Yesterday was the first day wearing my watch in almost two years.  This watch had been sitting dormant because of its need for some major repairs.  For most people, a watch is just a way to keep track of time, but this watch is something different (or at least it was supposed to be different).  This watch and I have been together for 20 years.

A few short days after graduating from high school, I woke up each day in the Navy. Every day was planned, structured, and dictated by someone else.  Days were long, routine, and blended together and I never wore a watch.  There was never really a reason to wear a watch when each day was someone else’s and you were just along for the ride.

But as my four-year journey was coming to an end, I began to think.  Maybe spending all that time at sea gives you time with your thoughts that the average person doesn’t normally have in life…or maybe it was just breathing all that salt-filled air.  My thoughts were filled with plans, ideas, and goals for life.

One of the first things I did upon my return (besides rushing down to start dating the woman who would ultimately become my wife) was to buy myself this watch.  It took a while to find the right watch.  Something nice, but not too nice.  Something that would last, and stay in style.

Eventually, I found the watch I was looking for and in an overly ceremonious way, purchased the watch.  After unwrapping it, and placing it on my wrist, I told myself something as it rested there for the first time.

“Your time is now your own, and this should be a reminder to make the most of it.”

This reminder helped me through harder times ahead, through college exams, moving and changing jobs, and periodic failures in life.  The reminder was present at amazing times of our wedding, kids, first houses and jobs, and establishing a life together.

Yesterday as I drove to work, sat in meetings, went to a parent-teacher conference, shopped for school supplies, and came home, the watch was there.  Periodically while glancing down at the movement of the hands, I was reminded of my words to myself so long ago.  It was as if for a moment, I was receiving a reminder and a challenge from my 22-year-old self.

“Your time is still your own, are you making the most of it?”

What is YOUR Number?

Earlier this year we talked about yearly goal setting as a way to bring focus to our lives, and give us something to aim our lives toward.

As part of our collective journey, I set my goals for 2012 as well.  One of these goals was to run a few races.  I had been talking about running races again for a few years and not actually racing.

I was falling into a trap as described by Derek Sivers on Ted.com where talking about your goals may not always help  you achieve them.

I did go against that advice a little and shared the race goal with a friend.  I decided to share it because this person is a runner as well and I knew they would encourage me, and hold me accountable for my periodic whining.  For other goals, I did take his advice because I have a tendency to talk about goals more than actually achieve them…

The Friday before the race, this person checked in with me with one simple question.

“What is YOUR Number?”

For all non-runners out there, here is what this question means:

“What is your total time goal for the race?”

Setting a time goal (or having a number) is a way to quantify the goal.  Having a number helped me stay on task to accomplish this goal well, and it made me train harder to make sure I could actually run that fast.  That number made ordinary runs (either outside or on the treadmill) mean something.  Each run was part of a larger goal.

Whatever your goals are for 2012, I hope the process of goal setting has helped.  For the more broad goals, are there ways to set specific accomplishments to help you achieve them?  In other words, What is YOUR Number?  You can decide whether or not to share it, but establishing that number may make the difference.

Collective Challenge Day 6 (My 50th Post!)

Two ceremonious events collide today:

1.  We are just about done with our first week of the challenge, and the comments (especially from yesterday’s post) and the phone call from a friend confirmed that we are doing something great together.  Sometimes I wonder if these ideas, questions, or challenges are just ramblings…and it is typically when I am doubting this blog or myself that one of you confirms the impact it has had on your actual life. It is this confirmation that helps us press on together.

2.  This is my 50th post!  This is a milestone.  As I shared with you before, I have not always been the type to sit down and set yearly goals.  Last year I did.  One of those goals was to actually write on a regular basis.  I was inspired by a friend who helped me realize that I didn’t have to write an entire book in a weekend, but could begin by regularly disciplining myself to write.  

Remember part of this challenge is to Dream Big.  Sometimes once you identify that dream, trying to figure out how to accomplish it can be overwhelming.  But the first step is making a decision to start towards that dream.

It was gaining the understanding that a small decision made every day could really change your life that helped me know where to begin.  I didn’t have to do it all at once, and neither do you.  This blog is the result of a small scary decision made on a regular basis!

I know I say this a lot, but thanks again for being part of this journey together.

The Benefits of Yearly Goal Setting

The results of the Poll are in.  Thank you for participating.  It appears that most (almost 80%) are not formally sitting down each year to set clear, concise, and attainable goals.  For the 20% who sit down, reflect and set goals, this may seem more like a review.  Of the majority, about 15% set some sort of goals, and almost 60% have an idea of what to accomplish and press towards it.  This leaves the 7% who are just winging it out there.

Until recently, you could have put me into two of these camps.  I jumped between winging it and having a general direction or idea.  Was this effective?  I guess so, I somehow managed to accomplish things and provide a roof over our heads.  But there were always ideas, dreams or projects that seemed to just hover out there in space and never actually become reality.

Two things happened.  

1.  I was sitting next to a very successful person for a few days in training.  During one of many discussions, they asked me what my goals were for the next year, and what was my plan to accomplish those goals.

I struggled and stammered to find a response.  A combination of embarrassment and frustration filled that space.  I think they could tell I needed some help, and provided the much-needed relief.

“It is okay you know.  Maybe a simple worksheet would help.  Let me send it to you.”

2.  A friend called me out.

“I have heard you talk about that same goal year after year, and yet you have not made any progress.  When are you going to actually do it?”

These two events made me realize my lack of setting actual goals, left those big ideas or dreams just floating out there from year to year.  Periodically, I would try to make progress and tackle some part but it would seem overwhelming and I would stop.

During this same period of time, numerous requests came my way to help senior teams and organizations set goals.  As I stood before them, facilitating their long-term vision and strategy my own lack of a plan began to make me feel like an impostor.  For no other reason, I wanted to make sure if they asked me about my own goal setting I had an answer.  I took the advice and the worksheet and began to set some goals.

The process of setting the goals was more helpful than I ever imagined.  Setting goals required me to think about and choose between various conflicting visions and dreams.  Once created, the list provided me with the focus and accountability I needed to make actual progress.

As the new year approaches, maybe a simple worksheet will help you as well.  It can be overwhelming, but take the first step.  Maybe the best place to start is with Your Sentence. I hope that process provides the vision you need to set that first goal.

Managing Your Energy & Goals Worksheet

Normally, I would tell you to get out there and tell someone about your goals, but Derek Sivers at TED.com made me think twice about offering this advice.  Perhaps after setting your goals, you should keep them to yourself.  Or maybe start with one person ONLY if they will push you on the hard work necessary to actually accomplish that goal.

Now get out there and set some goals, 2012 is going to be great!