Have you ever had a weird conversation with a friend and then forgot about it until a totally unrelated experience brings you right back to it years later?
That just happened to me.
Fifteen years ago, I was in Hawaii on vacation and was able to re-connect with my old grad school office-mate. I hadn’t seen Janice since we had graduated – about 20 years prior – and was excited to meet up with her in Honolulu where she lived.
Janice picked me up at my hotel to take me to one of her favorite Thai restaurants for dinner. I knew the place, too, and was looking forward to spending our evening there together.
On our way to the restaurant, Janice made a wrong turn and I said to her, “Wait, Janice, you’re supposed to turn left here.” She calmly replied, “I don’t make left turns, Miriam.”
Her confession caught me off-guard. Janice explained that she had a huge fear of ramming head-on into oncoming traffic while making a left turn in front of it. In fact, she had spent her entire adult life sleuthing out driving routes that would ensure she only had to make “safe” right-hand turns in order to reach her destination.
This memory plopped into my consciousness during my post-lunch walk yesterday. Maybe it was because I noticed that I automatically turn left out of my home when I start out. But regardless, the story served as a powerful trigger for the message I want to share with you about 2016 goal-setting. So here it is:
Start making left turns.
Most people play it safe when setting goals. They stay close to the tried, the true and the comfortable. They avoid anything unusual that might provoke judgement by others. They steer clear of the unknown. This, of course, is normal. I’m guessing it’s simply an extension of our survival instinct.
But we also have the power to think rationally. Let’s face it. If self-preservation was the only thing guiding our actions, then we’d never birth leaders who are willing to take big, bold chances that defy all logic. These people changed the course of history because they turned left when everyone around them was shouting, “Turn right, turn right! Don’t be a fool. You’ll fail you idiot.”
Not long ago, I listened to a remarkable commencement address delivered by comedian Jim Carrey that completely rocked my boat. I strongly encourage you to listen to it here.
One of the messages in his speech is that you can fail at something you don’t like, so you might as well do something you love. Often times, the thing that we desire the most demands that we step out over the ledge, not knowing whether or not the safety net is going to be there below to catch us.
Should we stay or should we go?
Will you fumble if you put yourself out there and start giving talks? You might at first. What if you launch your online program and only a handful of people buy it? Yes, it’s happened to me and it can happen to you in the beginning. Should you make the move from insurance to a cash-pay practice? That’s hard and you will constantly question your sanity as your book of patients dramatically dwindles when you start out. Will any of these actions cause death? Hardly. Will any of them bear fruit? You bet! Especially if you are determined, passionate, and willing to weather the ups and downs that come with any new endeavor.
Pursuing your dream will demand big changes on your part. It will feel uncomfortable and people might look at you like you’re nuts. But playing small and safe delivers fractional results. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather fail at doing something I love than something I don’t.
So here’s what I suggest if you want to push your practice into the next gear next year:
- Identify just one big, needle-moving project that you want to tackle. Is it time to write your book? Build an online course? Get on the speaking circuit? Pick the thing that you’ve been longing to do and never seem to have time for. If you feel some nervous excitement – or nausea – when you think about the project, you’re on the right track.
- Set a timeline for completing it. This is crucial for blocking out time each week to make progress. Otherwise, the busyness of life and the focus to bring in more short-term revenue day after day will crush your ability to leap forward toward your vision. I don’t buy into the idea that “there’s not enough time.” We all have the same amount of time – 24 x 7. It’s just that the winners use their time way more effectively than those who are stuck in place, year after year. They use time blocks and set boundaries extraordinarily well. Want to know the secret power word of the masterful among us? It’s “no.” Winners refuse to do things that pull them off course and away from their vision.
- Identify a few activities that can take you, even just a smidgen, toward accomplishing that project from step 1 above. Start sketching out your signature talk or outlining your book. You can even work on these things discreetly, out of sight from everyone except your most trusted allies. But start. Now. Use your time blocks each week to do nothing else but work on your project. View these times as appointments with yourself that cannot be cancelled without penalty.
- Measure backwards. As you make progress toward your vision, don’t punish yourself for what didn’t get done last week. Negative self-talk not only makes you feel bad but can also derail momentum. Like the person who figures she may as well abandon her diet because she ate a donut for breakfast, missing a time block is no excuse to give up on the project. Instead, measure what you have accomplished since starting the year and make the commitment to finish your project in the timeline you established.
Don’t be afraid to turn left in 2016. And always use your blinker.