A Successful New Year

A recent psychological study reports that if you look at a photo of M&Ms and intently visualize eating them, you will then eat fewer real M&Ms than you would have if you had not looked at the photo. The brain believes what it sees, in the mind’s eye as well as in reality.

As we kick off 2012, each of us should make some time to visualize the end of 2012. Not those tired old New Year’s resolutions, but rather a clear and detailed vision of your own success and the success of your team and organization. If you can think ahead to the beginning of 2013, what are the half-dozen specific things you will have accomplished in the prior year that will make you and everyone else say, “That was a great year”?

Conduct this exercise alone, with your mentor, and/or with your team. Following are some questions you can use to structure your thinking. If you are clear on what you want, you will increase your chances of achieving it.

1. What would your work life look like if you get it right this coming year? How should you be spending your time? How do you want to come across to others? What do you want to be known for?

2. Now look backwards. What are your three biggest accomplishments of 2011? What was a stretch for you? To check your own self-assessment, ask others what they thought your biggest wins of the year were.

3. Conduct a personal SWOT analysis. That classic tool (“Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats”) is often used in strategic planning to help an organization keep its eyes and ears focused on its capabilities as well as the external environment. You may find some interesting insights if you apply it to yourself:

a. List three of your personal strengths. The common theme in these characteristics can highlight your grounds for future success.
b. List three of your weaknesses. What can you work on? What are the “Achilles Heels” you need to be aware of and protect? Use this list to determine how well you are growing, adapting, and investing in yourself.
c. List three opportunities you see for yourself in the coming year. Go back to Question #1 above. What opportunities can you capitalize on to help you reach your highest-level goals?
d. List three threats to your success. What are the barriers or obstacles that could get in the way of achieving your vision? Are there any ways in which you might be your own worst enemy? (If you think not, try asking your significant other….)

4. Consider your 2012 goals through more than one lens. What does your team want? Your company or organization? How about your most important customers or clients? What would you like each of them to say at the end of 2012?

5. Finally, answer this question: “I am a person who values X.” Fill in the blank. If you’re stuck on value, do an internet search on “Values List.” Create a long list, and circle as many as stand out significantly to you. Then cross off three of the ones you circled. And cross off three more. Then three more, continuing until there are only three left that you cannot live without. If those really are your core values, how are they informing all of your decisions, from investments to crises and dilemmas?

Let the answers to the questions above inform the creation of your true goals for 2012. Then put key words or phrases in plain sight, and consult them from time to time—at the end of a week or, in team meetings. If you keep the goals in focus, your brain will believe and help you act accordingly.

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” —Albert Einstein