In last week’s post, I outlined the process for making my own annual review, covering three different elements: (1) my annual theme, (2) my Wheel of Life and (3) my specific goals. Now it’s onwards to planning for 2017, and I’m starting to think about my new theme. In past years this has been a spontaneous choice on New Year’s Day but people have been asking me for tips so I thought I’d try to break down the process into something a bit more systematic!
First, though, why even bother with a theme in the first place?
Well, traditionally of course people set New Year’s resolutions. As few as 8% of the people who write resolutions actually achieve them – and that’s in spite of the fact that writing down your goals can greatly increase your changes of achieving them! So it doesn’t seem like a particularly useful exercise…
But having no goals at all doesn’t seem especially useful either, as you’re liable to just float along and miss out on your long-term ambitions in particular, your big dreams, that won’t happen unless you really bring some intentionality to the process.
A few years ago, I came across the idea of defining a theme instead of setting those more traditional resolutions, and it instantly appealed to me. For me, the benefit of having a theme is that it gives you an overall framework and focus for the year – without the rigidity (or, somewhat contradictorily, the vagueness) of long lists of New Year’s resolutions.
The theme guides your choices when you have to make a decision between different priorities, and the added focus on an otherwise neglected area is going to ensure that you see progress by the end of the year – much more so than if you set a resolution to “lose weight” or “get fit”.
So what kind of themes are we talking about?
It’s really completely up to you and that’s what makes it so flexible. It’s also why I’ve favoured a more spontaneous and instinctual approach to coming up with a theme these past few years. Somehow you get a general feel for what’s been missing in the past year, and what you could do with having more of in the coming year – and that’s probably going to be the perfect theme for you.
As an example, in the past I had FOLLOW-THROUGH as a theme: I had made big decisions about quitting my job, leaving behind my friends in Geneva, and starting my own business, and now was the time to follow through on my big ideas and to begin to consolidate those ideas and properly implement them.
Another year, I had BEING ACTIVE as a theme. This was a more personal theme, and reflected my realisation that my health and wellbeing was really fundamental to everything else in my life working well. It gave me a focus that drove choices I wouldn’t normally have made, working with a personal trainer and later a running coach, and joining more physical adventures like dog sledding, kayaking and paddle boarding.
Okay, so what’s the process?
As I said, I’ve tended to favour a very organic, last-minute approach these past few years! But this year I did my annual review well in advance and so I have given myself more time to reflect and really think about what might be a good focus for next year.
In fact, a tool I’d suggest that you use to brainstorm your own focus is MIND MAPPING. I’m not a hugely visual person and I tend to be more of a writer than an artist but I do think this particular tool is a great way to capture your ideas in a structured yet flexible way, and to help you to identify possible priority areas.
You can do this freehand and I’d probably recommend that, at least for the actual brainstorming part – my mind definitely works much better when I’m writing by hand than if I’m typing! You can also find free tools online if you want to make it look a bit more presentable and keep it for future reference, for example, https://bubbl.us/ or https://www.mindmeister.com/. *Edit: Canva now has a new set of free bubble-map templates available as well.*
‘I’d start by simply letting your mind, and hand, flow freely; but if you’re really stuck then how about mapping out a few different areas of your life: business and career, family and friends, health and wellbeing… and that might help you to structure your thinking and spark some ideas for themes that will help to shift your focus in the coming year.
With each theme, and each keyword, try to dig deeper and take it to the next level: what is it exactly that you’re missing here? What is it that you think would be most powerful in making a shift this coming year? What will most clearly guide your choices and your actions in 2017?
Having just done the exercise myself, I have a few ideas at the moment for my 2017 theme. This past year or so has been about establishing my businesses and so I feel a need now for more consolidation, growth and scale, reaching more people and making more of an impact. Looking at the most powerful words in the map, my ideas for a new theme now include PROACTIVITY, INTENTIONALITY and CONSISTENCY – all stemming from gaps I’ve identified in the past year in these areas.
We’ll just have to see what I eventually settle on in a few weeks’ time when the clock strikes twelve!
In next week’s post: setting specific GOALS.