show the other advisers I am committed and enthusiastic and useful in the program.
Action: Keep up the good work
Personal 2023 commitments
As I said in my conclusion to the previous question (Question 5), I have realised over the years that relying on brute force to whip myself into continuing compliance and discipline has a limited lifespan. I know from past experience that although that approach does work, it only does so for a while. Looking for the joy in things I want to do (as opposed to things I feel I ought to do) is a much more effective long-term strategy (and much more fun besides).
My head is habitually full of the finger-wagging voice that tells me “I should” do this and “I ought to” do that and “I must” do the other. There is a near-constant babble going on in the back of my head that berates and chastises me. Sometimes it talks softly, sometimes at the top of its voice, but it’s there most of the time in some form. The secret, I’ve learned, to lessen the power of this voice, is to listen to it. Not to agree with it so much, or be cowed by it, but to allow myself to hear it consciously and then to remind myself that I’m 64, I’ve not done too badly so far, and I don’t have to shrink before this voice. I’ve actually written some articles about the voice on the shoulder and how to learn to be kind to it instead of trying to outsmart it. Time to take a dose of my own medicine.
In order to continuously remind me to look for the joy in the things I want to do, it could be useful to instigate some sort of regular reflection time. I could try putting a weekly half-hour meditation in my calendar for example, but meditation often means I end up falling asleep (I am getting old and dopey). I think what I’ll try and do instead is to block a half-hour “reflective writing” time in my calendar. A kind of “Dear Diary” half hour, maybe call it something like “The Joy-hour” (except an hour is too long).
Decision made. I blocked it in my diary for Friday mornings every week. I think what I’ll do is I’ll use my note-taking app and get in the habit of writing a page in diary form about the past week in the app.
Action: Implement the Joy-hour (half-hour) weekly
That’s it, those are my commitments for the year ahead. I feel really good about this exercise and I am confident that doing the half-hour reflective writing will remind me of what matters most to me and what gives me most joy. It will also remind me to keep moving and keep doing the stuff that is most important to me and gets me where I want to go.
How about you? What actions are you prepared to commit to? How are you going to keep moving in the direction you want this year? How are you going to give yourself the best opportunity to make your year look and feel just like you imagined it when answering Question 4?
I hope you’ve gone along with the exercise with me and that you’re feeling great about yourself, your business and the year ahead.
Next week I’m going to give you a much shorter piece to explain how this process works, why it works and how to go through this process yourself. I’ll explain why I asked these questions and not others and then I’ll also give you a short worksheet to download that you can use to go through your own reflection process, now or at any time in the future.
Drop me a line and let me know how you went and what came up for you, I’d really love to hear.