Food, Football, and Reflection
I love the Holidays. Thanksgiving is the beginning of “the most wonderful time of the year!” Everything about it makes me happy. The food is so good. Football games with family and friends. Shopping and wrapping Christmas presents. Time off work.
Then of course, one other thing. Goals.
Thanksgiving kickoff is more than the NFL for me. It begins the annual cycle of goal reflection from this year, and goal setting for next year. It’s a rhythm that is common for goal-setters across the world. Something about the New Year triggers in all of us a fresh start, a new lease on life. Dan Pink covers this idea of natural rhythms in depth in his latest book, “When.”
I might look forward to goal setting season a bit more than most.
Instead of taking a few minutes on New Year’s Eve to make a list of resolutions or general ideas for the following year, I dedicate several days over the Holidays to the task of goal setting. First is the process of reflection on this year, which happens during Thanksgiving. While setting new goals is much more energizing and takes more time, reflection is probably the most powerful and important part of the process for me.
I believe reflection, at its core, is asking questions.
How often do you reflect? Thinking about our past is not always fun because we tend to get hung up on our failures. Who wants to sit and reminisce about how poorly we did on that big project at work? Or think about getting passed up for the promotion? How about a cup of tea and an instant replay of how many days we skipped out on the gym this year? Maybe we don’t need the replay, looking down at our waistline is enough of a reminder.
I have started taking a much more structured approach to reflection for the year’s goals, to avoid these psychological pitfalls. The beginning of my reflection for 2018 will be a look at what I said (of course, written down) is important in my life. Then I ask questions. Are these things still important to me? Is there anything I have learned about what I really want? Does anything feel less inspiring in my vision today than it did a year ago? Has anything become even more interesting than before?
After that, I go through each individual goal for the year (of course, again, written down) and measure my results. Not all my goals are perfectly measurable (gasp!). But, I know if the results are good or bad. The important thing is not to cast judgement. Just observe. I’m not trying to determine my self-worth here. I’m not placing my identity in the performance here. I just want to know the reality of how what I said I wanted to do, compared to what I did.
I believe reflection, at its core, is asking questions. If I’m right about that, then the quality of those questions really matters. Tony Robbins taught me a long time ago through his books that asking a more empowering question is one of the best practices we can have in life. If I look back at 2018 in an area that did not go well, and ask the question, “Why was I such an idiot?” Or, “How could I be so lazy?” The brain, with its hard wiring to seek evidence for whatever you ask, will start to send answers. “Because you are always an idiot.” “Because deep down you have no willpower.”
Not helpful. At all. Ask better questions during reflection. Ask questions that will take you to the next level. “How can I double, or 10x my performance in that area I failed in this year?” “This goal that I crushed, what great quality about my life allowed me to be so productive?”
I call it goal season because this process is not quick.
The main thing is to learn. Inner work. Get to know who I am and where I am going. What have I learned about myself in 2018? All of this will help to inform what specific areas to push forward in 2019. I call it goal season because this process is not quick. Deep work, inner work, can take some time. If you are an engineer personality like me, big decisions take some time to think through. Setting big goals is a big decision.
Not everyone is wired for following such a rigorous process, I get that. But, there are a lot of you out there who would benefit from the rigor. Over the next few weeks I plan to share more of the process with you. I think, in fact, that annual goal-setting mastery is an area that I can really help people. So let’s get started together with reflection.
Take some time over Thankgiving to be thankful for what you have now. While you’re thinking about that, think back to how you got those things. How you have nurtured those things? If they are family and relationships, how you have loved those people this year? If it’s work related, how you have progressed in your career? What sticks out as the highlights of 2018? What are the moments you wish you could have more of? Those are clues. Those may be the keys to unlock your passion and purpose. Those areas may fuel your vision.
Write a few things down if you’re feeling brave. Then, get ready for the really fun part. Setting new goals for next year.