One of the 12 steps of AA is to take a “searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.” Known by many of us outside of the recovery community, the 12 steps make up a pretty powerful recipe for living. While I know a lot of folks would prefer a root canal to a self-inventory exercise, it’s precisely that imperative brought alive in Jinny Ditzler’s book “Your Best Year Yet! Ten Questions for Making the Next 12 Months Your Most Successful Ever.”
Better than crafting New Year’s resolutions, per se, this is the perfect season to look back over the last year and plan the year ahead. Attaching goals with the different roles you play in life is far more interesting than “lose 10 pounds” – not that there’s anything wrong with a goal like that. There is something about the promise of a fresh start, a clean slate, the empty canvas of a new year that can be intoxicating. Ride that wave! (Sadly, it’s not likely to last long.)
At the risk of over-proselytizing, I can’t say enough about the power of answering these 10 questions. Tackling even the first three questions can offer a boatload of insight. And I can almost guarantee that you will be impressed with the volume in your answer to question #1, which asks you to list last year’s accomplishments. (Hint: get out your calendar to review the year week by week. Don’t rely only on your memory.)
My friend Jennifer and I spent many hours together recently mapping our own plans for the coming year for the third (!) year in a row. It’s that good. Having an accountability partner to wade through the questions and subsequently check in with regularly in the year ahead is the ideal, but not a requirement. You can absolutely do this work on your own by carving out a chunk of time to answer the questions and then making bi-weekly or monthly appointments on your calendar to check in with yourself over the next 12 months.
For maximum benefit, I recommend reading the book as opposed to relying on this post. The book goes into a lot more depth and offers useful exercises to flesh out these questions, all while being a very accessible read, but here’s the crux:
1) What did I accomplish last year?
2) What where my biggest disappointments last year?
3) What did I learn?
4) How do I limit myself, and how can I stop?
5) What are my personal values?
6) What roles do I play in my life?
7) Which role is my major focus for the next year?
8) What are my goals for each role?
9) What are my top 10 goals for the next year?
10) How can I make sure I achieve them?
This is a simple, but not easy, road map to making 2015 your best year yet. It takes time to answer these questions and then discipline to keep them alive throughout the year. That’s both the good news and the other news.
Lewis Carroll said that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. So why not consider taking the wheel this year?
Happy New Year, and happy mapping…no matter when you might jump on this bandwagon, including the 12th of Never. No judgment here.
PS: If you choose to take this on, remember to make each of your goals SMARTER; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound, exciting and recorded. (The coach in me couldn’t resist.)