Sometimes you have to end up somewhere cold to warm up to a new beginning.
After a week that involved 7 flights, three different countries, and nightly snow baths, I finally made it back home only to find snow here in North Carolina too! (And no, I don’t think I will keep the streak going here – pun intended.)
I spent last week in one of my favorite countries of the world: Finland. For the last 10 years I have been visiting the “land of a thousand lakes,” and excluding the United States, I have spent more time there than in any other country. As a result, I have grown affectionate about both the people and the culture.
For the last 5 years, it has become a tradition for me to perform the Training For Warriors Certification and then finish my trip by flying up to the most northern area of Finland: Lapland. Because this trip always happens in the first week of December, I am always in Finland (known as Suomi to them) during Finland’s Independence Day, known there as itsenäisyyspäivä (try to say that one three times fast!) which is held every December 6th. Last year I was there to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence and this year I returned for the big 101st celebration.
Every year starts with Day 1.
To celebrate Independence Day, the Finns do it a little different than here in the US. Instead of fireworks, board shorts and barbecues, the Finns get dressed up and have parties in the evening all over the country. In particular, a big invitation-only gala is televised from the Presidential Palace on the TV too. While we watched the President’s ball (known as Linnanjuhlat) with a group of my favorite Finns, I questioned them about what they were celebrating. The common answer was, “the last 100 years.” This gave me an idea I would need for a big presentation the next day.
On the day after itsenäisyyspäivä (ok, just try to say it once!), I was invited to speak at an event aimed at changing the mindset of the Finns. If you have been coming to Finland as long as I have, you would know this is not the easiest task.
Today can be the first day of the rest of your life.
In order to create change in the attendees minds, I needed a powerful idea. An idea that could challenge the past and spark a new beginning. My message? Instead of celebrating the last 100 years of Finland, why not celebrate the next 100 years? My theme was, “this is Year 1, not Year 101.” I adapted this concept from the slogan I have heard used at Amazon: Day 1. Amazon wanted the message to their employees to treat each day working for the company like it was always the first day of a startup. By embracing this idea, Amazon employees would not get complacent and or set into ways that might not be productive for innovation for the future.
You can’t change what is in the past, but you can do something about your future.
Using the same concept, I challenged the attendees to think it was Day 1 of Year 1 of the next 100 years in Finland. I challenged them to accept the responsibility to create a new Finnish mindset that would echo into the next 100 years instead of accepting the mindsets passed down from the last 100. My thesis was in order to do that, they would need to spend the last few weeks of 2018 thinking about their plan for the future.
If today is Day 1, how would you plan for the next year?
At this time of year, rather than focusing on this past year’s end, why not design a new beginning? As 2018 is coming to a close, do take some time to reflect on what has happened, but also be sure to invest more time focusing on what you are going to do moving forward into 2019. Now is the perfect time to set up your plan for Year 1 of your life.
Why should you plan? A plan helps to reduce randomness or chance from your life. Planning your days, months and year keeps you focused on where you want to go. A plan helps you to prioritize your time and tasks on what you need to do. Having a plan gives you a daily reminder of your mission and purpose.
To make your plan, I have some advice from a few interesting experiences I had in Finland:
5 Steps For Forming Your 2019 Plan
1. Recognize (Tunnista): Decide what it is you want to achieve.
This step is often the most difficult. Although you may say you want more money, a better job, or improved relationships, until you make them clear and specific, they will probably stay “wishes and dreams” for yet another year. I didn’t just say I wanted to visit Finland again someday. I chose the dates, places and exact impact I wanted to achieve.
Action Item: Instead of just thinking about what you want in 2019, write up your goals in a letter to yourself. Think of it like a business plan for your life. To do this, imagine the future what you want and who you want to be. Spend time really focusing on the reasons for this to be sure they are true and make them real on paper.
2. Research (Tutki): Figure out the prep and then prep for the plan.
Once you know exactly what you want, this step is about figuring out how to make it happen. Since my plan would be going to the Arctic Circle, I researched what I would need in terms of travel, accommodations and most importantly, clothes. Because of this research, I was prepared. Yes, it was freezing cold, but I had the right gear. Just like the Finnish saying, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes,” there also is no bad plan, just bad preparation.
Action Item: Once you have discovered what you want, read and talk to as many people “in the know” as you can about the topic and how to achieve it. Once you know what you want and how to get there, the plan begins to form itself.
3. Resolve (Tee päätös): Set milestones to keep you on track.
After deciding on your goals and learning how to make them happen, break those goals down into smaller goals to see progress and stay motivated. On my trip to Finland, there were a number of big goals I wanted to achieve, but in order to do that, there were a number of smaller things that had to happen. But taking those one at a time, I was able to pull off another successful trip that went “right to plan.”
Action Item: Break down your larger goals in to smaller ones. Work backward from when you need to achieve the major goal all the way until today. Make sure you have specific dates and times that these smaller goals need to be achieved. Then you should have a “blueprint” built to make 2019 your best year yet.
4. Reach (Tavoittele): Start taking action and don’t be afraid to explore new territories.
Step 4 is where the rubber meets the road. Up until this point in your planning process, it is all just talk. Once you have the blueprint in place, the only way you can get what you want is by taking consistent action. To have what you have never had before, you will have to push yourself beyond what you have done before. Among my goals for Finland were to try new foods and a snow bath. Because it was planned, I took action and had a delicious moose dinner followed by one of the coldest experiences of my life.
Action Item: Decide what you need to do today in order to move closer to the next milestone. Write down the actions you need to take that you are currently not taking and then start checking the boxes.
5. Restart (Tarkasta): Cut the dead weight and start from the bottom.
Your plan is not always going to exactly to plan. Sometimes you will have to Revisit, Review and Refocus. A great example of this involved a new driving experience for me in Lapland. One part of the plan was to visit a famous ski lodge at the top of a mountain. Because it was dark (there are only a few hours of sunlight per day) and the steep road was completely iced over, we drove cautiously and slow. Because of this, halfway up, the wheels just spun and we couldn’t ascend any further. I thought we wouldn’t make it, but the Finns instinctively knew what to do: remove some weight, go to the bottom and get more momentum. My companions and I jumped out, the driver took the car back to the bottom and got way more speed on the second try and then easily made it to the top. Although we had to walk the final mile in the cold, we all enjoyed the summit.
Action Item: If things stall, decide if you need to restart. Find the things that are weighing you down, remove them and begin again without hesitation. It is ok to occasionally change the milestone or date and start again. Just stick to the plan.
After another great adventure of treasured memories in Finland, there was one thought that brought me down: A year goes by much faster than you think! Whether you have a plan or not, time waits for no one. As you roll forward into 2019, make sure you follow the steps above and have your plan in place so when the next 365 days have ripped by, they are your best yet.
Failing to plan really is planning to fail.
Yours in Strength,