The whats, hows and whys that matter most

The first quarter of 2020 has come to a close and needless to say, our world has been turned upside down.  I took the time this week to reflect on the first three months of 2020 as part of my normal routine assessing where I am so far this year relative to my three words, focus areas and goals – my whats, hows and whys.

The Whats
I’m a believer in Chris Brogan’s 3 Words – what are the guiding principles that center me for the year.  In past years, I had words like: Create,Move,Matter and Adventure, Celebrate,Remodel.  No matter what I set out to do, or what opportunities arise or spontaneous ideas I have – do they align to my whats? This year I landed on:

  • Build: Build a routine. Build opportunities. Build something new.
  • Brand: Compassion over fear. Simple over strict. Help over hype.
  • Balance: Time all the work versus work all the time. Dates matter.

The Hows
Nearly everything I set out to do in living my three words, I broke down into three focus areas.  Since starting the Full Focus Planner 3 years ago, these are probably the most fluid. Originally, I had five: family, finish, fitness, fame, finance. Five was too many, so I went to four: health, home, wonder, work.  Year 3, I consolidated down to three:

  • Heart & Home: How I am present.
  • Mynd & Body: How I am healthy.
  • Work & Wonder: How I am growing.

The Whys
The whys are my goals – the evidence, the why I am present, healthy and growing. Why do I believe that? My whys were everything from the normal end of year weight goal to miles on the bike, miles walked, books read, acts of charity, volunteer hours, etc. to the new family experiences, new connections, resurrecting connections with old friends. 2020 was the year I felt like I finally found full focus. I had built the perfect system and was establishing the ideal routine to make the most out of every day, week, month.

Then our world turned upside down.  What feels like overnight – probably because it was literally overnight, my routine broke down.  For one, like most of us, I now work from home full-time. Sure, I WFH’d every once in awhile, but not always and the clear lines between being present@work and being present@home got really blurry.  I must have read dozens of articles with all kinds of advice on WFH. Everything from carving out a dedicated space (mine is in my basement), to changing scenery (aka seeing the sun), to making sure I get up and go for a walk (stand, move, reboot the brain), but something was still missing – granted, it’s only been three weeks, I should give myself some latitude.

Upon my Q1 reflection, it hit me.  It’s all about the whys.  As Simon Sinek would say, “start with why.” So I did.  Part of the journey that was March 2020 involved a lot of reading and one piece that still resonates with me is an article written by McKinsey consulting. – “The path to the next normal” – that talks about the process nearly every business will go through over the course of the next year. They break the process down into five phases: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Re-imagination, and Reform (I probably like it because of the alliteration, and I’m a sucker for phases, pillars, frameworks, structures).

I started thinking about how these five phases relate to my own journey and my 2020 goals. Looking back, January really started with re-imagination – a new year, a fresh start, new words, focus areas, goals. Then COVID-19 and in a day, I was thrust backwards into resolve mode. What do I need to do to keep my family safe, myself, my team. What about my parents who are in there 70s?  I had to find the resolve to adjust to something that has not happened in over a hundred years.

Today, there is so much uncertainty, fear, anxiety, I find myself focused on resilience.  Resilience came in changes to my routine –  family walks, meals, together-time. Like many families, we started going through bins and boxes of stuff in the basement and in the process of “minimalizing,” we took trips down memory lane – those family experiences I talked about earlier. The girls’ artwork from kindergarten to high-school, old greeting cards from loved ones, pictures, postcards, sports memorabilia.

Then an epiphany.  “My” became “Our” – my 3 words became our 3 words. My focus areas became our focus areas.  My personal goals were shifting to our shared goals. From this experience, we started setting new goals – new Whys.  Go on a trip down memory lane every week (we have a lot of bins and boxes to go through). Finish painting the room we haven’t touched since my older daughter went to college.  Exercise everyday albeit at the same time, but different forms – my wife runs and I prefer the bike.

Like many of you, we are still figuring it out.  We are taking the time to figure out our the new normal and reimagining what McKinsey calls the “next normal” just might look like. Perhaps at the end of this shared journey, we will have been reformed in some small ways, some big ways and have become focused on the whats, hows and whys that matters most.

At least, that’s our goal.