Two fellow entrepreneur friends, Laurie and Jeremy, were coming over to my place for a “2014 strategy planning” day a few weeks ago. It had been on the calendar for months. The expectation (that I made up in my mind) was that we should each walk away from it with our individual plan and vision for the year, including financial goals, milestones, deliverables, and what resources we’d need to succeed in our businesses. That’s not what ended up happening at all. Something much better happened instead.
Most people approach New Year’s resolutions, strategy planning, and vision setting the same way. They come up with an end goal they’d like to achieve, determine markers along the way, and tell themselves that they better accomplish it or they will have failed. The “not wanting to fail” is supposed to be motivating somehow but it doesn’t work for most of us. Goals are not obtained by fear of failure. They are obtained because they fulfill a burning desire and are worth the effort to get there, even when it gets tough.
If you want to achieve an important goal, the desire for it has to come from your heart, your gut, your bones. It has to be more than just a good idea. Otherwise, it’s like deciding to run your first marathon simply because it will be a good challenge and a major accomplishment. Yet, if your heart doesn’t have the desire to complete a marathon, all of the training necessary isn’t going to happen and you’ll never end up running that race, let alone finish. Failed again. Is that empowering? Heck no.
When my friends showed up for the strategy planning session, we all agreed to throw out the traditional approach (which we’d all learned in the corporate world) and try something that had nothing to do with using our brains or analytical skills. Oh, and we wanted it to be fun too! What we came up with was super powerful and way more inspiring than anything I’d ever done before.
Our idea was to focus exclusively on the “what” and “why” and set aside the “how”.
We were going to let the “how” reveal itself naturally in time, whether in the next day or in the next few months.
It was such an exhilarating and empowering experience that I felt compelled to share it with you.
THE ANTI-NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION APPROACH
I highly recommend doing this with a small group (3-4) of people. It’s amazing what comes out of it when you create your vision with others. It can be a solo act but be sure to share it with a few others afterwards and gather their perspective. They will help you deepen and add even more color to your vision.
Materials needed: - flipchart paper with adhesive at the top of each page (not required but ideal) - thick and thin colored markers, assortment of colored pencils, crayons, etc. - thick construction paper in white (size: 8.5” x 11” or A4)
Step One: Reflect on the past year
Before looking ahead, it’s important to look back over the past year. It’s full of learning and growth experiences that have gotten you to where you are today. They are worth honoring and celebrating…even the not-so-great parts.
At the top of one flipchart page, write LEAVE BEHIND and on another one, write CARRY FORWARD. Post them up on a wall in front of you.
For the first flipchart page, capture everything you want to leave behind (e.g. negative self-talk, playing small, letting boundaries get trampled, etc.)? Focus on behaviors or perspectives you want to leave behind rather than “things”.
Think about positive behaviors that started to show up this year that you want to carry forward (e.g. more fun, abundance mindset, etc.)? What else do you want to bring into the new year that isn’t already in motion? Write ‘em up there!
Take as much time as needed to capture everything you can think of for both categories. You can bounce back and forth between the two categories. Flow with whatever comes up.
You may notice that when you do it with others, they’ll bring up something for them that may also translate for you even if it shows up differently in your life. Together, come up with the theme that speaks to all of you. You can also each create your own separate flipchart pages, if you prefer.
Step Two: Create a ceremony for giving the middle finger to your “Leave Behind” list
When my friends and I completed our lists, we took pictures of them on our phones, so we’d have them for reference. And then we stopped ourselves. Why in the world would we want to keep a picture of the Leave Behind list? We don’t want to be reminded of our crap or old behaviors! If it’s still present in our mind, it has a greater chance to rear its ugly head again. We needed a funeral for our list or some kind of ceremony that allowed us to say thank you…and goodbye.
Take a few moments to decide what kind of ceremony you want to have for your list and how you want to dispose of it. Get creative and have a bit of fun with it. We decided that setting it on fire might be a hazard, so we all took turns ripping it to shreds and then throwing it in the trash.
For the Carry Forward list, take a picture of it on your phone so you can easily reference it wherever you go. It’s also a great thing to keep posted on the wall so it’s clearly visible to you every day.
Step Three: Tap into your inner artist to create your future vision
Get out that construction paper and set of pencils and pens. Then, settle yourself into a comfortable position and close your eyes. You’re going to do a meditation of sorts (attention brain...you’ll be turned off now). Take a few deep breaths, clear your mind, and then say to yourself, “What is my vision for 2014? What does my heart want?”
This is not about making something appear but really sinking into your heart and whole body to see what it desires. As soon as you see something pop into your mind’s eye, no matter what it is, open your eyes, and draw it.
Keep repeating this process until you don’t have any more visions coming up for you. Once you’ve drawn everything, your page should be pretty well filled up.
This is not about creating an artist masterpiece. Mine looks like a 5-year old drew it. It actually makes me laugh to look at it.
It can include words and images. This is the vision of your heart and intuition and it doesn’t have to make any sense…right now.
The point of this exercise is to let yourself venture into the parts of you that don’t typically have a very loud, clear voice. In this exercise your heart and gut has the megaphone, not your brain. There’s no analyzing needed. It’s complete free form.
Step Four: Poster presentation time!
This is the most fun step of all. If you’re doing this with a group, each take turns presenting your vision. Then, each person can comment on what they see and stands out to them. Trust me, it’s fascinating to see what others see and find possibility in. It’s also fun to do this for others too! If you’ve done this on your own, reach out to a few trusted friends and ask them for their perspective on it.
Then, post your vision in a place where you will see it regularly. Take a few moments several times a week to look at it. Not only will you be more likely to manifest what’s in the drawing but you may also notice how your vision is becoming a reality and what goals want to be formed.
I love what life coach, Martha Beck, said about this type of visioning, “I've known for some time that staring at objects while holding pictures in my head makes reality oddly responsive. This is the zone of reality creation: regularly picturing delights that don't yet exist, emotionally detaching from them, and jumping into action when it's time to help the miracles occur.”
So how do I know this works when I only tried it for the first time a few weeks ago?
Only a few days later, I was asked to be on the advisory board of an amazing jewelry brand, Anna Beck, which is positioned for explosive growth. I’m such a huge fan of the designer and the jewelry itself that I was beyond honored and humbled to be asked. Of course, I said yes!
Well, you may have noticed that I drew a table with a bunch of chairs around it. Hmmm, could that be me sitting at a table with other super talented business gurus to help grow Anna Beck into a multi-million dollar operation and global brand? Ooooh, goose bumps. All I know is that my heart is inviting it in and I don't have to know exactly how it will manifest. I believe there is more to come that will speak to that table and chairs. I can feel it.
Take this approach before you start goal-setting and creating “resolutions”. Let your heart, gut, and instinctive self be the guide towards the future and allow the goals to fall into place with ease. You’re more likely to achieve your goals when they are centered in true desire, not because they sound like a good idea. Invite your goals to present themselves after you’ve done this exercise. Some may come right away and others may appear months from now. Don’t force it. This is like watering newly planted seeds in the ground. Keep watering them and watch them blossom into something beautiful.
Find out what your heart wants for 2014. I dare you.