Every year, I press pause for the last few weeks in December to create space for reflection and to connect with the people who are important to me, always encouraging you as my readers to do so, too. In any other year, I would ask you these two questions to open a space for that reflection: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your year? How do you plan to make next year better?”
While both of those questions remain relevant, and I’ve linked to my Turning the Page exercise so many of you have come to look forward to, it might seem easier to just rush past the end of this year, happy to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. I’d be right there with you … except that I’ve been thinking about the phrase “hindsight is 20/20” which has made it feel even more important to take time to put this year into perspective.
Even though my specialty is helping business owners and their advisors to stay steady in the face of uncertainty as they navigate the sale of the business, we’ve all had to adapt in the face of more uncertainty than any of us thought we could manage this time last year. Where have you developed resilience you didn’t know you had?
Every time I felt resistance to the circumstances that seemed to compel me to bend again and again this year, I asked myself this one new question: “What would I be doing about this if I had chosen it?”
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not pretending I like most of what I was asking this question about. Nor was I just putting a Pollyanna spin on the difficulties 2020 brought for any of us. And I’m clear that some of us faced MUCH greater challenges than others.
But that question “What if I had chosen this?” allowed me to reframe the circumstances I was facing and access the creative parts of my brain so I could cope and, in some instances, even find a way to thrive.
When 2020 began, I was booked as the keynote speaker for dozens of conferences to talk about the psychology of what makes it hard for business owners to let go when it’s time to sell and how advisors can help them navigate those emotional obstacles. 18 of those events were scheduled between March 1st and June 30th – including one in Paris that I was especially looking forward to headlining. Can you guess how those turned out? Or how I felt as one after another of those events and conferences canceled or postponed to 2021 and beyond or converted to Zoom events? Sure you can, because you have your own version of this experience. Things you were looking forward to that were postponed or canceled, people you missed spending time with or, worse yet, lost.
While I would have liked to just stay in bed, pull the covers over my head and wait for it to all “go back to normal” (and, to be honest, I did a little of that, too!) I turned again and again to my question “What if I had chosen … to ONLY speak from my home office for the foreseeable future and NOT travel to conferences or events with clients who had booked me to speak in person?”
It allowed me to shift my demeanor about the experience, to adapt and, as many of you witnessed in event after event that I spoke at by virtual delivery this year, I found a way to bring my inner Miss Nancy into the room, helping people to feel seen and understood. (If you missed that Romper Room reference, I’ve just shown my age! Forgive me.)
Asking “What if I had chosen this?” kept cracking the door open just beyond my resistance to give me ways to examine why I do what I do on stage in the way I do it, to find creative ways to engage my audiences without relying on the facial and visual cues I had become accustomed to as a speaker from stage. It helped me to hone my craft as a professional speaker, to create new offerings like my virtual Fireside Chat that advisors used this year to engage their clients and prospects in building trusting relationships as they prepared to sell their businesses.
I got reacquainted with my kitchen, rediscovered the joys of cooking at home and admitted that those 15 pounds I always wondered why I couldn’t drop directly correlated to the quantity of red wine and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I consumed (no, not together!) in an effort to stave off boredom while waiting in airport lounges for long-delayed flights.
Life slowed down and that was a good thing for me. I had been writing in my journal for years about needing to dial back some of my travel and I used part of this time at home to get a head start on my next book and to create some really rich content for several new programs including a Seminar Series to help Advisors connect with their business owner clients and prospects in ways that will make it easier for deals to close. Watch for these in the New Year.
So, back to that phrase “Hindsight is 20/20.” How can we Turn the Page on 2020 so we’re not carrying so much baggage with us?
I’m a stickler for completion. Completing tasks, conversations, relationships. Most of us are not taught how to make endings, to finish old business, so it doesn’t follow us into the New Year. We close the books on our businesses, and do year-end reviews with staff, but somehow doing the same work to actively turn the page in our lives and our careers evades us. I have a solution.
For many years, I’ve been following a simple process to gain perspective on the year as it ends and to intentionally choose what I want to pursue in the year ahead. Even more effective than New Year Resolutions (which are soon to be broken anyway and usually made without much reflection or planning), I look for patterns, beliefs and circumstances so I can consciously opt into which I carry forward and which I leave behind as I step into a brand new year.
You know my mantra is Chase What Matters, Do What Counts and this periodic review is the way I hold myself accountable to continuously enhance my life and to winnow out that which doesn’t belong anymore.
It allows me to revisit the pleasures from the year which has passed and begin to make sense of the disappointments and challenges. Even more, it points the way to issues that I need to seek some help on for the year ahead so I can live the life I intend. This simple act of closure and completion has been a key part of refining how I run my business and how I lead my life. It’s a tool I come back to throughout the year, as a blueprint for decision making so I continue to align my choices with what matters.
I have a handy two page list of reflective questions that guides me through a gentle process to close the year with a sense of ease and to outline proactive action steps for the year ahead. It’s been invaluable to me. You can find my version here and adapt it for your own use. I’d love to hear what you learn from your own review – drop me a note or let’s do a Zoom.
I’m looking forward to spending time with you in the New Year and to being of service as you Chase What Matters to you.