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Five Questions to Ask About the Year Ahead

January 2, 2010

I happened to have a few extra moments at work last week, since, as you know, there is absolutely nothing going on during the week between Christmas and New Years. So I decided to pull out the goals I set for myself in 2009, just for fun, to see how I did.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had made good progress on most of them, probably worth an overall B+ on a report card. It’s not like I was checking in on these goals every day – I had almost forgotten that I even wrote them down at all. But I still do it every year because I’ve concluded that there is something powerful about writing down your goals (even if you think you’re full of crap), which somehow creates a mysterious pull of intention from the future.

The thing I noticed when reviewing the goals was that I had neatly divided them into five categories. These categories represent a fairly balanced approach to life, professional growth and spiritual fulfillment, so I thought I would share them with you all today as we embark upon a fresh new year.

1. How will you become a more effective leader?

This question is about your professional career development, from a perspective of influence, reputation, and impact.  It is also your public persona, and will involve others’ perceptions of your character. Would you like to be more influential? More confident? More trusted? Think about what that will take.

At the end of 2010, how would you like people to perceive you?       

2. How will you add substantial value to the organizations you work for/with?

This is all about delivering results. Your character and reputation are important, but to stay vital and growing, you must have something of value to show for your work. And remember – the value you create is for others, not for yourself; it’s for your boss, your department, your company, your Board, your customers, your organization.

At the end of 2010, what will these stakeholders say that you have accomplished for them?

3. How will you grow spiritually?

My spiritual life tends to get mushed up into a vague amorphous gel that kind of tags along with the rest of my life. I decided to make specific goals around my spiritual growth, focusing on a few key words and phrases that represented my desire for greater spiritual connection. For me, that big-picture goal was worded as “to submit to God as an instrument of His mercy and grace.” This reflects my attempt to shift from a focus on self to a focus on God’s working through me, enriching the lives of others. A subtle, but monumental shift. How I went about making this change in spiritual attitude was through daily spiritual disciplines, including meditation, scripture-reading, and journaling, combined with some specific activities like periodic personal retreats, philanthropic activities, and involvement with a small group.

At the end of 2010, how will you be more spiritually grounded than you are today?

4. Are you having fun?

I know, I know. Does this really have to be explicitly spelled out? Well, unfortunately for me, the answer is yes. Too much of life gets caught up in the swirl of work, chores and obligations. Without an intentional focus on fun, I may end up running through the entire year and then end up feeling burnt out and tired for all the accomplishments I may have achieved. Kind of sucks the joy out of it all. So give some attention to your hobby, your passions, the thing you did in your youth that brought you so much happiness. Get it back.

 At the end of 2010, what will you look back on and smile about?

5. Are you building intimacy in your relationships?

In spite of all the other things we want to accomplish in life, the bottom line, number one priority always comes back to building relationships. The goal-setting can often get us too focused on ourselves and external achievements, when the greatest accomplishment may be something that you can’t measure directly: the security of loving and being loved. This requires an investment of time, effort, and thought to create the physical and spiritual presence, whether that is in our marriage, with our children, our greater family, or close friends.

At the end of 2010, what will those closest to you say about your relationship with them?

I’ll admit that these five questions do not include the ever-popular health goals, but you and I both know that the quest to lose weight, eat better, sleep more and exercise three times a week should be so embedded in our lives that we don’t even have to think about it.  Now, if only I could lose those ten pounds by the end of 2010…

Photo by nAncY, used with permission.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2010 2:06 pm

    interesting thought about putting it into writing.
    i like what you have here.
    actually some very good things to consider, and a good way to consider them.
    thanks, bradley!

  2. January 2, 2010 8:34 pm

    Thanks for being so honest in sharing your goals. My “resolution” for the new year is to teach more, reach more, and help more people in Christ Name.

    I try to keep it simple:)

  3. January 3, 2010 9:19 am

    Good questions, Brad. And like all good questions, they should lead to goals.

  4. January 3, 2010 12:25 pm

    I recently purchased Joyce Rupp’s Open the Door. Rupp makes wonderful use of the metaphorical door as a way to growth, primarily spiritually, though the image works for growing in other areas of life, too.

    And, really, if we’re not growing. . . .

  5. January 4, 2010 10:44 am

    The question about fun is so important. So many blogs, books and publications are about “effectiveness” “efficiency” or “leadership.” What we rarely realize is how little of what we work on obsessively oveer today will matter much to us later.

  6. January 4, 2010 11:24 am

    This I really liked…

    “which somehow creates a mysterious pull of intention from the future”

    Because, as you know, I’m not a big goal setter. But I do sometimes write down my dreams. And maybe that is how they come true.

    I liked the idea of framing intentions as questions. That’s a strategy I’m even going to try in my public speaking (but am a bit nervous about! I saw the technique in ‘Improv Wisdom’ and wonder if my tangential personality can speak from questions without completely baffling my audience 🙂

  7. John Buckel permalink
    January 4, 2010 8:02 pm

    Do any of you know a good 20-25 minute video on these general themes that we could show at a Men’s breakfast at our church? We’ve got a men’s retreat coming up soon and we’re doing a breakfast in 2 weeks to drum up some interest. Our theme is Man Up! and our topic is the Christian in the Workplace.


  8. Michele Corbett permalink
    January 10, 2010 10:50 am

    I mentioned to my boss once that “fun” was an organizational value for me as a leader of my team. He looked so confused and somewhat distrustful of my ability to lead. I think our productivity has convinced him since then.

    I did an internship years ago for a couple writing the book “NUTS” about Southwest Airlines leadership. Talk about having fun!

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