For the past several years I have decided on a word that would guide me throughout the year. Based on that word I set goals – annually, quarterly, and monthly – and each day I record one or two things I did that day to advance my goals. At the end of each month, each quarter, and the end of the year I reflect on my actions in relationship to my goals. It’s not a public practice (although I’m currently letting the cat out of the bag), but every now and then I find it helpful to talk about it with other leaders. Today is one of those days.
My word for 2016 is refine. There are several questions I use to make decisions about things that will have longer-term effects on my life. The questions are nice to have because often times I have to make important decisions in a short amount of time and from these questions I can easily rule out some opportunities and just as easily say yes to others. (It’s the middle ones that I struggle with – and often that alone is a sign it’s maybe not the right thing.)
In the past two days I have exercised my questions and made decisions that helped me refine my work. Ironically, the work is not in my paid job, but centers around places I volunteer my time and gifts. One was a yes to a new role, which meant leaving another role; one was a decision to simply step away. One decision I knew was coming, another came unexpectedly. Both feel good and align with my goals for this year and the places I want to make an impact.
I share this with you not to brag or build myself up, but as a leadership lesson I am working on. To truly lead, leaders have to have a sense of direction. For many of us, that direction use to come from external sources – employers, community organizations, family expectations. Today we lead in a world that has flattened and become more complex. Many of us know our employers will be only one area where we can make a difference, so we also invest our time and energy in other places. Many of us see our homes and families as places to experiment and reimagine family life and meaning. And many of us know that our world provides opportunities to lead outside of our work and our homes, and we capitalize on those opportunities. But in that, we can become confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. Having focus certainly helps us navigate all the arenas in our life with purpose and meaning.
I don’t have a neat and tidy way of making decisions. But I have developed some habits for making short-term and long-term decisions that allow me to lean into the places most meaningful for me as a leader, as a mom, and as a person of faith.
I’d love to know if you have developed some simple processes or tools that help you. Share them in the comments below and we can all learn from each other.