Now, For First Steps - A Practical Idealist's Guide to a New Year (Part II)
Did you let your Idealist loose yet?
Last week I wrote about how to tap into your Idealist as the first step to planning your new year. I gave three different ways to do a fun, creative brainstorm of what would make this next year your best ever.
If you’re done with this brainstorm, wonderful! (If not, try it this weekend!)
You’re ready to now call in your Practical side.
Sometimes one’s Practical side can be misunderstood. It's often seen as our critic, our reality check that dumps cold water on all our fun plans.
Yet there’s a real benefit to partnering Idealism with Practicality. Your Practical side is going to bring your dreams down to earth, clarify them and put them in motion.
There is immense power to a dream in action.
So here’s a way to bring your Practical side into the Idealist planning process.
1. Review. Sit down with your Idealist brainstorm, whether it was a piece of writing, vision board or mind map.
2. Categorize. Mentally sort all your different ideas into 3-5 major categories. Create short, evocative names for those categories.
For example, maybe you had a lot of work-related dreams in your brainstorm. Think about what heading would really sum up these ideas for you. Maybe: “Work I Love” or “Next Big Career Step.”
3. Pie Chart. When you have your 3-5 categories, get out a piece of paper. Draw a big circle in the middle. Divide the circle into as many slices as you have categories. Label the slices with your category names.
4. Rate. Next rate where you are at today with each category. Use a scale from 1-10.
So, if we were to use the “Work I Love” example:
10 = You’ve already got it.
1 = Work has never been worse.
Write your rating next to the corresponding slice. Then, grab a marker, and fill in the pie slice to that mark.
This gives you a clear visual for where you’re at right now with these goals. This step really helps with prioritizing. A quick look at the chart below tells you that this person would likely want to focus most of their energy on Work and Finances.
5. Set an intention. In each category, write a one-sentence intention that articulates the result you want in this area.
An example intention for “Work I Love”:
I work for a company whose work really inspires me, in a role that uses my strengths, and a boss who is a mentor.
6. Action Steps. Take another look at your ratings. In order to bump those closer to a 10, what would you need to do in each category? Write three immediate action steps you can take for each category this month.
Make each as simple and straightforward as possible, and be sure that it is the absolute first step in a series of steps.
For example, when many people decide to look for a new job, they immediately set this task: “Update résumé.” Then they get stuck.
Perhaps because “Update résumé” isn’t actually the first thing they have to do (and it’s definitely not the most fun).
First they might actually need to set aside time to find and read over their old résumé. Then they might need to go through their old performance reviews and work files to make a list of what they actually have accomplished in the last X years. Then they might need advice from a trusted colleague or mentor about how to talk about their experience and skills.
Start with what is actually first. Make your action steps simple, fun and rewarding, if possible.
Because what you’re actually doing with each first step is building your confidence that you can make progress on this goal.
7. Check in. Keep your chart and next steps in front of you all month. Put it somewhere you'll see it on a regular basis.
Check off the steps you complete. When you’re done with your first three, think about the immediate next steps you’d need to take to keep moving forward.
At the end of the month, take stock of your progress. Give yourself a lot of credit for what you’ve accomplished. Celebrate. Revise and tweak. Set new immediate action steps. If you're stuck, reach out to someone for extra support.
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself fall into the fallacy that if you haven't done something perfectly in your first effort, you’ve failed.
It’s not true.
Any kind of forward movement, however small, is success. Always acknowledge your effort. That’s wisdom straight from your Practical Idealist.
Leave a comment below if you get stuck on any of these steps. I’d be happy to give more info or ideas!
P.S. I take clients through these exercises, then provide them with the accountability and encouragement to continue moving forward on their goals throughout the year.
If you’re interested in this kind of support to make this your best year ever, be in touch.