With the end of 2020 in sight, it is time to review the goals I set for the year. Some of these goals, which feel were set so very long ago, have proven hard to accomplish. That’s okay given the many obstacles and challenges this year has thrown at the world.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic I started to shift my perspective on certain goals; the pandemic only reinforced and/or challenged those adjustments to perspective. In considering my larger and longer-term goals as beacons, vice rigid end-states, I found flexibility in my journey and path. It provided me the ability to navigate and enjoy the myriad opportunities and experiences that have presented themselves as I’ve lived my story.
By showing up and saying yes and by working within my community, in being willing to try so many new things this year and by being able to distinguish between that which I can control and that which I cannot has seen doors open, and opportunities present themselves that I did not even know existed.
COVID: A Positive Spin
Recognizing the impact and severity of COVID, for me it was not a bad experience. In fact, the slow down and reality check have been refreshing and wonderful. That slower pace during shutdowns was enlightening even. As a result of COVID, I had to rethink my plans and goals early in the pandemic. I went back to the planning and life map that I worked through in deciding to leave the military.
In recognizing that my plan to open a coffeehouse may not be the right decision now, or maybe ever, I looked to those other lines of learning, passion and goals that I had sketched out. I started exploring these during COVID and stumbled into new activities, like rock climbing. Now I climb with both my daughters several times a week. I get to watch them do amazing things. I seem them engaged in life and in problem solving, I watch them fail and persevere and overcome and succeed. This continues to be my greatest takeaway from this life.
I also found great purpose, and was able to focus fully on fundraising during the pandemic. With that effort, and so much love and support, I blew past what I thought was a lofty and ambitious goal and raised over $12,000 for Movember through the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.
My band, Class of 91, has stayed active and creative and have really gelled and matured as a band. With no avenue to play live or maintain traditional band trajectories, we’ve since played in caves, made music videos, released an album and gotten better.
More recently, I have been immersing myself in near freezing water almost daily as I explore the Wim Hof Method with another group of amazing people.
These are just some of the things the pandemic has given to me. The most important though, I think, was the need to go back to my life planning. I spent two years working that plan in preparing to retire. I am so happy I went through that process. It lays out my definition for success in life, my long-term goals (20-years and beyond), my 5-year goals, my 1-year, monthly, weekly, and perhaps most important, my daily goals.
Winning The Day
All above is a long introduction to the point of this post – winning the day.
Having explored definitions and goals, and having written them down and planned them out has made navigating ‘obstacles,’ such as this pandemic, relatively easy for me. To some it may seem that I am indecisive, or scattered, that I change my mind or am not committed to my goals. This simply is not the case. I am just very clear on what I can control and what I cannot. I am also completely open to reconsidering goals and objectives as new experiences, influences and people introduce novel and fresh ideas, perspectives and paths to me.
My coffeehouse remains a goal, but now more a beacon as I’ve related previously. It’s out there, but by moving towards it, starting with leaving the military to pursue it, my life has become so rich and wonderful in ways I never could have imagined. So, I will continue to march towards it and stay open to all the experiences along the way.
My 5-year objectives are harder to define now as I have no clear sense of the impacts of this pandemic. Unknown are its impact on our economy, my children’s and my mental health, and their post-secondary schooling options. So too, the impact on small businesses and our personal taxes. The same is true, perhaps truer, of my 1-year goals.
I cannot control these factors, and so I will let goals become beacons; goals which can be redefined and re-imagined. I will now then focus my efforts on the shorter goals that I can better understand, control and effect. My one-month goals for example, which I set at the end of each month. Every Sunday I sit and plan out my week. I update my personal and the family calendars and set my intention for the week by finding and writing down a quote that sets the tone for my week. I write out my week’s Big Rocks, and coordinate and encourage my kids to plan their activities with me so we can get out climbing, and include as many of our bubble as is safe and practical.
However, even these weekly plans can be hard to realize. School work and weather have a say. Stress and frustration creep in and have impacts. There is, however, one planning horizon and set of objectives that is attainable in most cases – the daily ones. With a little effort we can all ‘win the day.’
How To Win The Day
Here’s what I mean and how I do it.
Winning the day means making sure your Big Rocks are clear and set. It means ensuring they are ambitious, but attainable. I try to broadly align them to my larger and longer-term goals, but not so rigid that they don’t allow for exploration, novelty and fun. It means they include the things that have to get done such as work and appointments, dinners and cleaning. Yet, these need to fit around the Big Rocks and goals I have set.
Every best day starts the night before. It starts with knowing and laying out the objectives for the following day. It means getting a good night’s sleep, which in turn means not drinking too much or snacking late or getting lost in television. Instead, I follow these guidelines:
- Plan and write down the objectives for the next day
- Prepare as much as possible before bed (if climbing, get the gear ready; if working, pack and lay it out ready to go)
- Limit alcohol
- Stop eating at 7pm
- Drink water
- In bed to read at 9pm, with all devices shut down
Upon waking, I relax into a coffee and water. I weigh myself and record it. I’ll read the news headlines and check any texts, etc but will not go down the rabbit hole of social media and web-surfing.
Once I am ‘awake’ I will stretch and do my daily plank and body-weight exercises. At this point, everyday is different but since I’ve laid it out I know what I am doing that day.
Winning At Winning The Day
Winning the day then becomes a matter of prioritization, conviction and commitment. However, staying open to opportunity is important. For example, if bumping into an old friend turns into an offer for afternoon drinks at the cost of a planned run, well that is a decision point. There is no right or wrong, but control of that decision is mine and I will never be so rigid as to turn down a serendipitous moment of connection. Big Rocks are the priority I hold onto the firmest, but not so firmly that I will let opportunity pass me by.
Winning the day means some days I am not marching steadfastly towards my goals, it means I am remaining flexible to opportunity – at its essence, it means living deliberately and never wasting time on things that have no value.
Will I watch television, for example? Yes, but when I do it is a conscious decision to disengage, or, because I don’t watch much, it remains a novel experience when I do.
Will I take a nap? Yes, because it refreshes and helps me to refocus when I do wake; but again, a conscious decision.
When we focus rigidly on those long-term objectives, or when we find we become paralyzed not knowing what the next step is, I find it best to acknowledge the beacons that are our goals, but focus only on the objectives that exist within the day. Worst case, I get it wrong; and then I reset at the end of the day and try again tomorrow.
Win your day.