If you're like a lot of creative entrepreneurs, you might still be scrambling to put your goals down on paper for the year. In fact, several guru-types are only just now getting around to leading those goal planning workshops. The folks in A-Club and the Incubator did their annual planning before December, so that they could hit the ground running this year. I'm not bragging (well, okay, maybe a little), I'm trying to illustrate a point that the longer you wait to set your goals, the longer it will be before you can achieve them.
But even if you're only just now getting around to it, there's still one thing you've got to remember to do before you shore up your plans for the new year.
Plan. Do. Evaluate.
It's a mantra I learned when my oldest was living in a wilderness camp. I talk about it a lot with my clients, because it's so easy to just "plan" and "do". We forget about the "evaluate" step. We forget to look back and see what really happened.
1. What went well? Did you hit that goal? Did you blow it out of the water? Congrats. Let's celebrate! What didn't go as planned?
2. Did you fall short? Did a health or family issue slow down your momentum? It's okay to grieve what didn't go according to plan. Just don't stay stuck in judgement. That's not what the evaluation is for.
3. What surprises came along? Did you come across an unplanned opportunity and choose to move in a new direction? Did you meet someone you didn't expect? Did a personal issue crop up that derailed your original plans? Whether the surprise was a blessing or a challenge, it impacted your decision making, and it's important to remember that when you're evaluating your progress from last year. Maybe you changed your mind because something truly amazing really did hit your radar. That doesn’t make you a loser because you didn’t hit your original goal.
Sometimes, your goal isn't really THE goal.
This is another thing I tell my clients from time to time. Your goal isn’t always THE goal. You've set a D.U.M.B. goal and you've been working hard on something that really matters to you, only to find yourself not hitting that goal, or feeling pulled in a different direction entirely.
This is a normal result of stepping beyond your starting point. You begin every path with blinders on. You can only see what's right in front of you - the things you already know that you know. But there's a whole world of things you don't know - and things you don't know that you don't know. And you can't begin to see those things until you step out (often in faith) from where you started into a new space... even if that space is only a few feet from where you began.
Your original goal is a catalyst that moves you forward. It propels you out of stuck-ness and hopefully inspires you to keep stepping in the direction of your dreams. Until, one day, it doesn't. That's the thing about goals. They only have to be inspiring enough to get you to take action. Then, you’re in a new space, with a new field of view and can make a new decision.
You may or may not choose to stay the course on your original goal. If you do, great. If not, that's not an invitation to beat yourself up about not hitting your goal. It's an invitation to love and release the original goal and recognize that it served it's purpose of getting you off the stick. Now you can set a new goal and keep moving!
4. As you think about your old goals as they relate to the new year, are you even still interested in moving in that direction? What can you do differently to move yourself forward?
Keep checking in on your goals throughout the year
Once you've made your plan for this year, keep reviewing it to make sure you're headed in the direction you want to go. Remember the bible story of Abraham and Isaac? Abraham got a divine message to take his kid up to the mountain and sacrifice him. Glad that wasn't one of my goals, but for Abraham, this was a pretty big deal. He made his plan, took his kid up to the mountaintop - and even made him carry the wood for his own funeral pyre! Delegation for the win!
By all accounts, Abraham was on track to achieving his ultimate goal. Until the goal changed. Once he got to the mountaintop, sacrificing Isaac wasn't the goal anymore. But if Abraham had just plowed ahead on the original goal, his kid would be dead.
Just because it's easy to move toward and achieve a goal doesn't mean it's the goal you're supposed to be working on! If Abraham hadn’t listened to the divine voice showing him a ram in the thicket, Isaac would have been toast.
Once you’ve gotten clarity about your goals (divine or otherwise), remember to keep checking in as you move toward your goal. Fusions and Linears have a habit of putting their head down and just charging ahead, without checking BACK in to be sure that they’re still on the right path. You have to KEEP listening. Don’t just charge ahead blindly, because even divinely guided plans for you can seem to change.
Perhaps the mantra should be "evaluate. plan. do. evaluate," since most of us are working from some kind of plan already. Regardless, if you fail to evaluate last year, if you fail to consider what's important to bring with you into this year (and what to leave behind), and if you fail to keep checking in throughout the year to make sure you're still on track, you'll struggle to achieve what's most important to you.
Each year that passes teaches me the value of paring down, getting down to the essentials of who you are and what really matters to you. Everything else is frosting.
Need help staying the course on your goals and dreams?
Enrollment for Accountability Club is now open! A-Club is a support community for creative entrepreneurs with specific goals and plans they want to achieve in the next 12 months. Whether you're building your business model from the ground up, or you've already got some traction in the market, A-Club can help you stay on track with what really matters for you and your creative business.