Photo: Halo on a Mountain – taken on 8/29/2018 while hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park. This was one of my favorite days of 2018.
What if you were guaranteed an A in the coming year? What’s an A? It’s hitting the mark. It’s getting what you want. It’s making a difference.
What does that look like for you?
Does it mean being a better leader?
Creating healthier relationships or new relationships?
Socking away more money for your retirement or a rainy day fund?
More travel or a trip abroad?
More meaningful time with your children passing along your values?
Finishing your degree or gaining more education?
Taking up the hobby you once loved that you’ve abandoned?
Benjamin Zander, educator and long-time conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, begins each semester by telling his students that they are all guaranteed A. There is just one condition: they must write a letter to Zander explaining why they earned their A. They must describe in detail the things they have accomplished, how they feel about it and why it’s important. Most importantly, he says, they must fall passionately in-love with the person they are describing. While this may seem absurd to some, it’s quite the opposite. Giving yourself an A allows freedom to open your mind to what could be and it requires you to figure out what you really want.
Here are 5 A’s to help you put this in motion.
Begin with an honest look at the past year. Celebrate your successes and the good you brought to the world. Remember where you started and how far you’ve come? Take an HONEST assessment. Don’t look at others, look in your accomplishments. You’ll find that there were a lot of great things that happened in 2018.
Conversely, take a hard look at areas you fell short. Acknowledge the ways you missed the mark. Look at areas like: family, savings, work, faith, serving others, taking care of yourself (mind, body, intellect, etc.), your attitude or maybe it’s that you didn’t spend time relaxing and having fun. Whatever it is, acknowledge it.
Write it down. An easy exercise to get you going is to write a MORE | LESS list. Draw a line down the center of the page and on the left side, write what you want MORE of, on the left side, write what you want LESS of.
The sooner you accept that things are the way they are – some by your own doing and others by no fault of your own, the quicker you can move on. Whether we call it failure or missed opportunities, we can learn from those experiences. If you are like most people, the fear of failure keeps us from moving into unknown territory. Change your attitude towards failure and you’ll change the pace at which you can move on. These experiences are part of the bigger picture and you can learn from them. There’s a lot of road ahead. …and a reason the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield!
Try to be mindful that some things we believe to be out of our control may not be. Remember there is only one thing we have control over = ourselves. If you can’t find the truth in this, ask someone who is close to you for their perspective.
Bringing others into our change requires a level of vulnerability. Sharing your dreams in a community of supportive friends, colleagues or a coach will help you stick to your plan when you feel like abandoning it. These people MUST be free to tell you the truth, which can be painful. Their truth comes because they want the best for you. Remember, even good change can be hard. Uncertainty can make even the boldest people run back to their comfortable cave. Get some people around you. Let them help.
Going back to step one, acknowledge… when you acknowledge your successes, you begin to see that you are capable of much more than you think. As you continue those habits, use the tactics that helped you stay on track. Push the pedal down and go for it. Start now. Success begets success. Confidence builds more confidence. Positive energy produces and attracts more positive energy. Start right where you are and keep at it. When you veer off or fail, get back at it. “Just keep swimming!” – Dori
Finally – and this goes back to Zander’s A. Create a vivid vision for your life. Write it down. It may feel a little exhausting to consider all these things and it may feel selfish, but this is anything but self focused. In fact, it’s one of the most generous things we can do for others. Knowing our “Why” is the genesis of how we show up in the world. If you are uninspired, you cannot lead. It’s impossible. Vision is the spark that moves people toward the greater good.
Set yourself up for success by setting some achievable goals. Incremental growth is progress. I call it reverse engineering, some call it a strategic plan, whatever you call it, break things down to small goals. Consistent micro changes over time will lead to the big change you want in your life.
When you plateau, fail or get stuck (and you will), go back to step one and give yourself some slack. Regroup, get your accountability person in the picture and let it go. Things will not go as planned and that’s just fine.
If there’s one thing I learned in 2018, it’s that life is full of surprises, most of them are better than the original plan. Open your mind to the possibility that this can be your best year ever.
…and be kind to yourself. We need people like YOU who want to make the world a kinder and better place.
I can’t think of anything more worthy or deserving of an A!
Check out Zander’s book The Art of Possibility – it’s must read.
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Alexia is an Executive Coach, helping leaders lead themselves and others in work and life.