It is around this time of the year that I get pretty thoughtful about what I achieved of my New Year’s resolutions and what I will want to achieve in the year ahead. It is not something that I fear doing, thankfully. (Here’s the moment where I want to stop to thank my mother for instilling a fairly healthy ego. Thanks, Mom!) Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for what I can achieve is almost always far more optimistic on January’s scratch pad than it ever is in the months that follow. Perhaps one can distill that into a mathematical equation:
Reality = New Year’s resolutions — (January-December actual accomplishments)
Cheekiness aside, I do not see this as a bad thing. Planning ahead for work and for pleasure is our sketch of the big-picture priorities that make us feel as if we are taking control of our future. It is the difference between driving our lives and merely being a passenger carried along the roads by someone (or someones) else.
Our desire for that — regardless of how much we do or do not stay in the driver’s seat (and disregarding the question of whether being in the driver’s seat is always the right position to be in — is, in my opinion, a positive trait to hold on to.
Mind you, I am not the type of person to claim that you can be completely in control. I’m going to guess here that you’re not a psychic, so you are no more capable of foreseeing the future or moving along your carefully constructed path as the Joe who stumbles along. I am, however, suggesting that you should take the time to plan for your 2014 because of the joy in reaching for your dreams at all.
Think of it as if you would think of planning for a vacation.
For most of us, vacation planning starts with selecting a destination. And, from the things that are at the destination, we’ll also select some major attractions or activities that we want to take part in when we’re there. Most of us are not going to take a two-week vacation and break it down into what we must achieve every single second of every single day. (That would be what many label madness — or a mental disorder for which there is no apparent therapy and, hey, that’s okay too.)
Nevertheless, because we have a general plan, we’ll both celebrate those things we managed to see from the list, shrug at those things that we didn’t, and celebrate those surprises that we had not at all anticipated because, far from our destination and only guessing at what will be there, we left room for what could come.
Colleagues, yes, we’ll want to (and must) approach our work plans with a bit more rigor. We’ll tie it to personnel needs. We’ll add on budgets. We’ll review the reports of the last year and suss out from the good, the bad, and the ugly what we should do next.
I want you to nevertheless approach this (and your personal planning) with a fresh mind and an open heart. One that sees this year as almost behind you (so stop beating yourself up about it) and with so much breath-taking potential ahead (so view it with appropriate wonder). Like in your vacation dreams, you should feel free to scale your metaphorical Eiffel Towers, your Grand Canyons, and your Kilimanjaros. Wander among your Angkor Wats, your Easter Islands, your Saharas. Swim your Horseshoe Bays, your Playa del Nortes, and your Dead Seas.
And, nevertheless, with all the big plans and all the resolve aside, leave room for the surprises.