What’s your story for 2017?

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New Year’s is a time for resolutions and goals and all manner of plans. Let me suggest an alternative. Block out the story of what you want to do in 2017. Start by looking backward.

Your 2017 story starts with 2016

Yep. That’s right. You’ll do a better and more realistic job of projecting forward into 2017 if you look backwards first. So, what was 2016 like for you?

There’s no need to get lost in the tiny details. What were the big moments in 2016? How did you get from January 2016 to the end of December? The end of your 2016 story is the start of your 2017 story.

Where are you now?

Describe your current situation in a couple of sentences. What’s good and what’s not? If there’s an elephant in the room, even if the room is only your own mind, don’t keep ignoring it. Name it and claim it.

Where do you want to be at the end of 2017?

At the end of 2017 you should be better in one or two key ways. What are they? This is a first pass, you’ll revisit it later.

How will you get there?

This is not the time to write things out in excruciating detail. Instead, identify the three or four major milestones you need to get to the future you want. You’ll work out the details as you go through the year, for right now you should identify the important things that will happen on the way to the future you want.

Take a moment and take stock

Does what you came up with make sense? It’s not unusual to discover that your end state and milestones don’t match up well. Perhaps you need a couple of more milestones or you need to modify them. Or, perhaps, you’ll decide to adjust your idea about how 2017 will end up.

Take the time you need to adjust your thinking. Don’t be shy about adjusting it several times if you choose. Remember that you’re just concerned with the end state and important milestones.

Think about the people

Do you have the people you need to make 2017 end the way you want? You may need to bring on someone with particular skills or experience. You may need to provide more resources for people who are already part of the team.

What would be fun to try?

You probably thought of things that you want to try during 2017. They’re not your big milestones, but they might make a big difference. Make a list of those “fun to try” things.

This is only the beginning

Using stories to think about your future works. It works because our brains are wired for stories. It works because thinking about what you want to achieve and how you will do it stimulates your thinking so you’re more likely to act to make it happen.

But this is not a forecast or a plan. It’s the first draft of your story of 2017. As you live it out, you’ll fill in the details. You’ll edit to make your expectations and plans fit reality.

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