This is my eleventh year of using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words” planning exercise to enable my goals for the year. Each year, I learn as much about myself from the goals I fall short of as from the ones I meet.
Chris’s process is a simple and effective way of activating the mindsets, routines, and behaviours that will enable your desired achievements. Its power is in keeping you focused on the things that lead to your outcomes.
Here are the three steps to follow:
1. Identify how you must think, act and behave to achieve your goals.
2. Select three words that will keep your outcomes top-of-mind and trigger how to think and act.
3. Place these words where you will see them daily (e.g., phone screen, monitor, mirror).
Prioritizing three goals and choosing a word for each works best for me. My three words for 2023 were Room, Reconnect and Begin.
Room signified holding time on my calendar to accommodate changes in my schedule. In March, I was booked for a kidney donor operation for a close friend, and this word reminded me to make room in my calendar for my recovery by reducing my consulting assignments and saying no to other activities. My planning saved me because a week before the date, I caught COVID-19, delaying our surgeries by three weeks. My lighter-than-normal schedule accommodated the change except for facilitating a virtual strategic planning session six days after the operation. Calendar flexibility has become a new habit.
Reconnect supported my goal of checking in with family members, friends, and former colleagues I hadn’t seen in years. I was conscious time was passing, and I hadn’t connected with many people I cared for. “Reconnect” was a powerful reminder to keep relationships alive. I will continue to do so.
Begin was a stimulus to move into new territory, both personally and professionally. The opposite of growth is stagnation, and I want to challenge myself to take on new experiences, build new skills and meet new people. I wanted 2023 to be a year of beginnings, and I intend to be in the right mindset to see and pursue them. This word was the least effective. I took on new clients in new industries and government agencies but was looking for more “newness.” In hindsight, “Begin” was too broad—begin what?
I am motivated to make 2024 another successful year. My goals are more personal than professional, and the three words I have selected to achieve them are Mentor, Refine, and Chef.
Refine is a reminder to fine-tune my routines. Early in my career, I discovered that my learning style is called “abstract conceptualization,” which means I learn by doing and create sequenced steps to achieve my goals. I am a process guy. I aim to refine the processes that keep me healthy, including learning, exercise, diet, and sleep. Experimenting like popular academics Andrew Huberman and David Sinclair will be fun. Let the experiments begin!
Chef is about starting a new hobby: cooking. The last hobbies I took on were running fifteen years ago and painting twenty years earlier.
Get-togethers over the holiday season reminded me of my culinary skill gap and desire to fill it. I realize chef is a grand term, but I want to push myself. The ability to make ten amazing meals feels like a good stretch goal. There may be some photos to share next year, and I know I will need to prioritize this personal goal or fail because there are no immediate consequences for ignoring it. Although this goal might sound easy, it is the one I am least confident in achieving. I will turn my trepidation into action.
Over the years, friends and associates have adopted the My Three Words approach after reading these annual blog posts. If it’s something you would like to try, what three words will guide you to success in 2024? I would be happy to mentor you through the process.
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