I am fortunate to live in a place that experiences all four seasons, and with each transition, there is a symbolism that hits home.
One of my favorite traditions each year is the Changing of the Calendar*. It’s kind of a big deal.
It is a reflection and celebration of the past – goals achieved, events attended, places travelled, people encountered. In Atlanta, the first days of autumn are still bright and sunny, the humidity fades a bit, the days are still long enough to enjoy time outside, and the remnants of summer are becoming memories.
It is an opportunity to be in the present – to think about what I am working on today, who is in my life, and how I am spending my time. Outside, we get a brilliant burst of color as the leaves are reminding us to look up before it’s too late.
And the future… I consider how I will use the remaining weeks of the current year, what tasks and projects will I carry forward, what I can leave behind, how I can make space, and what will be added for the coming year. The leaves fall, the trees are bare, seeds are planted.
The Changing of the Calendar never fails to bring about a multitude of thoughts and feelings. I’m proud of my achievements and grateful to those that supported me along the way. I question and sometimes feel disappointment over what fell short. I acknowledge the unplanned. It’s a time to consciously let go and begin to move forward.
This year, I’m officially moving into my second calendar with Esprit de Merci – hard to believe!
As an entrepreneur I wear a lot of hats, including HR. The Changing of the Calendar served as my personal annual review. How could I evaluate my own performance and what feedback could I give myself? I didn’t go into this without goals. A year ago, I crafted a vision and even went so far as writing out a “One Year from Now” description of my life.
Fade to 2017…
Esprit de Merci was effectively a new page with no limits or constraints. This was exciting and also intimidating. So, I did some research.
After many trips to the bookstore, podcasts, You Tube videos, conferences and conversations I learned that there are a LOT of experts and thought leaders telling us how to start our own business, be happy and live the life of our dreams. I found myself thinking that the authors and speakers were making it look awfully easy.
There were so many do’s and don’ts. Scale, monetize, find your niche – think big!! Have a social media presence, speak with groups, make videos, write a book.
I began to feel anxious and pressed to move quickly. This was information overload – too many inputs and I needed a way to sort out what was best for me. Thinking big is not necessarily a bad thing, and as for what success means, one size does not fit all.
To use an architectural metaphor, I needed a blueprint. It’s easy to get excited about wall color, fixtures, and cool sound systems, but with no walls up, I’d be caught with a bunch of stuff and no roof over my head.
Strong buildings need a solid foundation. That was my starting point.
I knew I had to start with me. While it sounds simple on the surface, simple doesn’t necessarily equate to easy. Ideas and inspiration are good, but I would be responsible for designing and drawing my own blueprint.
Creating and building my foundation – my Design Principles – was a critical step. The materials come from my perspectives, experiences, beliefs and intentions. This was hard work; looking in the mirror isn’t always easy. I also found the process to be creative one that was incredibly gratifying.
As I am a visual thinker, this was an opportunity to hit the office supply store (twist my arm!). I began with a few pieces foam board, brightly colored Post-It notes and Sharpie pens.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I brainstormed, color-coded, arranged, thinned out, re-arranged, observed, and connected.
My Design Principles emerged. They became the framework and foundation upon which I would build my business and live my life. Arguably some of these were a bit aspirational; simply writing them down began to solidify possibility and commitment.
I transferred them to notebook and carry it with me each day.
As leaders, we put a lot of focus on short-term outcomes, and these are important to demonstrate forward progress and create momentum. The emphasis is on quantifying what and how much has been accomplished. This is the generally the basis for performance evaluations, reward systems and career advancement.
What if we considered how and why as much as what and how much?
What do you stand for, why is that important and how will you serve yourself and others? What about your organization?
Ask yourself a few more questions. What core values are most important to you, resulting in inner and sometimes outer conflict when compromised? What are your strengths? How will you maintain these and continue to grow and develop? How will you fill the gaps? What other factors impact performance and presence? Which ones can you control and how will you manage your energy when you are not holding the reins?
In other words, how aligned are you for long-term success?
I review my Design Principles at least monthly and often more frequently. As for the One-Year-From-Now vision, I filed it away last fall. I recently dug it out and was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d accomplished nearly everything on my list, and in some cases even more. I don’t think that is a coincidence.
I’ve decided to give myself a favorable review and continue to shape my development plan for the coming year. As we move into the final weeks of autumn, the annual Changing of the Calendar is officially complete and I’m excited about what’s to come!
This Journal has been and will continue to be a part of my journey and a personal reminder of leadership lessons and experiences. I’m grateful for this opportunity to reflect and share my journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on life design, as well as some of your favorite fall traditions!
* I use an 18-month Gallery Leather calendar / planner with notes pages for to-do lists and projects, and maps of the world (comes in lots of cool colors!) This gives an overlap of 6 months between planners so there is plenty of time to complete the task. I began using this process over a decade ago, and generally make the official changeover in October or November.