Your Life: An Annual Inventory

Journal page

Every year around this time, I unplug for a few hours to take stock of my accomplishments during the past year and capture my dreams, wishes and intentions for the coming year. Based loosely on a process shared by architect Sarah Susanka, I journey through the past year, take stock of the present and throw my anchor forward and capture my desires and longings for the year ahead on paper.
It’s a three part process so I split it up over the course of three days. A journal to use just for this process and a couple of hours a day for those three days are all you need. Consider it your strategic planning for your life for the year. Make some time for it this year and then make it an annual process.

Step 1: The year in review

Write down all of your accomplishments since January 1. Every single thing you created, instigated or facilitated. The wonderful dinner party you threw in February? Yep. The impromptu ski vacation you snagged for cheap in March? Got it. The promotion you got in May? Cha-ching! Teaching your niece to parasail in July? Absolutely. Managing the household, kids and finances single-handedly while your spouse was in Asia for a month in August? An exhausted yes. And the time you channeled Martha Stewart in October and cranked out terrific Halloween costumes for the kids? Without a doubt.
We often don’t take enough time to celebrate our successes. This is your time to revel in all you created, made happen and otherwise kicked-butt at in the past year.

Step 2: The radical present

With all you’ve accomplished clearly visible in the rearview mirror, connect deeply with your current state. What are the concerns and interests that have the most significance for you right now? What music, art, books or movies are you moved by currently? What are you resisting or reluctant to do? Are there any things you are trying to force into existence? And what synchronicities have you noticed recently?
Connecting deeply to our present state, or “getting current” as Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way names it, prepares you for creating your wishes and dreams for the coming year, Step 3.

Step 3: The year in advance

What do you want in your life in the coming year? In all areas of your life – work, family, personal relationships, fun, home/environment – what do you want to have happen? Take each area individually and explore for yourself what your heart desires. From changing jobs to being more present with your children to hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with your best friend from grade school, write them all down. Explore the contours of your dreams for the coming year.
The more you allow yourself to play in this exercise, the more you will connect with what you are yearning to make happen in your life. And when you allow yourself to think about it, you start the amazing process of bring it into being.
The best part of this exercise comes a year from now. Once you’ve completed this process, put the journal away until next year. Then, start the process with a leisurely read of the past year’s entry. You will come away amazed and inspired by what transformed in your life in the past year.

Do you have other end-of-year rituals? Please let me know in the comments. 

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    hugging

    With September and a new school year right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to think about habits at home.

    When you come in the door from work, what are the first few things you do?  Do you complain to your spouse about your boss?  Do put on your running shoes and get some exercise?  Or do you hug your kids or your dog?

    For the next few days, pay close attention to the predictable patterns that play out when you get home from work. Do they support you in creating a life that you love, both inside and outside of work?  Or are your “at home” habits derailing you?

    In this “back to school” season, you may find the perfect opportunity to change your habits. Even if you don’t have kids or they are done with school or not yet entered school, there is change in the air every September. Let it buoy you along as you make positive changes to your at home habits, creating a life you love to live, both at work and at home.

    What habits support you at home?

    Let me know in the comments below.

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    GrowthMindset

    Ever wish you could just sit back, relax and let change wash over you? What if I told you that one of the most powerful techniques Olympic athletes, blockbuster actors and top sales performers use to seal the deal on their success was readily available for you to use, too?

    Good news!  It is.

    The secret?  The easiest way to shift your mindset is to visualize yourself having a growth mindset.  Visualization is the process of seeing in your mind’s eye the behavior you wish to have, in the moment you wish to have it.

    Sound woo-woo?  Esoteric?  Consider Michael Phelps who has earned 28 Olympic medals in swimming. His coach trained him to “watch a movie” in his mind of him winning every race. His coach told him to do the visualization (watch the movie) every night before he fell asleep and every morning upon waking. The more detailed, the better. Every stroke, every movement, in precise detail.

    How will it work for you? Imagine you’re at the start of your work day. See every challenge that comes your way as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Fill your “movie” with some of the more challenging scenes from a typical day: getting less-than-stellar feedback from your boss, learning a new software program, a difficult conversation with a colleague.  In each of the situations in your visualization, see yourself responding with a growth mindset: see yourself asking questions like, “What’s the most effective thing I can do right now? How can learn from this? And how can I improve based on what I now know?”

    Or, I’ll make it even easier for you:  Watch this guided meditation. I’ve narrated the movie for you. Review it at the start of your day, imagining your day lived through a growth mindset.

    After you’ve listened to it, share your thought in the comments below.

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    changetheirmind

    You know the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset. You’ve been working on it. You can spot a fixed mindset a mile away.  And it bugs the heck out of you when you hear your colleague/spouse/best friend/child responding to life with a fixed mindset.

    Ever wish you could (quite literally) change their mind?

