I insist on being a heretic and taking New Year's Eve seriously as a magical time for inventing Future Me 2017. This is why I'm sharing my New Year's strategic planning process. The more I refine this process and check in throughout the year, the more I do awesome things and the less often I annoy myself.
The first step is to review the prior year. Where were my pain points? What were the most difficult events, who and what annoyed me the most, what would I gladly erase and forget ever happened? Where were my successes? What went well through pure serendipity? What unplanned awesomeness showed up on my doorstep? Where did I stick to my vision for the year and how did that work out? I want less of the bad (especially if it was my fault) and more of the awesome. For instance, one of the dumbest things I did in 2016 was to get a second-degree sunburn on my legs from uneven sunscreen application. I'm still blotchy five months later. I also pitched my tent on a fire ant nest, so now... now I know what fire ants look like. And feel like. One of the best things that happened was that a monkey jumped on my head, which could have been very not-awesome but which was a serendipitous peak experience.
Next, I want to pick something specific to work on for each area of my life. I define these areas as Personal, Physical, Couples, Home, and Career. 'Personal' includes my end of relationships with my husband, family, and friends, as well as inner growth and fun projects. 'Physical' includes health and fitness. 'Couples' goals are choices that my husband and I agree on together, like going on a trip or expanding the garden. (No fair choosing a "couples" goal and springing it on your partner). 'Home' has to do with both the physical infrastructure of where we live, interior and exterior, and the more abstract areas of routines and systems. 'Career' has to do with my work, income, and further professional development. Most years, one of these areas will be running smoothly and one will be somewhat in the tank. I want to do a little in each area, while putting the majority of my focus where it is needed the most.
I also have bonus areas: A quest, a wish, a lifestyle upgrade, a 'stop' goal, and Do the Obvious.
When I'm done with my planning process, I sum it all up on a slide and put it on my lock screen, where I can see it several times a day. I go back and edit the image whenever I accomplish something, so I can see how close I've come. I do a quarterly review at each solstice and equinox. This has been working really well, and now I'm adding a monthly review period as well. I made some slides with my photography in the background, which was fun, and I love how they look.
This is a summary of my 2016 projects:
Personal: Join Toastmasters and conquer fear of public speaking. SUCCESS+
Career: Order business cards, start newsletter. COMPLETE
Physical: Cross-training, micronutrient blood test, hopefully start running again. SUCCESS
Home: Interior design, plant garden. SUCCESS
Couples: Set a dinnertime, do quarterly review. SUCCESS
Stop goal: Stop beating myself up on stuff, stop rage-crying in TSA secondary screening. SUCCESS
Lifestyle upgrades: Use patio more for meals and writing area. SUCCESS
Do the Obvious: Earn more money. SUCCESS
Quest: Go to World Domination Summit, be a polyglot. SUCCESS
Wish: To make a new friend. SUCCESS
Making ambitious goals can have one of two effects. It can make us try harder, bringing out our inner strivers. Or it can cause us to fall into self-delusion, a trance state of fantasy in which we block out any and all external evidence of reality. When we occasionally snap out of it, we can feel so crushed by the failure of the goal to magically appear that we rewrite our self-image as that of 'loser' or 'failure.' The only things that truly matter are 'works' and 'doesn't work.' 'Action' and 'inaction.' 'Results' and 'no results.' When I give to charity, I'm charitable. When I listen to someone, I'm a good listener. When I eat vegetables, I'm taking care of myself. The human mind can only pretend to believe labels and descriptions without the accompanying behavior for a limited amount of time. Talk the walk, but then make sure to walk the talk.
What I try to do each year is to choose actions that I believe I can and will take, and then judge myself by whether I did take the actions. The results may go beyond what I predicted, or they may fizzle. It's a testing lab and I'm the test subject. If something doesn't turn out as planned, then I have more years to tackle it in other ways, or to change my perception of the issue. Last year, I was ambitious, and this resulted in exceeding my goals. I didn't just crush my fear of public speaking, I started doing stand-up comedy. I didn't just get business cards made and make more money, I started a new business, got a product in stores, and made an agreement with my husband that we would work toward becoming financially independent.
Now it's time to work out what I'll do for 2017.
Personal: My biggest personal area right now is my free-floating schedule. Sometimes I wind up on the elliptical at 11 PM, or writing at 2 AM. This never works out well, because sometimes I find myself still awake at 4 or 5 AM, and then the ubiquitous landscaper sound effects start up at 8 AM. The greatest change in my life right now would probably come from adjusting to more of a set, diurnal schedule. When I ask myself, "What feels the most unnatural, least palatable, that I most resist?" this is that thing. What I resist is most likely where the power is hidden. It worked with running and it worked with my diet and it worked with public speaking. Will it work with a clock?
Career: File papers to create LLC.
Physical: I'm finally healed from two years of ankle injury, open wound, and missing toenail. I CAN RUN AGAIN! I want to complete P90X and run five miles injury-free. I want to run a 50-mile ultra marathon for my 50th birthday and I still have 8 years to train.
Home: It's time to clean out the garage. In this smaller house, it's become obvious that we still have excess stuff we don't use. Time to finish digitizing and minimizing, especially books.
Couples: Go to World Domination Summit for the second time. Find source of pickling cucumbers and can more pickles.
Stop goal: Stop being the last person to pack up my tent. I plan to go backpacking at least twice a year, and no matter whether I'm one of two or one of six, I'm always the last to get ready. I'm pretty sure that this is related to being cold and waiting until the last minute to get out of my sleeping bag, so I'm going to get a second base layer and more hand warmers.
Lifestyle upgrades: In November it will be three years since my last phone upgrade, and I plan to upgrade again. I need to upgrade my worn-out work bag. I also need to fix my tent, since a raccoon tore open a mesh window. (Thanks jerk)
Do the Obvious: Work on my appearance. Now that I've been working on public speaking, I've started to realize that certain circumstances demand preparation. People look different in photographs, on video, and under a spotlight. I've been realizing that one of the major factors holding me back from various pursuits is my extreme reluctance to be captured on film. I even avoid being in pictures with friends and family because I only want to look at them, not myself. I'm going to try to reframe everything about how I think of external appearance, my negativity about fashion and cosmetics, and my perception of others' self-presentation. I'm starting by trying to look at it as a professional costume, something that will help my audience to trust my competence. Do I look like someone who can inspire, inform, and entertain? Do I look like I belong here and that I'm the appropriate person to be doing this job?
Quest: I'm going on a quest to test out every single project, game, or stunt I ever thought I'd do, bought the equipment for, and then put aside. This includes juggling, riding a unicycle, and making my own pasta, among other things. I'm turning 42 in July so I might as well get some RIDICULOUS out of my system. (Or into it). My quest to BE RIDICULOUS should help me to reframe my appearance-related goal as well. I can commit without taking myself too seriously.
Wish: I wish to pay off my student loan.
This is the summary that will go on my lock screen:
Personal: Follow a set schedule
Physical: P90X, run five miles
Home: Digitize, downsize, minimize
Couples: WDS, homemade pickles
Stop goal: Stop being the last person to pack up my tent
Lifestyle upgrades: Phone and work bag, tent
Do the Obvious: Transform my appearance
Quest: BE RIDICULOUS
Wish: Pay off my student loan.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.