Lead Towards Your Best Self


This week is just another week.  Today is just another day.  This hour has 60 minutes like every other.  And this instant is all you ever have – a largely unending succession to be sure – but only just this instant to be lived.  And yet we have the capacity to draw back from this moment, hour, day, week, and year, and think big.  For on comes 2010.  Make ready!

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but imagine what you could do in a year:  You could restore a broken relationship.  You could start a new business.  Move to a new city.  Quit buying cigarettes.  Laugh more.  Adjust the work-family balance.  Get out of debt.  Or return to school.  Every iota of good sense makes it vital to ask: Where do I want to be in a year? Do I have the faith in myself to lay claim to a picture of myself at the cusp of 2011 that delights me.  What would add up to delight?  Do you know?  Risk sitting down to discern it and write it down.

In a week and a half I’ll assemble a small group, and I am so excited for them.  They’ll give themselves two days to envision – literally to picture – where they’d like to be in 3 years, and then they’ll work backwards to January 1, 2011 and identify just what would be fulfilling.  They’ll get feedback from smart, caring others, who will help them to decide whether that’s what they truly want, or whether they want to make some adjustments.  They’ll clarify their picture of fulfillment, and then they’ll work backwards from there to the six-month and three-month and six-week intervals to set the strategy and tactics they’ll need to gain the results that truly matter.  There’s still some room available if this kind of process sounds attractive to you, but whether you join me or sign-up for some other structured program, do yourself the huge favor of believing in yourself enough to set aside a couple hours to answer the question, “What do I really want?” and then kick the answers to that question around with people who know you and care about you.  I’m curious about how many of you will set goals.  Take the 1-minute, 3-question survey and we’ll both find out the results!

You only get one chance to start a whole year.  Start it off in a way that you’ll truly lead with and towards your best self!


  • A great message Dan and well said as usual. Goal setting is like voting, so easy to accomplish, fundamental to expressing our inner selves, demonstrates our personal accountability desires – yet a great percentage of people just don’t bother doing it. What a shame. What an opportunity lost – and the greatest loss for it is often ourselves, as others fail to benefit from our potential proactive action. An easy, inexpensive and simple way to focus our energies and resources on whats important, not just what is urgent.

  • You are ‘right on’ about time, Dan.

    After studying time for more than three decades, physicist Julian Barbour has come to a fascinating and counterintuitive conclusion: Time is an illusion.

    All that’s real are instants that Barbour calls ‘Nows.’ Our brains are hardwired to take the experience of these ‘Nows’ and create the illusion of time. “If you try to get your hands on time, it’s always slipping through your fingers,” says Barbour in the Summer 2000 issue of Spirituality and Health magazine. “People are sure it’s there but they can’t get a hold of it. My feeling is that they can’t get a hold of it because it isn’t there.”

    Even if physicists eventually accept Barbour’s theories, his ideas will, like quantum mechanics itself, be thoroughly understood by very few. Still, to the rest of us they offer a powerful metaphor to reflect on the moments of our lives and how we might best live them. As Barbour says, “to see perfect stillness as the reality behind the turbulence we experience” is good for us all to learn.

    Focusing on what matters, moment by moment (rather than thinking of reality as what happens when a series of still pictures runs through a projector), helps us reach clarity. Isn’t that what “Every Day Leadership” is all about?

    • John,
      Great amplification on the matter of the illusion of time and the non-existence of all but the now!
      Thanks for another great contribution.

  • Good morning all,

    A reminder well placed in this time of so much negativity. Just because the State isn’t accomplishing anything doesn’t mean we as individuals can’t, both in their personal and professional lives. After all, how do we expect to get “there” if we don’t know where we’re going.

    Goal setting and planning is critical to our arrival. Take the time, set the course and follow true north. Good luck everyone, I’m pulling for all of us.

  • Dan,

    It is a good thing to remind us about goal setting for the coming year. My journals are full of goals set, tracked, and even sometimes achieved. However, I think it prudent to remember that goals have to be as specific as possible (so you know when you actually achieved them) and as flexible as your life allows. I added this second parameter when I discovered life’s little propensity for taking my carefully crafted goals and tossing them into the trash bin.

    I like your response John, yet despite Julian Barbour’s fascinating ideas, I think time may be less illusive than elusive. I’ve nearly always pitched my tent in the camp with folks who think of time as the fourth dimension of our existence. Imagine living in a two-dimensional world (I think Edwin Abbott called it Flatland) and trying to come to grips with a third dimension. When we go to a 3-D movie, we experience an attempt to stretch a two-dimensional world into three dimensions using technology. The experience is varied for folks who attend. Some see and experience a true 3-D effect, others report only blurred vision and distorted images.

    Trying to apply techniques to managing a fourth dimension (time) in a 3-D world, will just as likely result in distortions and “illusions.” For example, as I grow older (I will be 60 in a few weeks), I find my experience of time one of increasing speed — elusively escaping my grasp. It seems to flow by so much faster now than in the past. Goal setting seems less a long-term planning tool, and more a matter of looking a few steps ahead and trying to find a safe place to hang on for the ride. And yet, there is a paradox here. For although my life seems to be moving faster through time, I find it easier to live in the here and now, in the moment, than when I was younger and spent so much time trying to live in the future.

