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This week we are utilizing the first and most important tool in strategic planning, “Looking Back before we Look Ahead”.  This is critical in understanding what we want to achieve in the coming year.  Unfortunately, it is the piece most people leave out when trying to determine goals for the new year.

Why is this critical? What happens when we jump into new goal-setting without appreciating the many events and experiences contributing to our current state? You already know.

We carry an emotional weight into the new year which sabotages our progress moving forward.

For example, that might look or sound like…

“Maybe I should just list all the things I didn’t get done last year.”

“What good is strategic planning anyway when there’s so much we can’t control?”

“I’m scared to write down what I really, really want because I’ll feel bad if it doesn’t happen.”

“What if I say I’m going to do this out loud, and then others hold me accountable for it? I don’t want to be punished for not getting it done.”

All these thoughts and feelings are real.

When we Look Back before we Look Ahead, we can appreciate everything we DIDN’T write down as a goal last year but accomplished, nonetheless.

This enables us to see just how much more control we have, and it helps us to see the natural connections to why we are doing everything we are in life. This often changes the goals we thought we “should” do this year, and helps us realize what we really want to do intrinsically.

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.”
-Oprah Winfrey

Looking Back before we Look Ahead Instructions:

  • If you did write down any goals last year, pull those up to briefly review what happened. Consider grading your goals this way: Accomplished, Partially Accomplished, Not Accomplished, Overcome by Events (or Not Applicable Anymore). Don’t overthink this part; just see what your best intentions were a year ago.
  • Using a program (I like MS Word or Excel so that I can write as much as I want) or a blank sheet of paper, create 12 columns representing each month of last year (Jan, Feb, etc. through Dec)
  • Within each column of last year, review your calendars (both personal and professional) to see what you did, tried, hoped for, etc. and brain write what ACTUALLY happened in that month. Brainwriting means that we freely write without worrying about any editing or whether it makes sense.
    1. For example, this is what I capture in May 2020 “Asked to speak at a leadership summit (lots of last-minute planning), pushing change management on social media, asked to speak at HR (workshop in the fall), Navigating Change Leadership at two huge companies, replaced the garbage disposal, jet flyovers to commemorate 2020 COVID shut down, our dog not walking well, experienced grace on a walk in my neighborhood (saw greyhounds right when I got so sad about another dog we lost this year), chased the sun to the beach and toured a house for sale on the bayside (maybe we’ll buy a beach house?).  A client wants to use pro bono coaching time, awarded two more huge contracts!!!!!!!! Went to my favorite restaurant (is the world is starting to open up?) to celebrate and a Birthday party with keto cake and a keg of watermelon punch (thanks to my favorite bartender for donating the drinks). SpaceX successfully launched US astronauts from US soil after 9 years (awesome). Pretty sure we need to put our other dog down (frustration with the vet over not listening to us)…on my bday? 🙁 No, not quite…May 28th…really sad. 🙁 “
  • You may want to go through emails or your social media posts to determine what else happened that month. Use the resources that work for you.

We tend to forget the details of what we did typically within a month. Putting it all together allows us to make connections in how things flowed together that we could not see until we look back at it.

The seemingly disconnected events of our lives tend to make sense when we look at them in the rear-view mirror.

We can see how the things that happened enabled us to be right where we needed to be for an opportunity we had not expected. This is true for both good and painful experiences.  Sometimes it is the painful times that help us really grow the most.

Innovation (unfortunately) does NOT happen in harmony.

That’s the tool for week 1!  Stay tuned for next week’s tool in your inbox, or bookmark this site to come back.

Happy Planning!!

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