|photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc|
Once again, we enter a new year with resolutions and promises that will likely be broken, watered down or forgotten. Many will wake up on January 1, 2014 and make the same promises all over again. New year's resolutions never interested me, even as a kid. Perhaps because I learned early how shallow and fleeting they are. Think of all of those people who crowd fitness centers in January only to disappear by the middle of February. Instead of making a resolution, make a commitment to live up to and meet up with your ideal self. Here's how.
Last year on a whim, I did a writing exercise that was inspired by the post "Open Letter to a Beginning Entrepreneur." I projected myself 10 years into the future and looked backwards. Then, wrote a letter to myself laying out the achievements of the previous 10 years. I re-read the letter this morning for the first time and was surprised at how well it helped me recalibrate my focus.
Here are some tips for using this method to keep you focused on the big picture instead of getting caught up in the minutia of small things.
The Importance of Distance
Why 10 years? Because you need to put enough distance between your current circumstances and the future in order to suppress doubts. The problem with new years resolutions is we make them in the context of the present, restricting ourselves to what we logically think is realistic. By projecting out far enough into the future, we give ourselves enough time and space to accomplish just about anything. The impossible suddenly becomes achievable.
You can go a little further than 10 years, but not much less. However, if you project out too far, you may give yourself a false sense of having more than enough time to accomplish your goals.
Do Not Over Think
In the words of Bruce Lee (or whoever wrote the script), "Don't think. Feeeel. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. If you concentrate on the finger, you will miss all of that heavenly glory."
Avoid thinking too much during this exercise. Otherwise, the details of the "how" become overwhelming and self doubt sets in. Instead, write what comes to mind and get into the role of your ideal future self. The minute you start "thinking" too much, self-imposed limitations will kill the exercise and your spirit.
Set It and Forget It
This is the most important part. Once you finish, put the document away for several months without reviewing. When the time for review comes, do not make changes or corrections. Remember, when you wrote the letter you were in an ideal state. Making changes later can be counterproductive, especially if you are not in the right state of mind. Change your plans and tactics as needed, but your ultimate destination should remain the same if you do the exercise correctly.
For Your Eyes Only
If you make the mistake of sharing this information with anyone, even your closest confidants, you run the risk of attracting critique and criticism. This can be worse than self-doubt by confirming your biggest fears. This is especially true if the criticism comes from someone close to you. I told my wife about the exercise but not the content of the letter. Perhaps we will read it together 10 years from now.
Go for Clarity, Not Stuff
Material wealth is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Do as you will with your own letter, but I advise you to make this exercise about your state of mind and personal contributions, not the shiny "things" you want. There is no harm in mentioning wealth, but keep within the context of providing benefit. Remember, the entrepreneurial mindset is about solving problems and bringing value to others.
So, instead of making a resolution this year or any other, make a commitment to meet up with the person who wrote the letter. Then, ask yourself during each reading, "How much closer am I to meeting this person?"
Godspeed. See you in The Players Lounge.
An Open Letter to a Beginning Entrepreneur