How will your coffee conversation go? you decide.

I asked Danae Johnson CEC CHRP who is a friend, colleague and  amazing executive coach, to write a guest blog about the process we go through at the end of a year reflecting on what has passed… and how we can set ourselves up in 2011 to check off more of those goals that typically we are able to!

Thanks Danae for posting!

It seems right about this time, just a short month or so after Jan 1, the “Happy New Year” greetings fade out and we are now fully into 2011.

One key sign of a New Year is the number of gym memberships that spike like mad in January. Some facilities see up to 5 times their regular membership numbers. By mid-February things are back to ‘normal’ with no more line-ups for the treadmills, elliptical trainers and other calorie burning, muscle building equipment.

On one of the local news channels in the first week January, a journalist interviewed a few folks on the street asking about their New Year’s resolutions. The responses were interesting in that they sounded pretty familiar from past years:

“I have the same ones every year: I want to lose weight, get more exercise and be a better person……but it never happens” or “I want to take better care of myself”.

It seems that many people feel they are keen at the beginning of the year, and then after a few weeks, the hope and promise of the new year fades and with it some of our aspirations for change. Of course, new year aspirations and resolutions go beyond self-improvement but this area is a really common one. And it makes sense, as most of the changes that we want for ourselves and lives, starts within each of us.

So what does a new year mean to you, if anything?

Is it a chance to press restart or refresh on your life overall?

Is it a chance to look back on the year that was and ponder what’s to come in the one ahead?

Is it a time to reflect on the opportunities missed or taken?

Is it a time to appreciate and be grateful for all that was experienced?

Is it all these things or perhaps something else?

Maybe it’s a chance to take down the old calendar and put up a brand new shiny one?

That concept brings a metaphor to mind. As you take down the old calendar (realizing that many of us use our computer calendars or personal information devices), you are holding every moment, hour, bit of news, birthday, loss, celebration, big win, insight, deep conversation, delicious meal, brilliant sunset, saddest moment……that happened in an entire year in your hands, all at once. It begs the question: What did you most appreciated in 2010 about yourself, others, the community/world around you? Looking back what were the things that you were most grateful for?

As you put up the new calendar (which you’ve already done I’m sure if you still use those old-fashioned ones made out of paper!) you now hold in your hands the potential for each moment, day, event, activity, feeling, exchange, contribution, loss, gain, insight for 2011.

This poses another question(s):

What is your highest hope for this year?

What is it you most want (for yourself, for others) in 2011?

Sometimes these kinds of questions can feel a little daunting. If so, try this: imagine you and one of your good friends are sitting down for a coffee in February 2012. They ask you how you felt your year was in 2012 now that it’s just ended. What do you want to be telling them? Be specific and consider each facet of your life: career, family, key insights & learnings, relationships, health/fitness, well-being (emotional, physical & spiritual), community, finances etc.

Over the holiday break I carved out some time to answer these and few other rather deep and reflective questions. It was a great exercise and one that I hadn’t given much time to over the last few years for some reason. As a leadership coach, I work with people to help them clarify this at the beginning of a year. Yet I hadn’t done this exercise myself for awhile. So this year I carved out the time, turned all those electronic gadgets off and went to a favorite place that makes me feel inspired (a favorite coffee shop and a spot on the beach). Here are a few other questions that were part of the reflection and intention process:

1) For 2010 what did you create in your life (list all the things you think of)? For each of these items ask: Were these aligned with my values (see next question below for more on values)? If so, how? If not, why? What revealing insights came up for me as I look back on the year that was?

2) What are your values? How were they lived in the last year and how do you want to bring them more to life this year? If you haven’t articulated your values or checked them in awhile you can do this by picking 3-5 personal values (there are lists you can find online that might help give you some ideas if they aren’t coming to you naturally), define what each one really means to you, describe how this value shows up in your regular actions, behavior and life overall. Finally for each value, rate the degree to which you feel this value is truly ‘alive’ in your life today, on a scale from 1 (not at all) through 10 (couldn’t be more alive). Build your values into your vision for 2011 by describing how you want to bring them more to life in both small ways (for example: every week I’m going to review my values) and bigger ways (for example: this year I’m going to get involved in a community group as ‘community involvement’ is a personal value but I never seem to have time for it).

3) When you imagine your ideal life at the end of 2011, what is it different from your life today?

4) Given all the above reflection, clarification and insight, what actions or plan emerges for you this year? How can you set this up so it stays alive throughout the year? Think about small successes and regular ways to check-in on your progress.

5) What support and/or resources to you need to create the vision you want for 2011? And how will you set that up?

By pulling this together in a way the resonates for you like: writing, pictures, vision-boards, mind-maps, poetry, music, goal setting, action plans etc, will really help this stay top of mind and continue to inspire you well past the beginning of the year and carry you through to that conversation with a good friend in January 2012 when you share all that you created in the year just passed……

Danae Johnson, CEC  CHRP has been a friend and colleague for well over a decade to Christine McLeod CHRP of Impact People Practices. Danae is an executive coach and  runs a successful Consulting and coaching practice called Thinking Partners. You can find out more about Danae, her services and connect with her at http://var/www/vhosts/