Rather than set myself New Year’s Resolutions and these fizzling out by the time I got to February, last year I decided to try something new. I focussed on the lifestyle I wanted to live and what living that lifestyle would feel like. For me focussing on how it would feel makes it more real and gives me something to aspire to that is more than a specific ‘goal’.
This year I have decided to take the same approach but to be more ‘visible’ with it to help create some accountability.
I thought it might be useful to share the process I follow, I am not saying this is the only way that works, it has worked for me, and I am hoping that it continues to work for me, but that is not to say that it will be what works for everyone.
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As a starting point I visualise what I want my lifestyle to be like. What would I want to be doing daily that is different to how I do things now? What would this feel like?
To create a link that is more straightforward than having to visualise this daily I am using a method introduced by Chris Brogan called My Three Words.
These are three words that are meaningful to you, well thought out and actionable. They can be referred to daily to ‘measure’ whether what you are doing that day aligns to those three words. The words have significant meaning to me and what I am aspiring to throughout the coming 12 months. I will have them on the office wall and have set my goals and habits around them.
My Three Words
We often hear of people having an ambition to leave behind a legacy. I am not talking about a financial legacy here but the kind where people remember you well beyond your time on this planet.
My viewpoint here is that if we focus too much on what happens when we are not here, we can lose sight of the bit that we are actually here for. For billions of years we haven’t existed, we are then born and live a few decades and then we don’t exist again.
For me I want my focus to be on the years I spend alive rather than what happens when I am no longer here. This is why I chose impact as one of my three words for this year.
I want to look back at 2022 and see that I have had a positive impact. This means creating joyful memories with my family and friends. Doing impactful work with the families that I am working with.
I love to learn. I find it motivational, fulfilling and beneficial to those that I am working with. The intention with the podcast was to help provide a resource for family businesses to help support them in thriving whilst navigating the complexities that make them unique.
This is an embedded aspiration of mine, I never want to stop learning and through the interviews I conduct on the show I get to both learn and share the lessons with you all, my habits this year are going to reflect my desire to learn and share my learning.
I will be speaking in person at a couple of International conferences as well as some online webinars that will be linked to an exciting project called The Quest for Legitimacy. This is an academic research project led by a brilliant psychologist called Dr. Jamie Weiner based out of Chicago.
I will write and record videos and I am planning on reading books from a broad range of authors, taking lessons from each.
Have you ever said anything along the lines of “when my business gets to a certain level of turnover, I am going to start making more time for exercise / reading etc”?
My friend asked a very simple question, “why are you waiting?”. I couldn’t answer. My theory was that the presence of a ‘reward’ would act as an incentive for me to hit my turnover target.
The truth is I was waiting for some form of external validation to allow me to live in a way that I wanted to. Why not just start doing it and see what happens?
With my three words and the habits I am committing to create in my 2022 mission statement, I am feeling empowered to live in a way that is going to reward me now, it will also reward me in three, six and 12 months’ time but rather than waiting for some form of ‘permission’ I am starting that reward process now.
I am also striving to empower more and more families through the work that I do and the content that I create. This links for me with my passion for education and a desire to have a positive impact.
Prior to taking the approach above I would set myself goals and call them New Year’s Resolutions and typically fail! The exceptions to this are where I am training for a particular event or studying for an exam etc. I have trained for and run a marathon, I have trained for and completed the Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride challenge, I have passed loads of professional examinations.
So why am I telling you this? Well, the reason is that my goal in each of the above was to run a marathon, ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats and pass exams. What allowed me to do those was the habit of training or studying.
I have found that for me, having an event or something I can either pass or fail at the end of it creates a level of accountability. By telling people that I am going to be running / cycling / taking a particular exam means I have to also tell them whether I have done it or not.
I do not like letting people down and I also don’t like letting myself down. By creating some accountability, I am therefore able to imagine the feeling of letting people down and how bad that would feel and therefore doing what I can to make sure that doesn’t become real!
This leads me to the final element of how I am giving myself the best opportunity to succeed, that is through the creation (and importantly, the completion) of positive habits that align to my goals, my three words and the lifestyle I want to create for myself.
Put simply, we become what we do, therefore if I am doing what is needed to live how I want to live, it will become self-fulfilling.
Therefore, my focus has been on spending time understanding what it is I want to be doing, what habits that involves and then creating the environment for that habit to become as simple as possible.
This comes from a book I have read (via Audible) called Atomic Habits by James Clear. In this book James shares how he has developed the Four Laws of Behaviour Change. He goes into far more detail in the book but the below gives you a summary of how to create positive habits.
These four laws can be applied to make any behaviour easier (and the opposite of each law can be applied to make any behaviour harder).
I recommend the book; it is an interesting read and breaks down how to create or break habits.
As important as creating the right habits is the appreciation that the habits and behaviours that I currently display are what have led to me needing to set new habits. For me this is an essential element to understanding behaviour change, and why it can be hard to change behaviour, especially if it meets ticks some of the boxes that the four laws above covers.
Whenever I read a book I try to apply what it is teaching me to the work that I do with family businesses. I think that using learnings from all spectrums of life to apply to our own work is great as it can often offer alternative perspectives and different thinking.
With this in mind, what I have taken away from this process is that it is akin to the values exercises many family businesses are asked to complete to capture the essence of the family that own and operate the business.
However, going a layer deeper than simply articulating goals is to perhaps look at the behaviours and habits that you want to see that highlights the values you share.
Discuss as an ownership group or as a broader family what your expectations are of each other in relation to the business.
If communication is a challenge, create a habit that utilises the Four Laws of Behaviour Change to allow you to create a culture within the business that supports good communication. If that means creating new communication forums for you as a family, check out this series on Governance to learn more about how that can support your ambitions.
Similarly, if there are some behaviours present at the moment that you would like to change or see change, appreciating that this is likely to be a learned behaviour that could be difficult to change.
If we accept that we become what we do, looking at how you currently do things is a good point to start. There will be good and possibly bad but the self awareness as a family to address anything you are unhappy with is the first step towards your goal.