Having a theme for the year has served me well over the past few years.
There is a part of your brain called the RAS (Reticular Activating System) that decides what data – from outside and inside your body – your brain will pay attention to. You need your RAS because there is way too much data for your brain to take in – it needs to be selective.
The issue to consider is whether the choices your RAS are making are useful for you! In the absence of any direction from you, the choices and decisions the RAS makes will be random, or based on your past instructions or interests or random thoughts, OR in line with a more primitive decision-making set of instructions designed to ensure your survival. For example, as I said, my theme last year was ‘PROFILE’ – I wanted to raise the profile of my business and my expertise to attract new clients.
What happened was three-fold:
1. I started to come across (pay attention to) more opportunities for to raise or contribute to my business and professional profile.
2. I was proactive in making decisions that supported that particular outcome over other potential outcomes.
3. I was more likely to act on such opportunities than I would have been in the past.
And as a result, I more easily achieved my business objectives than I had anticipated. In the absence of a well-thought out ‘theme’ I would probably not have paid as much or any attention to the opportunities. Or I may have tended to continue to make decisions and choices similar to last year (stay in my comfort zone). Or I may have failed to overcome my inertia on acting on the opportunities due to a desire to protect myself from the risk of doing something new and different.
This is how your brain works – doing new, great stuff is difficult and requires deliberate attention and undesirable effort.
Take some time TODAY to start providing some guidance for your RAS for this year. Here is a SEVEN STEP process to get you started…..
FIRST…take some time out (involving a cafe, coffee and cake (or green tea and dark chocolate in my case – there it is – finally the reference to the title), and a notebook or device or whiteboard depending on your personal process for scribbling and creating!
THEN…just reflect on what you want…big picture 5 years from now…how last year went…what needs to be different…what will give you biggest bang for buck this year…what you don’t want to happen this year…where you want to be in December…create a vision board of scribbles and key words…WHATEVER takes your reflection fancy.
SO YOU CAN…land on a series of tangible and intangible goals that excite you!! (note…must excite you)
NOW YOU NEED TO…take a step back and consider the shift or change or one thing that is going to make a difference and help you to achieve these goals – what has been the barrier in the past, what has got in the way, or what have you failed to do enough of or well enough. Write down a few ideas and order another cupcake or dark chocolate thingy.
AND THEN…forget it all for a while….that’s enough for now. Stop thinking about it and take a few days to let your brain percolate over this. Add to your notes as ideas come. Eventually, the WORD or THEME will hit you, and when it does…
PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD…write it, blog about it, draw it, figure out what it looks like everyday, share it with your team and discuss what it means for you and them. Immerse yourself in it, set mindful reminders to make sure it is front of mind. Do whatever you need to do to clearly instruct your RAS that THIS IS IT FOR 2015….this is our (meaning you and your brain) goal, our influencing context, our foundation, our driver. Hardwire it into your RAS…then get on with your year. And finally….
TEST YOURSELF… At the end of a meeting or conversation ask yourself…did I engage with my theme?
At the end of the day/month etc, diarise a green tea and dark chocolate meeting with yourself to reflect on how your theme is going. The big test is whether the theme is influencing your professional decisions and behaviours. If not, it’s probably not the right theme, or you are not really committed to it – just interested in the idea of it! If this is the case, change it, or get off your butt and commit to it. Good luck. I hope it works for you like it’s working for me.
By the way, my word for 2016 is CORE. You’ll be hearing lots about it if you are a regular consumer of my writing. I will be exploring the next iteration of my interest in neuroscience to take it ‘Beyond Neuro’ and into ‘Getting to the CORE’ – I am challenged by the wasted time, effort and emotion I see executive teams experience as a result of our inability to really cut to the chase of our conversations, in our meetings, of our projects – it will be a fun exploration!!
Welcome to 2016 – your best year ever – and I look forward to supporting you on your professional and personal journey!
PS: I am serious about doing something about this TODAY and getting out of the office to a neutral thinking space e.g., cafe with cake and coffee… Off you go now…