By now, statistically speaking, most of you will have broken your New Year’s resolution, but experts say that February is the perfect time to reset goals. I guess any time is a good time for that, really.
Most New Year’s resolutions involve eating less chocolate or exercising more often, spending less money or traveling more. And the most common reason that eight out of 10 people won’t achieve their resolutions or goals is that they didn’t make a plan.
We can imagine where we want to be, that’s the fun and easy part. But if we don’t get clearly on the path to getting there, how can we make the first step?
These days, I’ve been working on strategic planning for a few agricultural organizations. While doing some research online, I got a kick in the pants (and inspiration for this column) as I was procrastinating by watching a TED talk … about procrastination.
In his presentation Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator, Tim Urban illustrates (literally) how a procrastinator’s brain differs from a regular brain. His cartoon brain scan reveals that procrastinators possess an “instant gratification monkey” that takes control of their minds and only with an imminent deadline is this monkey scared away by the “panic monster” so they can get things done.
“Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow,” wrote Mark Twain. Procrastination is funny I guess, but it is also tragic. Urban says that hundreds of people responded to him with stories of how this instant gratification monkey had ruined their lives. But it wasn’t because they missed those deadlines, he realized.
It is because the most important things in our lives don’t have deadlines.
So, this means that the panic monster never came in to help these people do what they desperately wanted to do, making them feel like a spectator in their own lives. “The frustration is not that they couldn’t achieve their dreams,” he concludes, “but they weren’t even able to start chasing them.”
I had a flash forward of 10 years and felt my own panic monster when I realized that I didn’t have any idea what I wanted my life in 2029 to look like.
I needed a Strategic Plan. For me.
A strategic plan starts with a Vision of the future and then a Mission describing what you do in order to make that vision a reality. Goals are the steps you take to operationalize the Mission and they need to be S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to the mission and timely (ie. have a deadline!)
And I won’t spare you the details, dear friends and complete strangers. Making a plan is not like making a wish before you blow out the candles on a cake. Research shows resolutions and plans that are shared with others are more likely to stick, so I’m going to tell you mine.
My Vision is a future of happy and healthy communities, enjoying this incredibly amazing planet while improving the environment and our connection with each other. My Mission is transformation through connection and innovation; I connect, challenge and inspire people so that we can improve agriculture’s impact on our environment and health.
My Mission is quite literally my job – yes, I am the luckiest gal in the world. Of course, there are days when I wonder how Quickbooks, bylaws and washing coffee cups at the office fits with my Strategic Plan. But if I think about it, yup, it’s connected. The day-to-day grind is where it’s at.
Writing this makes me nervous. It’s too big, right? Why don’t I just aim to eat less chocolate, save for retirement and call it a year? Yes, I can do that, too, but why should I play small with my life? Why should you play small with yours? I capitalize (big M) Mission and (big V) Vision because I think they should be big… and spiritual in a sense. What if a New Year’s resolutions could get us one year closer to the world that we know in our hearts is possible?
In 2019, my resolution is to meditate every day in order to improve my health so that I can best do my Mission. I have a few other goals to bring my Vision of happiness, health and community into my life every day, like rehabilitating my knee, spending time with family and friends, finding Mr. Right (can I even plan for that?), doing an epic camping trip and writing a book. Meh. Shouldn’t be too difficult to do this year. Maybe I should get a puppy while I’m at it.
But the deeper New Year’s resolution here is to be intentional about my time here on this incredible planet, to treat life like an adventure and to live it with courage.
So now I want to challenge you, if you’ve read this far, to reflect on your big M and your big V, whatever size they might be. How can every day get you closer to that Vision? What’s your Plan? Who can you involve? What is the First Step?
I’ll leave you with a quote. One of my all-time favourites from Barbara Kingsolver: “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
There is no deadline for the most important things in our lives. It is up to us to make a plan and stick to it. With only 7,992 more hours before 2020, there’s no time like February to start. ◊