The New Year is here. Although the amount of emails may have subsided over the last 2 weeks, the workload is not diminished. We’re back in the trenches. So how do you keep your head up as a leader? How do you maintain your focus and keep the main thing the main thing? One tactic to consider is to have a personal theme for the year.
First, here is a simple definition and a few examples:
A personal theme can be a word or a phase – it’s intent is to capture and reinforce an important message or idea.
Here are a few examples from college football – Mark Richt, coach and the Georgia Bulldogs recently employed the theme: “Finish” to challenge his team to finish the drill in practice, finish the block or the route and finish the game. Chip Kelly the Coach of the Oregon Ducks used the theme: “Win the Day.” This was intended to help keep his team focused on today’s game, not next week’s game.
Last year, my theme was, “Today Matters.” I was trying to strengthen my personal daily disciplines. In 2013, my theme is “Fit.” I certainly want to be “fit” in all areas of my life – but as I enter the new year, I want to be fit to lead. I believe this starts with leading myself well. So, I’m going to allocate incremental time and energy to work on my spiritual growth and physical fitness in 2013.
So, why should you consider establishing a theme for the year?
1. Focus – One of the most powerful ideas I’ve ever encountered in my life is focus. I believe it to be true for all human beings and even more so for leaders – where we focus, we see results.
2. Complexity – I’m guessing your world is more complex today than it was a year ago. Having a theme helps me see through the clutter of the day to what I believe to be important.
3. Priority – A theme establishes a priority. By definition, a priority demands attention. A carefully chosen theme, referenced often can serve as a magnet for your attention.
Once you have a theme you want to guide your actions for a given season, you’ll need to find creative ways to keep it top of mind. Last year, I created a mind map and Today Matters was the central image. I carried a copy of that mind map on a laminated card in my pocket all year and it was also the desktop image on my computer. A few years ago, when I was still using a paper calendar, I created a rubber stamp and stamped every page with my theme for the year. Do whatever works for you.
As a leader, many people want and need your time. However, if we lose sight of what’s most important, we may also lose our effectiveness as well. Decide what’s important and do everything you can to live like you believe it. Maybe a personal theme will help.[GLS_Shield]
What’s your theme for 2013?
My theme this year is Generosity. Last year, it was Energy. The year before it was Simplicity. The problem has been that I haven’t simplified! I lose focus on my theme via doing a theme, then Chris Brogan’s 3 words, then Hyatt’s Life Plan, etc.
I picked Generosity this year (and am actually simplifying to focus there) because I’ve spent too much of my last couple years navel-gazing. How can I change this or that? I’ve felt a need to learn to keep my eyes up for opportunities to give. And to discipline myself to give when it makes no rational sense to give.
I hope it has that effect where the simplicity and energy might flow out of the simple call to be more generous.
Thanks, Brett for taking time to respond. I understand your dilemma! I’m trying to figure it out as well. All insights are welcomed. Thanks for joining the conversation. Mark
My theme for 2013: “Time equals influence.” If you want influence in some area of your life, you must devote time to it. If you want to influence someone (your children, a spouse, a co-worker) you must spend time with them. If you want to influence your body, spend time improving it. If you want to improve your relationship with God, spend time with Him. Time = influence.
Thanks, Chris! If you haven’t read, Margin by Richard Swenson, it was both helpful and challenging for me. Thanks for sharing your comment. Mark
Love it! Please stay in touch. I’d like to know what you learn about living this out over the course of the year. Mark
Love this post! I live by Mantras/Themes and encourage them with friends and clients as well.
My theme or mantra this year is “Everything Counts!” This way I’ll know that when I feel like slacking, I’ll step it up to make it my best. OR, before I get down on myself for not doing my absolute best or not getting the best outcome, an effort made is better than no effort as well. AND, for every mistake that is made, it will be considered a learning, not a failure.
Best of success to you in becoming “Fit” this year!
Thanks, Kristina! I appreciate the encouragement. I also agree with you, everything does count. Please let me know how I can serve you in the future. Mark
Great read and thanks for reinforcing thoughts that were growing in my mind.
Thanks for taking time to comment. Please let me know if I can serve you in the future. Mark
Thanks for this post Mark! After reading your post, I’ve been trying on the theme “stretch”. This year I want to push outside my comfort zones in many areas of my life. Thanks for providing a tool that gives this more focus.
You’ve always been a stretch kind of guy. I’ll be interested to see how much further you can go. Please let me know how I can help. I look forward to seeing you again soon. Mark
I chose – “2013: Year of the Sponge” I wrote about it on my blog – jbaustin.com.
Thanks for writing this post!
Great theme! I’d love to know what you learn over the course of the year as you live this out. Please stay in touch. Mark
Great post! I’m sharing this! Fit is also my theme – for health, work, family, etc. I’ve allowed too much fat in my life that’s crowding out the best.
My theme for this year is “Learn”. I was recently redeployed to a different unit in my organization which is not so demanding as the former and the extra free time has allowed me look inwards and see that there is so much more I need to learn about the new face of leadership and this quest for learning has led me to so many great resources and authorities on leadership- you are one of them! I still have Brett’s kind of dilemma but so far I’m still staying true to my theme and learning so so much. Thank’s so much for this article and also for making out time to respond to readers’ comments!
Keep learning and I’ll do the same! Mark
My theme this year has been the word “invest.” Invest time, energy, and focus in the people of the organization. No matter what field you serve in, you are in a people business. You must invest in the people of that organization in order to further the goals of that organization. Beyond that, I feel it is simply a God honoring way to approach the people I would with.