It's that goal-setting time of year. We dream big. We visualize where we want to be. We write lists of the things we want to accomplish, and the habits we want to change, and make action plans for how we'll get there.
All of that is great. But before you go off in pursuit of your 2019 objectives, there's something very important you should do first: Take a few moments to reflect on the year that just ended. That advice comes from Wendy Capland, executive coach to such companies as IBM, Bank of America, and CVSHealth, among many others. Capland is the author of the bestselling book Your Next Bold Move, and she's also my coach. For the past several years, she's been coaching me and I've been writing about it.
Every new year, Capland and her husband sit down and spend a little time asking each other a few simple questions that put the previous year into perspective and help them see where the new year might lead. "It gives us a chance to support each other, to say all the things we don't normally hear in our daily lives," she explains. "And I always feel better when I do it because I get all this stuff off my chest. Then I can start the new year clean."
These questions are also a great way to get validation and support from someone you care about for your goals, and for the things you've already accomplished--and to give that validation and support right back. I'm going to try them with my husband. Who's the right person to share them with for you?
1. What did you accomplish last year that you feel really proud of?
"This could be in all categories," Capland says. "Health, career, community, finances, or friends. Pick the top three to five accomplishments you're proudest of."
When you list those accomplishments for your partner, he or she can praise you for what you've done and acknowledge your for meeting, or partially meeting, some of your goals. When your partner lists his or her top accomplishments, you can do the same.
2. Where did you fall short last year?
Here again, pick only the top three items--don't give in to the temptation to create a long list. "We tend to wallow in the disappointments and the stuff we feel bad about," Capland says. "Don't go to town."
Most of us judge ourselves very harshly, so your partner may have a more positive view of your failings than you do. Maybe you didn't reach your goal of making that big sale, but you did lay the groundwork by closing some smaller deals with new customers that have the potential to be big buyers someday. One year, I set myself the goal to do a 15-mile hike. The longest hike I did that year was only 10 miles. That seemed like a failure to me, but as Capland pointed out, that was still a pretty good hike, especially for someone who hadn't done much serious hiking for many years beforehand.
3. What opportunities do you see for this year?
Sometimes, answers to the first two questions can give you a better idea of what your goals should be for the current year. "Something you felt disappointed about and want to try to do better, or something you're really passionate about and you see there's more there," Capland says. "You may not necessarily be sure what that means. But now you have the opportunity to talk it out, and it can help frame your goals for the coming year."
4. What roadblocks do you see for this year?
Now that you've looked at the opportunities you want to pursue, it's also important to look at the things that could potentially block you from fulfilling those goals. You know reaching them won't necessarily be easy. By spending a little time thinking about the things that could block you--and making plans for how you'll get around those blocks--you're giving yourself the best chance to make your goals into reality.