Selecting a theme

Theming your Year

Part 2 – Selecting a theme

Jeff Mitchell

In this article I am going to explain how to select a theme for your year. To do this you must first take a step back, however, and work through identifying your goals. You will start with goals for the next several years and then you will drill down to write out a plan for your goals for the next twelve months. In this article I am going to explain how I go about planning goals for a year’s self-development and give some pointers on how you can then select a theme for the year.

The first article in this series discussed the idea of setting a theme for your self-development. To do this effectively you first need to go through a process of goal setting where you identify the important areas in your life and then set goals to address these. I am going to talk you through the process that I use to plan my self-development for a year. I hope that by reading through this article you will be able to come up with a system that allows you to create your own self-development plan.

The steps that I take to create my annual self-development plan include:

  • Identifying self-development areas
  • Brainstorming goals
  • Identifying major life goals
  • Selecting a theme for the year
  • Writing a self-development plan.

Identifying self-development areas

The first step is to identify the major areas of your life that you wish to develop. What areas are important to you? If you already have a set of goals, how can you group them? What are the recurring themes? What aspects are important for you to live the sort of life that you are after? Ask yourself what is important and what areas of development equate to these. Look to identify four or five broad areas.

There are a number of areas that you could choose to focus on. Personally, I separate my self-development into the following areas:

  • Self-development
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Career.

The areas you choose will depend on your values, your life goals (if you have already identified some), what is important to you, what you enjoy and what you tend to focus on. Some other areas that you could choose instead could include:

  • Spirit
  • Creativity
  • Stuff
  • Community
  • Skills
  • Learning
  • A specific hobby (e.g. computing, gardening, woodworking etc.)

Think about the broad areas of your life that are important to you and write these down as your self-development areas. You could do this in your journal or another self-development tool .

Brainstorming goals

I have tried a few different ways of goal setting over the years. The most recent one I tried was from the Personal Power 2 system by Tony Robins. I actually found this to be quite effective, so I will share how you could apply it to your own self-development planning.

Spend a couple of minutes per heading brainstorming the goals you want to achieve over the course of your life. Let the ideas flow and keep writing, trying not to let the pen leave the paper. Don’t be judgmental – just write down each goal that comes into your head. Think about what you want to get, do, experience, be able to do (e.g. skills to develop), feel and have achieved over the course of your life, in the area you are looking at.

Work through your list and allocate a time frame for when you want to achieve each goal. This could be 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years etc. Be realistic and also make sure that you have goals for each period. Have at least one or two that you want to achieve this year, some for the near future (2 – 5 years) and something big out in the future (10 or 15 years etc.). To determine what length of time to give to a goal you should think about where you are now relative to that goal and how long you will need to achieve it.

Repeat this process for each of your self-development areas. You will now have a long list of goals that you want to achieve over the course of your life and a time frame for the achievement of each.

Identifying major life goals

I believe it is important to have some big goals that you are working towards. Each year I like to have one big goal that I would like to tick off. In my self-development plan I identify five of these – one each year for the next five years. When I complete an annual review of my self-development plan I just need to add a new five year goal and I still have my five major life goals. I try to make each major life goal come from a different area of my life. If some of them come from the same area, then I try to make sure that they are progressively building towards a big goal in five years – that they build on each other and can be seen as intermediate steps towards the big goal.

Having major life goals makes it easier to then select smaller, short-term goals to help you to work towards your larger goals. They provide you with a focus and help you to remember that there is something bigger that you are working towards. The major life goals should represent a major positive change in your life, either through adopting new habits or achieving something challenging. They should represent milestones on your journey to becoming the person you want to be and living the life you want to live.

Here’s how to set your major life goals: Look at the areas of your self-development and think about the goals that would help you to experience real growth in your life. Set challenging goals for each year that motivate you and that will have a real impact on the quality of your life. Write down one goal for each of the next five years of your life; these are the goals that your self-development plans will be helping you to achieve.

Identify your theme for the year

The first article in this series talked about the benefits of having a theme for your self-development. Selecting this theme is easy if you have followed along this far: ideally, your theme for the year will be in the area of your major life goal for the year. In my case, I have a major life goal for 2015 in the area of my health and fitness, so I have selected Healthy Living as my theme for the year. If you have set goals for different areas in your five major life goals, you will be able to identify a different theme each year as you progress through those goals. If two years have goals from the same area, all you need to do is change the focus within the area.

You could just choose an area as your theme for the year, e.g. ‘finances’, or you could drill this down a bit deeper to a specific aspect of the area, e.g. ‘buying a house’. I suggest that you take the following aspects into consideration when selecting your theme:

  • What is an area of your life you really want to address?
  • What are you really motivated to change or achieve this year?
  • What do you need to focus on to achieve this year’s major life goal?
  • What can you focus on this year that will move you closer to a major life goal for the next three to five years?
  • What area could you address that would greatly increase the quality of your life?
  • What interests you that you would like to dedicate some time to learning more about and becoming more proficient in?

Look at your self-development goals and decide on an area that you would like to focus on for the year. Use this area to motivate you to set challenging goals for the next twelve months and to motivate you to take yourself to the next level. In my next post in this series I will discuss how you write your self-development plan by pulling out your annual goals and creating an action plan for their achievement.

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