Christmas has passed. A new year is upon us. In our world of politics, campaign season is nigh…although it feels like we haven’t stopped since 2015.

This time of year has a natural way of making us look back on the last twelve months. It got me thinking about John Maxwell’s, famed author and speaker on leadership and personal growth, 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. One key component is the Law of Reflection.

The main idea is that we must learn to pause, allowing us to catch up to our growth. For example, working out in the gym doesn’t make you strong. It is the rest after your workout that allows those newly torn muscle fibers to regrow stronger and larger. (I obviously wouldn’t know this based on my scrawny frame.)

Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management theory, said: “Follow effective actions with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

My challenge to you is to take 30 minutes – that’s it – to look back on 2017 and prepare for 2018.

As you do so, think about these three areas:


For most of us, working – either in an office, for yourself, or on the road – takes up the majority of your waking time. Political folks run at full speed all the time. We know “on” and “off” with the latter being a small variable of the equation.

Grab your calendar for this exercise. (Hopefully you schedule your time so you’re able to properly assess where it went; otherwise, you now have a 2018 goal.)

How much time did you spend in your email? Ouch. Probably way too much. Keep this in mind: Your inbox is full of other people’s priorities.

What about time spent traveling? Meetings with clients? Business development investments? Breaks for yourself?

How do answers to these questions match up to your priorities? Did they substantially move the needle or just move you around in circles? Now on to looking forward to 2018.

If you don’t already, write out a vision for your business or career. Set it five years from now. Craft it in the present tense. Think big! Don’t be embarrassed to write out your vision. How can you possibly achieve something when you’re embarrassed to verbalize it?

Next, document your values, the things that drive and guide you. Reference them often – as in daily – and assess your motivations when you deviate from them.

Hold tight, because we’ll get to goal setting at the end.

Personal Life

Now grab your checkbook or banking app. (For you millenials, a checkbook is where you keep a paper register of your transactions, much like Venmo, but more inconvenient.)

Where did your money go? You probably have asked yourself this question many times, but we’re looking specifically to your spending priorities.

If you consider yourself a giver, how much did you contribute to your church or charity? What about entertainment? Travel? Clothes?

…Winced yet?

How about your personal time on the calendar? Did you leave time for you? Your family? Hobbies? Others?

I’ve heard it said before that a well-balanced life isn’t a numerical balance between work and play but more an all-in focus whenever you’re doing one or the other.

Were you fully present in all you did this year? I can assure you that your friends, family, and coworkers know the answer to that question.

Be mindful of the moment you’re in.

Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like a failure after these exercises. Any gap between where you are and where you thought you’d be is runway for you to be even better next year.

Just like you need a work vision and values, you need a personal vision and values. Craig Ballantyne in The Perfect Day Formula talks about having a “not-to-do” list along with your “to-do” list.

How will you make tough choices – like whether to watch “The Office” on Netflix for the 14th time or pick up that new book – if you don’t have a written value system on which to compare your choices?

And, yes, writing a personal vision and coming up with values will be just as uncomfortable for yourself as it was for your business or career.

Twelve Week Goals

No New Years blog post is complete without talking about goals.

We have all written annual goals. Go to the gym every day. Read a book a week. Two months in and we haven’t been to the gym but three times and we’re an entire chapter into a novel.

That’s because December is so far away, and you’ll “get to it next week.”

Instead, come up with goals for just the next twelve weeks that will move you toward your visions – work and personal. What are the 2-3 biggest things you could do to help you accomplish your dream? Then, come up with 3-4 weekly steps you need to take to make progress toward your twelve week goals.

Focus every single week on those steps. Treat each week as if it were a month. You’d never waste an entire month, so don’t blow a week or a day in your new twelve-week horizon.

If you’ve never done this before, it will be very uncomfortable. That’s a good thing.

(Credit goes to Brian Moran, author of The 12 Week Year, for changing my life with this advice. If you’re more a listener than a reader, download this amazing podcast episode between Brian Buffini and the author.)


I’ll be the first to admit that even just writing this blog made me uncomfortable, but personal growth resides in that discomfort. So much of our lives are spent trying to seek comfort, when everything we thought we were striving for was just beyond that hill we thought was too big to climb. No one ever grew or found success in their comfort zone.

I quickly identified things that were out-of-balance in my life, which gives me opportunity to grow and do better next year.

It is our hope that you invest this small amount of time into your life to set yourself up for success next year.

And as always, thanks for being a friend, client, or admirer of Cygnal. We are what we are because we get to work with and for people like you!