Getting ahead means looking back on 2003

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002

We've come to the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003. New Year's Day is a day of reflection for me -- time to look back at how the past year has gone and what my aspirations are for the next 364 days of my life.

A few days ago I received a forwarded e-mail message from Paul Axtell, a nationally known management and communications trainer. In this message he talks about beginning with the end in mind. I would like to apply this thought as it relates to 2003.

"Most of us plan from where we are, looking forward," Axtell said. "That's normal, and sometimes it would be more useful to plan from the future back to today. You probably do this when you solve children's mazes. It's always faster and you make fewer wrong moves if you go to the center and then work your way backward to the beginning."

I plan to use this approach when thinking about how my 2003 might be.

According to Axtell, I will need to "design backward from the desired outcome to create the necessary conditions."

Here's how it would work:

1. Imagine that it is Jan. 1, 2004, and I am on the telephone call with a friend or family member discussing how it was just the best year ever. Axtell recommends identifying 10 things that made it so special.

2. Then I need to ask myself: What conditions would almost guarantee the outcomes in 2003 if the conditions were in place?

3. Then ask: What is needed to make sure those conditions are in place?

"That should leave you pretty close to what you can to do today to make sure (2004) turns out to be special," Axtell said.

With these recommendations in mind, my natural tendency is to set some goals to make sure I create the conditions that aim toward my targeted outcomes in 2003.

One of my favorite books about goal setting is, "If it ain't broke ... BREAK IT!" by Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler. In this book, the reader is challenged to think about inner aspirations, or dreams.

According to the authors, the dream supplies the passion, imagination and the meaning and intrinsic value. The goal is the strategy and the planned steps needed to reach that dream.

The need for both dreams and goals are explained by the authors.

"The key today is to have both dreams and goals, passion and 'ration.' The starting point of any journey is a dream, a vision of some far-off possibilities. It must be exciting and moving.

"Once you are enthusiastic about where you are heading, then you set some goals and benchmarks that will help you get there. When short-term goals become an end in themselves, passion fizzles out. Similarly, rational steps work best in the service of passion ... dreams are goals with wings."

"If it ain't broke... BREAK IT!" is written with business in mind, but the ideas shared apply well to personal situations, as well.

I hope on New Year's Day 2004 you can look back and say 2003 was the best year ever.

Here's wishing you a great year!

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.

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