    Okay, so you can’t necessarily change their mind. But you can change their mindset.

    Here’s how:

    1) Look for an opportunity.  Find something they did well (project work, yard work, helping you with something).

    2) Show appreciation for their effort. It sounds like this: “Thank you for helping me host the client dinner/party/garage sale.  Your effort and help is noticed and appreciated.”

    Research on mindset shows that when people are praised for their effort they are subsequently more willing to take on more challenging tasks. On the other hand, those who are praised for their intelligence or their innate talent (i.e., “You’re so good at hosting client dinners/parties/garage sales.”), were less likely to perform well on more challenging tasks.  Moreover, those who were praised for their intelligence or innate talent were less likely to even want to take on more challenging tasks!

    3) Rinse and repeat. Continue to find opportunities to praise or show appreciation for a job well done.
    Show your appreciation for the effort, not the person’s intelligence or talent.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you issue false praise or thank someone for meeting minimum expectations. Instead, look for the gems. They may be few and far between at first, but the more you cultivate them, the more they will emerge.

    The steps:

    1. Find an opportunity.
    2. Appreciate/praise the effort.
    3. Repeat.

    Give it a try and then share your results in the comments below.

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    mindset_brain

    Ever wish you could catch yourself in a moment of fixed mindset (see The Secret to Success) and do a 180-degree turn, flipping yourself into a growth mindset quickly?

    Our brains will fall back on what they know best until they are conditioned to respond differently. It is possible to retrain your brain to switch to a growth mindset. You can do so more quickly if you use a framework or pattern that you’re already familiar with. Remember the “Stop, drop and roll” technique you learned in elementary school, in case of a fire?  The process for shifting to a growth mindset I designed is built on that simple three-step process.

    1. Stop.  Monitor your thoughts (think: self-awareness) and listen for fixed-mindset thinking.  You’ll notice it because it includes absolutes like never, always, everybody and anybody.  It sounds like this: “Everybody else always loses weight/gets promoted/has a great relationship.” When you catch yourself in a fixed-mindset thought, the first thing to do is stop.

    2.  Drop.  Drop into a reflective state of mind. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself the question, “Is that thought true? 100% of the time?” Make a conscious effort to evaluate your thought pattern and ask yourself if it is the mindset that will serve you best. Hint: if it’s a fixed-mindset, it probably isn’t serving you.

    3.  Roll.  Imagine doing a somersault (or a roll in a kayak if that’s more your speed) and rolling out the other side with a different mindset. Roll yourself into a different state of mind by trying on a growth mindset thought. It might sound like this: “If I apply myself and learn some new techniques I can lose weight/get promoted/improve my relationship.”

    Everybody slips into a fixed mindset occasionally.  Even the most optimistic, growth-oriented people have moments where a fixed mindset stalls their progress.

    The next time you hear your self-talk going down a fixed mindset path, remember to stop, drop and roll.

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    fixed vs growth mindset

    Bill was frustrated.  His manager Eric was well known and liked across the organization and it seemed like everything he touched turned to gold.  Eric was also 10 years Bill’s junior and had a similar college education and background. Bill was always trying to prove himself and show everyone how much he knew, to no avail. It seemed to backfire. Bill’s frustration boiled down to this: Why was Eric so successful and why wasn’t he experiencing the same success in his career?

    Turns out, Eric has a growth mindset and Bill has a fixed mindset.

    A growth mindset, says researcher and Stanford professor Carol Dweck who coined the term, is the belief that qualities and abilities can be developed or improved through effort and dedication. People with a growth mindset love learning and have resilience that helps them accomplish great things.  That description fits Eric like a glove. Eric is open to constructive feedback, always looking for a better way . . . in everything from how to keep his email manageable to how to be a better spouse and parent.

    Bill on the other hand, exhibits a fixed mindset.  People with a fixed mindset tend to believe their basic qualities and abilities, like their intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. They often believe that talent alone creates success (without effort). They spend their time proving their skills or intelligence instead of developing them. Bill was always striving to sound like an expert and show everyone how much he knew; key signs of a fixed mindset.

    Is it possible for Bill to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?  Absolutely! But first he needs to catch his fixed mindset thinking in the act and change his attitude and beliefs. If he can do that he can change his mind. Literally.

    When he hears his self-talk (or thinking, if you like that term better) say something like, “I’ll never get promoted,” Bill will need to catch himself and reframe the thought to something like, “If I work hard and continue to learn, I will be ready for a promotion.”

    Then, he will be able to tap into the secret to Eric’s success: his growth mindset.

    How about you?  Could you amp up your success by taking on a growth mindset?

    Listen to your own self-talk today. Do you hear fixed-mindset or growth mindset thoughts?

    Take action: when you hear a fixed-mindset thought, stop yourself and reframe it to a growth mindset thought.

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