How to Have Your Best Year Ever

best-year-ever

Do you make new year’s resolutions?

The problem with new year’s resolutions is that they often don’t come to fruition. That’s why some people have vowed not to make them.

Of course, the more palatable term these days for “resolution” is “goal”. Goal sounds more doable, right? However, to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”.

We want more than wishful thinking. The crux of the matter is, how do we accomplish that?

At Coker James, our goal is to help our clients succeed by meeting their accounting and business consulting needs. We’ve invested significant resources to develop a plan to achieve this. And in the process, came across some tools to support the effort. We want to share these with you.

HERE’S A BOOK THAT INSPIRED US

In his book, Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt outlines a five-step plan for achieving your most important goals. It begins with believing in the possibility and completing the past, then designing your future and finding your why, and ends with making it happen.

Step 1 – Believe The Possibility

If you don’t believe you can reach your goals, you’ve failed before you’ve even started. Per Michael, “Our beliefs play a massive part in how we approach life. We tend to experience what we expect.” (pg 28)

Limiting beliefs hold you back. But liberating truths compel you to move forward. One such dichotomy is scarcity vs. abundance. Scarcity thinkers believe there will never be enough, see challenges as obstacles, and are pessimistic about the future. Abundance thinkers, on the other hand, believe there is always more, see challenges as opportunities, and believe the best is yet to come.

“A limiting belief is a misunderstanding of the present that shortchanges our future.” (pg 47) Limiting beliefs must be replaced with liberating truths. To do this, you first have to recognize the limiting belief and evaluate it. Then you need to reject or reframe it, revise it, and ultimately reorient yourself to the new belief. It helps if you put this process on paper.

Step 2 – Complete The Past

In order to move forward, you have to look backward, at least some. Backward thinking – involving learning, awareness and analysis – allows for growth and greater future progress.

Michael discusses the method the US Army uses for backward thinking, called the After-Action Review. This involves stating what you wanted to happen, acknowledging what actually happened, learning from the experience, and adjusting your behavior going forward. The last stage is critical, because without it, the whole process is pointless.

A healthy recognition of regret can be beneficial as well. “Some of our greatest disappointments may lead us to our greatest possibilities…” (pg 77) Regret, when addressed in a healthy manner, gives us instruction and motivation to change. The key is to not see regret as a roadblock, but rather as a road sign pointing us in the direction of a more positive future. Practicing gratitude helps.

Step 3 – Design Your Future

This is where the rubber meets the road. Michael defines what makes great goals. Have you heard of SMART goals? Well Michael takes that further, with the acronym SMARTER.

S – Specific. Identify exactly what you want to accomplish. “Grow my business” is too vague. A more specific goal would be “increase revenues”.

M – Measurable. How do you know if you’ve reached your goal? There has to be a defined end point so that you know what success looks like. A measurable goal would be “increase revenues by 50%”.

A – Actionable. The “be” verb has no place here. “Increase revenues by 50%” doesn’t really tell you how that can be accomplished. “Acquire 10 new clients” defines the how. Hint: rather than arbitrarily choosing a number out of the air, you may need to do some calculations to determine exactly how many new clients it will take to increase revenues by 50%.

R – Risky. The natural inclination is to choose a goal that you know you can accomplish easily. Everyone likes success. But does easy really motivate you to achieve more? “We rise to the challenge, but we lay back when it’s easy.” (pg 113) Stretch goals help you achieve more.

It’s easy to go the other extreme, though. Delusional goals can be so risky and unrealistic they are unattainable. So with the goal to acquire 10 new clients, if your industry is cyclical and in a down market and your client pool is consolidating, is 10 really obtainable (and should you be looking at a different goal)? Conversely if the economy is going gang busters, could you win more?

T – Time-keyed. Deadlines and assigned times keep you accountable to doing the work. Revising the goal to say “acquire one new client a month” does two things: 1) defines a deadline, and 2) spreads out the goal over the course of the year so that achievement is more likely.

E – Exciting. What’s the point of pursuing something that doesn’t inspire you? Michael says, “If you don’t find your goals personally compelling, you won’t have the motivation to push through when things get tough or tedious.” (pg 116). Success takes hard work. An exciting goal – such as one that makes your business more profitable – makes the hard work worth it.

R – Relevant. Goals need to align with your actual circumstances, true interests and core values while also aligning with each other. I’m assuming business success is a particular interest. Perhaps the goal of acquiring one new client a month to increase revenues by 50% should be complemented by another SMARTER goal about reducing expenses.

Step 4 – Find Your Why

As mentioned earlier, when you get down into the nitty-gritty work of accomplishing your goals, it can be difficult to maintain the energy. Having the right motivation is key to being able to keep going when the effort is no longer fun.

What is the right motivation? Well, that a personal thing. You have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
Your why will be different from my why. Maybe you want to increase revenue by 50% by adding one new client a month because you want to be able to reward your employees with profit sharing. Maybe you want to accomplish that goal to position your company for a profitable sale so you can retire.

It’s important to internalize the reward, and to track and measure incremental gains. You may also find it helpful to have the support of peer groups. Per Michael, “The right peer groups serve as a support structure for our liberating truths. They help us retain our belief and commitment when we hit the messy middle.” (pg 184)

Where do you find the right peer group(s)? Our company currently participates in a mastermind group that includes several other accounting firms from around the US and Canada. We participate in monthly web conferences and quarterly face-to-face workshops sharing best practices and getting feedback on challenges. Other types of groups you can consider include coaching and mentoring circles, accountability groups, even online communities.

Step 5 – Make It Happen

Plans are all well and good, but to get results you have to act.

Sometimes, particularly with big goals with long, detailed plans, it can be so overwhelming you can’t move. But, according to Michael, “You don’t have to see the end from the beginning…. All you have to see is the next step. Any goal is manageable one action at a time.” (pg 195)

To get going, do the easiest task first. This gets you a quick win, which can motivate you to continue on to more involved tasks. Sometimes, you may need outside help – someone that can lead the way or point you in the right direction.

But ultimately, you just have to commit. To quote a beloved Jedi Master, “There is no try.” You may find an activation trigger, such as making a list of prospects the day before you make the calls, can jump-start the effort.

Take a LEAP

Michael closes the book by defining the LEAP principle. Lean into the change. Engage until you get (just enough) clarity. Activate and do something to move forward. Pounce and do it now. Basically, get going!

What is your dream for your business? What will it take to make it real? Turning a dream into a goal with a defined plan to execute takes work. And we’d like to help.

ENTER TO WIN!

At Coker James, we want to work with you to help your business succeed.

To do that, we’d like to know what services are important to you. We’ve developed a short survey identifying several services we offer. Which ones would be most beneficial to you? Let us know here.

To entice you to share your thoughts with us, completing the survey enters you into a contest to win a Michael Hyatt productivity bundle. This bundle, valued at $145, includes:

  • Copy of Your Best Year Ever – because he has much more to say on the subject.
  • Copy of Free to Focus – find a margin in your life while also achieving your goals.
  • One Full Focus Planner – to help you plan your quarter, month, week and day to reach your goals.
  • One Full Focus Journal – to help you clarify thoughts, process events and distill lessons.
  • Set of 3 moleskin-like Full Focus Notebooks – because sometimes you just need more space to plan.

As mentioned earlier, as a firm, we’ve started using this system to help us focus on the value we provide our clients. It’s been so beneficial, we just have to share it!

So let us know what you think, and register to win this $145 Productivity bundle from Michael Hyatt. Contest runs through midnight on February 15.

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