Beannachtaí do Bhlian Nua : Blessings for a New Year

John O’ Donohue, is one of my favourite Irish authors and in his book Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, he says

“I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighbourhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or a situation becomes illuminated in a completely different way.”

So my beannacht (blessing) from my heart to yours is that this year illuminates you and your path, that it kindles your dreams, ignites your potential and encourages you to step bravely forward to conquer new ground.

I wish that 2014 is your best year yet – a year of happiness, health, peace, love, laughter and courage – a year where you can be the best you can be.

Following on from Part One to 2014:Your Best Year Yet, today I want to share with you some of the processes I use to help create Goals and commit to Action. I hope you enjoyed the steps from Part One and thank you to those of you who emailed me with positive feedback about the Newsletter on Monday. I am glad to be of service to you in some way.

There is so much information about goal setting out there and I know you already know so much about this, so today I want to share with you a few steps that have really worked for me in terms of setting goals and committing to action over the past few years.

Step 1: First things First – What Rocks Are In Your Jar?
I first read the story “rocks and sand” in First Things First, a book by author Stephen Covey. Here is a short version of it, in case you don’t know it. One day, a teacher put a wide-mouthed gallon jar on the table in front of his students. The jar had five huge rocks in it. He asked them if they thought the jar was full. They said yes. He pulled out a bag of gravel and proceeded to pour it into the jar and it filled in the spaces between the rocks. “Is it full now” he asked? “Probably not”, they answered, a bit more cautiously now. “You’re right”, he said and reached for a bucket of sand and started to pour the sand into the jar, until it filled in all the spaces between the gravel and the rocks. “Is it full now, do you think?” he asked his class and when they said “No”, he grabbed a jug of water and poured that into the jar until it was full to the brim. Then he looked at his class and asked “what was the point of this exercise?” One eager student replied “No matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things in!”. “No, that’s not the point,” the teacher replied and explained “If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all”.

I love this story and have been working with it and it’s simplicity myself and with clients now for years. I think this is a powerful illustration about life and our priorities. So, on this symbolic first day of the year, decide what the Rocks in Your Jar are. What are your priority goals this year? Think about it. Limit it to five because otherwise you could be getting into the territory of gravel, sand and water, things that will drain your time and energy away from what you really know you should be focusing on.

On a practical note, I draw my Rocks in the Jar in a really simple way. I learned this visual and technique from an Irish Business Mentor and Coach called Shane Cradock and have found it to be a simple but profound technique. I firstly draw a square on a blank page and then draw five circles inside it. You can draw two squares, if you like, one square/or jar to represent your personal life and another square/or jar for your professional life. I then add the names of each of my priority areas to the circles, e.g. physical exercise, time with family etc. I then prioritise them from 1 to 5 with 1 being the most important and 5 being the least (but all are obviously important as they are my top priorities in my life). I keep these visuals in front of me on my office desk and try to manage my time according to making sure I work on those rocks each week.

Step 2: Theme Your Year
I know we looked at this in Part One, when I asked you to think of a Theme that summed up your 2013. I’m recommending that you do this for this year to come also so as to keep you on track – especially on the days when you just don’t feel like it or you’re overwhelmed.

I had my first ever experience with the power of Themes when I was only 14 years of age. I was in my Junior Certificate Year and my parents had come home from a parent teacher meeting at my school, which had not gone well. I was in the top class at school and was expected to (and capable of) performing well in this first state exam. However, the feedback from the majority of my teachers was as follows, “We are worried about Nadine. She is not applying herself in classes. She is not using her potential. She seems to be heading off the rails and if she continues like this, she will fail or get a poor Junior Cert.”

My parents were not happy with me at all, (naturally enough) but to help me turn it around, my Dad suggested to me that I create a Slogan or a Theme to help me focus on the results and subsequent course that I wanted, on finishing school. At that time, I was into sport and wanted to go to Thomond College (which is now the University of Limerick) to become a P.E. Teacher. On the front of my diary (which I kept daily) I very carefully drew in huge letters “Think Big, Think Thomond”. That Theme helped me get back on track, re-focus myself and my abilities and apply myself academically and in a sporting way too.

This year, in 2014, my Theme is “Focus and Hope”. The intention underpinning this is that I am focussed and stay committed to, first and foremost my own goals on mental, physical, emotional and spiritual performance. It also means that I focus on and pay laser sharp attention to achieving my business goals which I have set in line with my own bigger vision about how I can contribute positively this year. Finally it means that I focus on my goals for my personal life and family in order to contribute there.

I’m still finalising the theme on Hope but essentially it is what the name, Nadine, means and I know that I want that essence to underpin the work that I do this year and the belief that I have in the people I work with and at a wider level for this country of ours as we continue to emerge from the pain of the past few years.

Step 3: Staying Committed
One of the phrases that I repeated to myself hundreds of times last year to help me stay on track with my goals and commitments was “Are you a Feeler or a Doer?” This came from an author in the US called Steve Chandler and I found it really powerful. So on those days or in those moments, when I just didn’t “feel” like doing what I said was going to, I challenged myself and said “well are you just going to feel like not doing it, Nadine, or are you just going to get up and do it”. And most times, I just got up and did it! And it always felt great afterwards that I had done it.

So, that’s it. I know it’s a little longer than my normal Blog and I have other things to say but these are my top three things. I really hope they help you focus and not only start the year positively but also enable you to sustain your best as you move through the year.

Here is to 2014. May it be our best yet