As the last leaves float to the ground and fall turns to winter here in the Midwest, we’re reminded that another year will soon draw to a close. For me, this transitional time signals an opportunity to do an assessment of my life — of my personal and professional ambitions, of my health, of my philanthropic and civic contributions.
I like to use this “checkpoint” to review progress, missteps, and redirections of the past year from a few different perspectives. This approach helps me develop a clearer understanding of what’s driving my behaviors and actions, dig into the “why” underlying these ambitions in the first place, and explore what’s holding me back. It creates meaning in whatever I choose to go after next.
Here’s how it works: Start by evaluating the specific goals and objectives you set, and plotting how far you’ve come toward reaching them. This perspective provides a gap analysis of actual performance compared with desired performance: Are you getting to the gym three days a week instead of the five you committed to last January? Did you complete the big race you set your sights on? Did you submit that book proposal, are you still in the process of drafting it, or is it still an idea waiting to take form?
Before you begin correcting your actions or adjusting your behaviors to make these things happen, move to the second perspective: Spend some time reflecting on whether these goals and objectives are still in line with your vision, passions, and skills. A lot can happen in a year — does the vision you had back in January match your vision today?
If it does and you’ve been struggling to make progress, consider your daily routines. Too often, we do things in our lives out of habits or “shoulds,” and they slow us down. Make plans to adjust your routines and seek out the support and resources you need so you can get back on track.
As you review the goals and objectives with your bigger vision in mind, ask yourself: Are you leveraging your best skills and abilities? Do these goals inspire you and make you happy? Are you so passionate about them that you’re willing to risk failure and continue trying until you succeed? If your answer is yes, how can you recommit in a way that steadily moves you forward? What will you do to overcome the inevitable obstacles that will appear?
The third perspective, which I believe is the most important, is looking at your goals and objectives through the lens of responsibility: Are the goals you’re working toward resulting in more privileges for you, such as personal gain or power, or are they contributing to something bigger?
Of course, we all set goals with the intention of personal development and enrichment, so some degree of personal gain is inevitable (the same is true for professional ambitions). But many of us are already blessed with many gifts and privileges, from skills and abilities to resources. Creating and driving toward goals that have the potential to benefit the greater good is often far more inspiring and rewarding.
An example of this for me is the Life Time Foundation, which provides healthy school lunches to thousands of kids in hundreds of schools around the country. Healthy eating is a passion of mine, and when I realized what was in standard school lunches, I set out to find a way to minimize the harm and instead feed kids’ bodies and brains with healthy, nourishing foods. I was able to use the gifts and resources I have (and have access to) to develop an initiative that’s making a real difference — and will continue to have an impact for years to come.
It’s incredibly fulfilling, and that sense of satisfaction is why I believe including responsibility as a core tenant of goal setting is a powerful paradigm. Success — and the many steps required to get there — is more rewarding when it extends beyond yourself.
As you reflect on 2016, I encourage you to devote some time to reviewing your vision, skills, and passions; your objectives and goals; your sense of responsibility. How did you do? How can you use that knowledge to set yourself up for even greater achievements in 2017? How can these goals help you contribute to the greater good?
Now’s the time to really dig in.