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Goals, themes or both?

Whether resulting from the widely reported (let alone personally experienced!) failure of New Year’s resolutions, or our current obsession with soundbites, I’m fascinated by the trend of setting ‘themes’ rather than creating fixed goals. The concept involves choosing a word or short phrase that sets your overall intention for the year, providing a focus for your efforts, behaviors, and decisions. Some examples across friends and family include AdventureCreativityDe-cluttering, and Thinking Bigger.

What’s the attraction? For some, the success or fail emphasis of a prescriptive goal may add unwanted pressure, leading them to set small targets or avoid setting them at all. For others, defined goals can give a very ‘locked-in’ feel, removing any sense of freedom and flexibility. I still believe SMART goals still have their place – personally and professionally. However, I’ll also be experimenting with themes within my team and when working with our clients. I’m intrigued to see what impacts, results and experiences manifest!

Choosing themes: If you’re clear on what you need to be at your best but are experiencing stress or frustration, why not create a theme around what’s missing for you and what you want to have more of in your life? ClarityExcellence, Simplicity, Momentum, Interaction, Laughter, Me TimeDanceFamilyNature, Service?  You can also pick themes relating to areas where you want to step up or make a different impact. Be Heard, Say Yes, Seize the Day, Quality over Quantity, Courage, Value at Every Interaction, Connection? What resonates, excites, and feels true for you? Put it on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Share it with others. Make it your mantra, testing out your thoughts, decisions, and actions against it – and seeing what unfolds! And, while it may be a theme for the year (or your life), you can also make it for quarter or a month, even a week. Experiment to see if the concept works for you.

Themes to help you live more of life at your best: These are themes that land for me. They come up time and again in the work we do at Instinctive Drives with leaders and teams. Focus on one or more of these to reap the benefits of being true to yourself while also honoring the different needs, motivations, and talents of others – at work and beyond.

Be present: Hailed by self-development and leadership gurus, I’ve personally learned the value of being ‘in-the-moment’ and removing all distractions. There’s an art to it, but it’s well worth cultivating as it heightens self-awareness AND deepens our ability to connect, empathize and be of service to others.

Resilience: Life throws us challenges, often things over which we seem to have very little control. We do have some choice, however, over how we respond, adapt, and seek to move on. Attune to what feeds your positivity, optimism, and energy so you can to draw upon it to step forward in the tougher times.

Relevance: In a work context, I feel it’s become increasingly important to question this regularly – at an individual, leadership, and organizational level. The pace of change across technology, innovation, and customer expectation is quite breath-taking – a great new idea is rarely a great new idea for long!

Authenticity: Being true to yourself and presenting that truth to the world – including being vulnerable around your challenges – is widely recognized as a hallmark of great leadership. Being authentic involves speaking up around what you need to thrive AND learning about what authenticity means for others.

Vitality: I think of it as a culmination of all the positive things that come together when you’re able to operate at your best. Not only does it cover physical health and emotional well-being, but also self-confidence, self-esteem and optimism. At Instinctive Drives, we call this being at Peak Performance.

Gratitude: I’ve arrived here last, but for me this is the very essence of a positive and happy life. If feeling gratitude isn’t something that comes to you unprompted, ask others to prompt you, or make it a daily or weekly practice to note down the things for which you’re grateful. What are you grateful for right now?

We’d love to hear about your themes for the year!