It threw me for a loop. A year passes quickly, but it is enough time to make significant changes. Surely, down the road, I saw myself changing the world: eliminating poverty, establishing world peace and converting all contractors to flat rate pricing. But next year at this time? What could I expect from myself?
You know what? I have answers now. I have a neat little paragraph that describes my life as of January 1998. Call me at 417/753-3998 and I’ll tell you what I have written. (Hey, it’s pretty personal.) Do I imagine that it will all come to pass? Nah, but it might. At least most of it.
Now I am going to ask you the same question: What will your life be like one year from now?
I don’t expect an instant response. You need never tell me or anyone else. Hold yourself accountable for an answer. But allow me to give you a few helpful ideas.
1. First, forget all about your business for a moment.
We forget that our businesses and careers should serve our life, not the other way around. If you define yourself as a plumber, you have forgotten the rest of you. This is big picture stuff. Forgive the pun, but throw the business down the toilet for a minute. We’ll snake it out later.
2. Address the flesh. The New Year is always a great time to look at your stark-naked self in the mirror. Could be frightening. You are a year older and your belly button is a bit lower. If you spent the same time and energy on your body as you do on one of your service trucks, you’d be in better shape.
The single most important thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. Just quit, you wimp. Bootstraps! No Prozac or patches. Just you drawing a line in the sand. It is tough to do. I know folks who have given up heroin but are still stuck with Mr. Butts.
Yet if you quit smoking you can answer “What will my life be like next year at this time?” with: “Smoke FREE!” Instead of: “Filled with rough coughing and chest pains.”
3. Admit you are wrong about something. This is very liberating. Has your spouse ever pointed out that you were wrong? (Like when you tried to repair the split in the sofa cushion with duct tape.) How did it go over?
When someone else tells us we are wrong, it is next to impossible to say, “Thank you for the constructive criticism.” So, do it yourself. Seek out an area in your life that is just plain not working and admit that you will have to do something different.
4. Consider mending a broken relationship. If your spouse comes to mind, pay attention. Or recall a salesman with whom you’ve had a misunderstanding. How about an old friend you’ve fallen out of touch with?
Write the letter, make the phone call, or go over for a visit. As Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Resolve the problem.
Why are these things important in projecting where you are going to be next year? Because we get stuck in patterns that keep us from moving forward. Admitting you are wrong about something frees you from the confines of stubborn behavior. It opens new avenues. Repairing a relationship demonstrates courage and forgiveness. Cut the anchor on petty grievances that weigh you down.
These four steps will help clear the way for the big question about where you’ll be next year. You must recognize that if there is any discrepancy between what you are doing right now and what you wish you were doing, you must change. Unless you pursue good health, you’re going to lose it. Unless you resolve to open your mind, you will spend next year repeating last year.
5. Write down absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted to do or be.
List it all. Put down fire chief or rodeo cowboy. List the languages you want to speak, the places you want to visit and the instruments you want to play.
Imagine the perfect life. How would you spend your days? Whom would you spend your time with? How would you like to be remembered? This part of the process is so much fun, that I recommend you spend a week or so putting this list together.
There is a fellow named John Goddard, famous for creating a list of things he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime. He listed over 100 ambitious adventures: floating down all the major rivers of the world, climbing the highest mountains, even going to the moon. He did not do all that was on his list. But he did climb the mountains and make it down all the rivers. He was asked, when he was well into his 70s, if he was disappointed that he did not make it to the moon. He replied that he might get there yet!
Take Charge: You have created a vision of who you want to be. Keep this list with you and read it often.
Come up with some intermediate steps. During the next 12 months, what could you do that will take you in the direction of your big-time goals?
Now let’s bring your business back into the picture. Take a look at it. Is your company a vehicle that will move you in the direction of your dreams? Maybe the income will fuel the traveling you want to do. Maybe you love fixing things and want to keep one foot in the field forever.
The idea is, in light of what you really want to do, can you get there with your business? What may need to change? If you put down, “I want to spend each evening with my family,” on your ideal list, and you work until 10 p.m. every night, you might want to rearrange your schedule.
You are not allowed to play victim here. If you don’t see a path from your present to your perfect future, you’re not paying attention. You have every right to live the life you want to live. I’m telling you to take charge and make it happen. No whining that “I can’t — the business won’t let me.”
Answer The Question: Now write January 1998 on a piece of paper and describe what your life will be like then. Commit to your answer. Post the paper in a highly visible spot on the office wall or refrigerator door.
The beauty of the question is the one-year time limit. One year means you better get busy. Take steps today toward the life you wish to lead.
Best wishes for the best year of your life.