    Time is our most precious resource, for it can only be spent wisely and not “saved” for future use. Thanks, Dan for reminding us to plan ahead for our expenditures of this most non-renewable of resources.


  • Mick,
    I have had the same experience with time. As I age the years fly by, but the moments linger, or the opportunity increases to be in that moment.
    I would add that the practice of meditation – one I have fallen out of, of late – has been the most powerful way for me to find more of those moments of crystal clarity. The practice of breathing creates the skill of “snapping to” and sensing the real snowflake – not a vague concept of a snowflake – a real kiss, not a habit, or the wonderful tender beauty of life.
    Interesting how an email about goal setting seems to keep turning us toward the objective not of planning for the future, but living in the now!
    thanks for another great piece, Mick!

  • Dan, John, and all,

    What a neat proposal and great responses! Listen, the idea of time as illusory is not a new one. As a matter of fact, speaking of things that delight us, one of my favorite quotes is this from Albert Einstein: “Reality is but an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”

    I love the idea of gearing the goals towards what delights us. It elevates the exercise above desire and makes it potentially far more powerful than the usual “What do I want.” To that end, many of us find prayer helpful; we can pray that God puts or keeps us on His path of Emet (truth). Then the now that is all there is is about as perfect as a human can hope for!

    On long trips in the car my daughter (like every other human kid) would chirp from the back seat, “When are we gonna be there?” My repsonse was always the same. “We’re always there, kid.”

    Thanks for inspiring us, Dan. Loads of Love and Shalom in the new year!

  • Kathryn,
    Thanks for the reflection, which brims with positive energy! I like the Cagney-like “kid” in your response to your daughter, along with the amazing parental advice. Can hardly think of a better lesson to teach a child. Reminds me of Zinn’s(?) book, Wherever You Go, There You Are.
    Be delighted in 2010!

  • While I agree that there’s value in reflecting on the question “What do I REALLY want, down deep in my heart of hearts?” (In other words, not just power, prestige, and money to buy either of those, or lots of stuff…), it has been my experience that setting goals doesn’t get me anywhere I want to be. For me, setting long-term goals turns out to be a waste of time.

    Clearly, many have benefited from this exercise, so I hope y’all have a good time with it. What works very well for me (and apparently for you, too, Dan) is to meditate so as to discern the answer to questions like, “What am I supposed to do NOW?” and “What am I supposed to learn from this (usually, things I can’t control)?”

    In meditation,I tap into my all-knowing (but mostly suppressed) subconscious or perhaps some Universal Consciousness that rules the universe. (I don’t really need to know which because I believe I’m called to love, not to know.)

    I have experienced a great deal of satisfaction and sense of fulfillment by following this inner voice.

    Practically speaking, one of the things I do to actualize this inner voice and more or less force myself to live in the moment, the eternal Now, is to abandon my former practice of devising a daily to-do list. Although I felt a great sense of accomplishment by crossing items off my list, I noticed a consistent tendency for some items to remain on the list day after day–things that I didn’t feel like doing, like maybe sorting through accumulated mail and email, or maybe dusting… the things I thought I SHOULD do.

    Now, I don’t “should” on myself.

    On the advice of a Native American elder, I trust that over time I will remember to do the things that are most important, and will forgetfully, neglectfully forget the things that, as it inevitably turns out, I don’t have to do at all! Instead of compulsively driving myself and others to complete artificially-set goals, I get to laugh and relax and trust that all is well. I can stop feeling guilty about things that didn’t get done. In an oral culture, this is how things work.

    In my experience, this practice has been amazingly effective and time-saving! (…especially in comparison to all the five-year plans that the feds mandate for so many government programs! How time-consuming and resource-wasting it is to create and refine and publish all those, plans that fail to take into account the rapid and unexpected changes we have been experiencing since the collapse of the auto industry and housing market–even though I know that entities that enjoy federal grants will have to keep doing them ! We don’t make the rules, right? We just have to live by them.)

    For those of you are are not inclined to set annual goals, I recommend listening to your inner voice, and trusting it. There can be a huge sense of relief followed by lots of joy in letting go of that sense of control you get from listmaking. When someone follows their inner voice instead of a list devised by a limited human being, Universal Consciousness is in charge (or so I believe). Fun! Surprises!

    For the rest of you, consider putting meditation as one of the top items on your list and see if that doesn’t put your life and accomplishments into warp speed.

    p.s. What do I really want, in my heart of hearts? To be a member of a genuine community. Seeking ways to find that, or create it, will fill my thoughts and meditation as I look to my near-term future.

  • Do you have a favorite time/goal management system you use? Would you share a good book and/or resource to help those of us who would like to do a better job of goal-setting/achievement in 2010? Thanks so much. Enjoy your newsletter.

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