For more than 20 years one of my oldest friends and I have had a conversation each January about our goals for the year ahead. Our lists contain things we want to do, experiences we want to have, places we want to go etc. It’s an interesting exercise and means we both go into the new year re-energised and raring to go.
Some people prefer to see what life brings, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve always preferred a more definite roadmap. That’s why I look forward to the generally quieter period between Christmas and New Year, as it gives me time to think.
This approach was underlined in a recent podcast with the actor Matthew McConaughey. I’d recommend you find the time to listen to the whole discussion, but here are my key take-outs which I hope are useful to you if you too are reviewing your goals and planning for 2021. You can relate each one to your business and marketing goals, but they are equally applicable to other areas of life.
Commitment gives you clarity
Without commitment, it’s easy to become ‘adrift in a form of moderate compromise’.
If you want the asset (the worthwhile outcome), you must pay the debt (ie. put in the work, make the sacrifices).
Commitment comes from knowing that when you make a choice to do something which supports or sabotages your goals, you’re ‘purchasing from tomorrow’. Commitment means saying to yourself: ‘this is non-negotiable, I’m not giving myself another option’. When tempted to go off-piste, to ask yourself ‘how is this decision going to look a year from now?’ and challenging yourself with regards to ‘how far down the line you can think’.
A roof is a man-made thing
If we’re going to set goals that we’re 100% committed to, then it stands to reason that choosing the right goals is imperative. McConaughey talks about the importance of setting the bar high. “We can go so much further than we allow ourselves to believe.”
Interestingly, McConaughey emphasises the importance of taking time out of normal life to let your imagination do its work – to think beyond the limited view of what you believe is possible – which is very similar to John Cleese’s advice on how to be creative, which I wrote about last month. Whether you’re thinking about how to solve a problem or envisaging a new future for yourself or your company, purposely putting yourself in a place where the brain can switch off from its logical thinking and instead explore ideas is key.
I had never really thought about it until now but perhaps this explains why, whenever my family and I head to the Lake District, I almost always return with pages and pages of new ideas!
McConaughey talked about the fact that definite plans – ‘preparing to the hilt’ – can lead to a sense of freedom. Because you’re clear on what’s important to you and are proactively putting the putting the steps in place to achieve what’s important to you, it’s a mental release.
I interpret this as not doing the things you know you’re meant to be doing is stressful whilst doing the work sets you free. Like when I plan to go for a run in the morning but don’t actually do it, and then spend the rest of the day thinking about it. He puts it better with the phrase ‘learning the math of your poetry’ which means putting in the effort to figure out how to be good at whatever you choose to do.
Big things come from small increments
To make progress, pick out one thing related to your goals that you can work on every day. McConaughey uses the example of wanting to be a great husband and father, and looking at the small things he can do, like recognising the contribution his wife makes to looking after the family whilst he works. ‘Small increments allow us to try to be a little better,’ he says.
This is something we can relate to as marketers. For example, if you want to generate more leads from your website, gain referrals via social media, get more traction from your email campaigns, you have to start small and grow. It’s the everyday things that matter, success with small things leads to success with bigger things. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
There is no ‘ta-dar’ moment
Achieving goals is a journey. Like any journey, the process of moving means we expose ourselves to new experiences and, in so doing, we become aware of other places we could see, other experiences we could have. McConaughey puts this perfectly when he explains that once you get near to your goals ‘it opens up another 40 lanes on the highway’. Which explains why my friend and I will always have new and exciting goals to work towards each New Year, and I hope it’s the same for you.
Wishing you every success on whichever highway you choose to travel in 2021!