Ok friends, here we are. It’s the first week of December. We have one month left of 2021. It’s crazy to me that we are already at this point in the year. It’s during this time when people in business constantly talk about “finishing strong.” That phrase is very loaded for me. Over my years as a field executive in the financial services industry, I have put together plenty of “finish strong” plans. So – because words matter to me, I’m not going to talk about finishing strong. I’m going to talk about Finishing Well. To me, Finishing Well feels like finishing the year with excellence, reaching the goals that you sought out to reach, but never at the expense of your health, wellness or values. And by the way, this blog is not just for the “business people.” This blog is for the people that have goals. Goals that are important to you. Goals that are aligned with your values. You might have goals within the team that you lead at work or within your household. You might have personal goals within your physical, spiritual, mental, or financial health.
As a leader that operated with our fiscal year end of December 31st, the last few months of the year were incredibly fast paced and frankly stressful. I found that some years I felt very planful about how to Finish Well, and some years I did not finish well, I felt exhausted and behind the eight ball, crawling over the finish line. Ironically, some of those years where I crawled over the finish line, I reached my goals. It was just at the expense of myself. I don’t want that for you. I want you to Finish 2021 Well. Over the next four weeks, I’d like to share with you what it means for me to Finish Well. In my mind, Finishing Well has five components.
- Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT*** if you must.
- Your plan to Reflect on what went well. What didn’t go as well?
- Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them.
- Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
- Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.
Let’s talk about the finish line. You’ve got a goal, and you need to reach it before the end of the year. For the sake of example, I’m going to use one of my own health goals for this conversation. Health is one of my top five values and one of my health goals in 2021 was to have 250 workouts implemented between January 1st and December 31st. In general, I needed to work out five days a week to reach this goal.
Ok, let’s pause for a second. The only way you can finish well is if you have a S.M.A.R.T. goal to begin with. It should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. If you’re reading this and you are realizing that although you had some goals that you set at the beginning of the year, you no longer even remember what they were. That’s ok. It happens. But that doesn’t mean that you should take off December and just wait until January to reset new goals. Absolutely not! Dust off the old ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and get to work. It’s a perfect time to break down that annual goal into a monthly goal and win the December race. Cross the finish line. Sprint if you must. You may not reach the goal you set earlier in the year, but you can still reach a smaller December goal and feel great about it.
This goes for those of you thinking of your work goals as well. Perhaps you’re not on track to reach your goal. Do not stop running. Yes, you lost some momentum. Maybe you’d even need a modern-day miracle to get you to the goal. December is as good a month as any to reignite the systems and processes that you would need to reach the goal. Don’t take December off. Don’t lick your wounds. Finish Well. Figure out what it would take to implement in December to be on track for the goal. Why? You need to believe that you are someone that reaches their goals. You are a leader that’s going to figure out a way to get back on track, because those goals matter to you. Achieving them will get you closer to your ideal self. If you rock December, come January 1st, you will have some serious momentum behind you. Trust me. And if you must, sprint through the finish line***. But never at the expense of your health or wellness. If you cross that finish line and you’re completely unhealthy and have nothing left, did you really Finish Well? I’ve ran a few races where I had enough gas in the tank to sprint over the finish line. I’ve also watched racers crank up their speed in the final leg of the race due to pure adrenaline, beyond what they trained for, and really hurt themselves in the process. It puts them back weeks and sometimes months before they can get back to their goals. I’ve seen this happen in business as well. Unfortunately, I’ve done this to myself. This is a direct route to burnout.
Maybe you are crushing your goals for 2021. Maybe you already reached your 2021 goals. Congratulations, that is awesome. I guess it’s time to take the rest of the year off. No, please don’t do that. An object in motion stays in motion. If you want to maintain the momentum and results that you created in 2021 into next year, stay active in the systems you created in pursuit of those results. Finish Well. I remember working with a Financial Advisor that would take most of December off when she would hit her goals. While it was a beautiful thing to do in theory, she didn’t have the infrastructure and leadership culture in place to make sure the rest of the business didn’t slow down because of her being gone. Things dramatically slowed down. It’s possible to take significant time off when you reach a goal, just make sure your infrastructure and culture support it. I also want to challenge you in another area. If your business or your goals are anything like my old business goals, things that you expect to happen can change. Business can get reversed. Hires don’t happen, people fall out of the process. Know, know, know the goal is met before you take your foot off the gas. As the leader of the goal and the people, when they see you lead the team to success, they start to identify as someone that reaches their goals. Claiming that identity is half the freaking battle.
Maybe you’re like me and you’re on track to reach your goal. I haven’t reached my 250-workout goal yet but I’m on track. At the end of November, I had done 230 workouts, but I need to have 20 workouts in December to Finish Well to reach my goal. Given the 4.5 weeks in December, I could coast a little bit only doing a little over 4 workouts each week. But why would I do that? If the goal is in place to get me closer to being my ideal self, and to be ideal, I need to prioritize my health making sure I’m doing 5 workouts a week, it only hurts me to coast. Why would I slow down? Stay in alignment with the systems that have caused you to be successful up until this point.
For me, one of the most important things about reaching goals is believing that you are the type of person that reaches their goals. There was a time that I would set such high goals for myself, then get to the end of the measurement period and feel defeated and frankly like a loser. If you do that too many times in a row, you may fall into the trap of believing you’re NOT someone that reaches their goals. I used to work with someone that set super high goals for our team. We would even have conversations about the fact that they were so high, that even if we didn’t exactly reach those goals, we would be farther along than if we had just set smaller more achievable goals. We knew we were still having good performance, but we were indirectly saying to the people we led that it was ok to not reach our goals. Learn from my mistake, don’t do that. I now set achievable goals that I can feel great about my ability to achieve. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be challenging. I absolutely want to be a good steward of my resources and abilities and set challenging goals, but they should always be achievable. Once I made that change, I realized that I was creating a new neuropathway for myself. I set SMART goals and I achieved them. I was learning that I was someone that achieved the goals I set out to achieve. While I’m not perfect, I desperately want to follow through on the commitments I make to myself. Not only will I achieve the goal which gets me closer to my ideal self, I reinforce the neuropathway that says, ‘I’m someone that achieves goals.” When you start realizing that you are someone that achieves goals, you can start to think bigger about the goals you set.
If you’ve reached your goals, don’t take your foot off the gas. If you haven’t reached your goals, don’t take your foot off the gas. If you’re on track, don’t take your foot off the gas. December is a great time to have your best month ever. December is a great time to remind yourself that you are someone that achieves goals. Cross the finish line. If you must, sprint***! But never at the expense of your health or wellness.
My coach Ray Kelly used to always share ideas with me, he’d call them “safety tips.” Here are a few safety tips for you.
- Early this month, revisit the goal with your team. What needs to happen in December to finish well?
- Check in with each member of the team to understand from their perspective how their work contributes to the goal. Redirect if necessary.
- Check in with each member of the team to understand from their perspective how the work they’ll do in December aligns with the Mission, Vision and Values of the company. For an employee, a goal that isn’t tied to a vision is just doing busy work. My mentor Doug Lennick always says “Give them a mission and vision worthy of their best efforts.”
- In a few weeks, we’ll discuss kicking off the new year with clarity of goals, grounded in Mission, Vision and Values. If you lead a team, make sure that you have time on the calendar scheduled with your team during the first week of January to review. In addition, if you lead leaders, make sure that they have time with their teams to align on the goals for 2022 and connect them back to the MVV.
No matter where we’re at, let’s have our best month ever. See you next week to talk about Reflection!
I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!