Happy New Year. Here’s wishing all you free agents a very successful 2013. May you achieve the goals, wishes and dreams that you set your mind to.
Speaking of success, let’s use today’s post to explore how we set our goals / aims for achieving it.
A lot of us go through this annual exercise of goal-setting each year. My personal ritual involves taking the last week of December to read through sections of my personal journals over the years to compare how my definition and approach to success have evolved. You may or may not have a ritual of sorts, but, given how much is written and discussed across many forms of media this time of year about goal-setting, I’m guessing you’ve spent some time thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2013.
And, perhaps, if you do go through some sort of annual exercise, you are also, like me, somewhat jaded regarding the usual commonplace advice – set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant or results-oriented and time-bound) goals, ensure accountability, create milestones, plan by activities / tasks, etc. Not that these are not important and relevant, but they rarely help us actually pick and commit to the right goals / challenges for ourselves.
A Consideration for How to Pick and Commit to the Right Goals / Challenges
Here’s what I find myself reflecting on even more as I get older.
Consider that we make most of our big life-defining decisions fairly early on in life – choosing where to go to college, what to study, where to work, what kind of work to do, where to live, who to live with, etc. And that, for the average group of people, most of these decisions occur before we are 25 years old – even though we may not have not had much decision-making or life experience yet. In fact, it is these very “decision experiments” that determine the kinds of experiences and people we encounter – both good and not so good.
Yet, curiously, even as our experiences improve both our decision-making and skill-sets, as we get closer to middle age, some of us tend to fall into a narrower, regular set of life and work routines. Just when we’re getting the hang of it all, some of us stop exploring further. Just when we’ve increased our odds of making better life-work decisions and following through with better skills / abilities, some of us stop wanting to do so. I find this a curious phenomenon even in Silicon Valley – arguably, the hotbed of leading entrepreneurship.
While I am not qualified to explore this further in a philosophical manner, what I do firmly believe is that we need to work consciously at preventing this scope-narrowing in our lives. Whether we aim to be successful free agents through life or to leave a lasting legacy when we’re gone, we need to remain intrepid explorers always.
2013 Challenges for Free Agents / Self-employed People
Whether you’ve been self-employed for your entire career or you’ve come to it late like me, these can be applied to your 2013 goals. I’ve employed each of these personally over the years and still continue to do so. The key theme is to constantly evolve through exploration and creativity both in personal and work lives. In effect, as I have written elsewhere: invest in your human capital to increase your net worth.
1) Have at least 1 spectacularly ambitious new goal on your list. And, give it your everything. How you define “spectacularly ambitious” is entirely up to your existing frame of reference, so I cannot offer up a set of universal examples. But, make it something that you have never considered or come close to before. Make it something that completely stretches you out of your comfort zone.
2) Create or engineer something entirely new. It might be a new customer experience, a new offering within your portfolio or a new kind of campaign (e.g. a random act of kindness campaign vs a traditional outbound marketing campaign).
3) Find and work with a new collaborator. This could be a new mentor or a new influencer – someone who is part of your tribe. They say that, when 2 new people meet and work together, each changes the other in some way. Open yourself to that kind of change through this experience.
4) Explore 1 new school of thought that is totally unrelated to your line of work. For example, if your business is a lifestyle business, explore something from an unrelated field – like a technology trend or a philosophical context. Immerse yourself thoroughly by reading up on the subject, taking some classes if possible, writing about it if you can and reaching out to someone to learn more about it. And then, the payoff – ensure that you can apply some of the learning to your line of work.
5) If you’re past the age of 30, become a mentor to a younger person. Give the gift of yourself – your time, your emotional energy and, above all, your belief in their ability to grow and succeed. [By the way, ideally, this is not a family member, but, more on that another time.]
6) Reach out and win back X number of former customers / clients. This is easier said than done. Just ensure that you pick the right ones, understand why they left you, devise personalized approaches to re-engage and retain them….. and, above all, that you win them back for life.
7) Wrestle back 1 hour a day for yourself – personal time. As we get older, this is the one precious commodity that we always need more of. There are enough tasks as there are hours in a day for most self-employed people. What you do with this personal 1 hour is up to you, but it cannot be for work or for friends / family.
8) Learn 1 new personal skill. This cannot be related to your line of work in any way. But, it must be something you start practising regularly and commit to making part of your life moving forward.
9) Drop 1 bad habit. Over the years, we all pick up a few bad habits – both in our personal and work lives. Our definitions of “bad” may vary, but, for the most part, anything that does not align with your ideal vision of yourself or your line of work is likely a bad habit for you. Forming new habits is hard enough, but they are not likely to stick unless you drop some other existing habit as Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habit.
10) Finally, give yourself permission to fail at one of these things. Failure, if used well, is the best teacher and character-builder rather than a demoralizer or demotivator. [More on this another time too.]
So, those are a few of my challenges to all of you (and, of course, to myself as well).
What do you think? Are you game? Will you take some of them on and let me know how you progress? Do you have other similar challenges already on your 2013 list that you can share with the rest of us?
[For more about how to make goals stick, read this.]
Reader: If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing for free email updates straight to your inbox – with additional tips and resources. Click here for easy signup. Your information will never be publicized, shared or used for any kind of solicitation.