Fresh Plans for a Fresh Year

Have you seen the movie The Bucket List? In it, two terminally ill men run away from a cancer ward and travel around the world to fulfill a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.”  Since the movie’s release, the term “bucket list” has gained popularity and now commonly refers to a list of all the things a person would like to do in his or her lifetime.  Essentially, a “bucket list” is just a list of specific goals.  If you’ve ever made a bucket list, you’re already on your way to being a goal-setter! And, goals foster motivation and intentionality in our lives.

A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most successful people begin with dreams and then establish goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your dreams for your life, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.

Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one. Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals.  It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:

  • Education and learning
  • Career
  • Marriage and family
  • Finances
  • Community service
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • Physical goals (sports, etc.)
  • Talents and skills
  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Retirement

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals.  From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture.

Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track. (Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our new book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)

Finally, start making daily to-do lists. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:

  • Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
  • Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
  • Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”


What’s on your “bucket list?” How do you keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what’s left to do? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has crossed the most items off their list.


Focus on the Things that Matter

There sure is a lot of hustle and bustle this time year, isn’t there? Holiday shopping, holiday plans, holiday travel, holiday parties… It’s all too easy to get caught up in the activity and miss out on the things that really matter.

There will always be times in life when we feel like the rope in a tug of war, and it’s not just at Christmas. Often, when this happens, there are two formidable competitors pulling us in opposite directions. On one end are the key people in our lives with whom we have relationships. They want (and deserve) our time and attention, as well as an opportunity to grow with us. On the other end is one tough opponent—the “big three,” namely status, career, and wealth and everything that flows from that. Like most things, these are fine in moderation, but taken to an extreme (as they often are), they can destroy relationships. They can easily consume our time and energy and divert us from our priorities and core values if we’re not careful.

During the past few decades, we’ve witnessed a cultural shift toward accumulating things, rather than emphasizing in-depth relationships. You see it everywhere, especially with retailers and credit card companies that are out to get our last nickel (especially during calendar-shortened holiday seasons!). It’s found in massive consumer debt when people overspend on status-conscious items and live beyond their means. And, you see it in people consumed by their careers and in those increasingly invasive businesses demanding their employees respond to evening emails.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll remember that truly successful people recognize how important they are to others and how important others are to them. Relationships are enduring—things are not. Let’s strive to always reflect this in our priorities and in how we spend our time. We can never get back the time we didn’t spend with our loved ones. That’s a life regret we never want to bear!

Let today, this week, this holiday season, be a time of special focus and renewed commitment to the things that really matter. Merry Christmas, all!

How are you spending the bulk of your time and energy? Are you focusing enough on areas that build stronger relationships with family and friends? Or, are you allowing other things to dominate your priorities? We invite you to share your thoughts and suggestions with us commenting; we’d love to hear from you!


Give the Gifts that Keep on Giving

What do you want for Christmas?” It’s probably the most asked question this month. There was a time when my Christmas list was a mile long, but now it’s filled with hopes for others—especially for the young people in this world. (Truth be told, my first career desire was to be Santa.)

 It is said that the first half of one’s life is the “accumulation stage” and the second half is the “distribution stage.” During the accumulation stage, you’re in “gathering mode,” spending your efforts on life’s needs and wants. You build a career, buy and furnish a house, start a family, save for retirement, and buy lots of things along the way.  But is that all there is to life?

Then, one day, usually around 50 when, you have all the toys you need and the kids aren’t kids anymore, you become more motivated to give back. You discover that the joy of giving is greater than the joy of receiving, and your perspective changes dramatically. I’m a typical case—it happened to me around 49! That’s when my life focus shifted to helping children and young adults lay a solid leadership foundation for life.

Did you notice how the first half of life tends to be more skewed toward self and family? And, in the second half how the focus often shifts toward others? Had I known this earlier, I would have sought more balance in my accumulation stage and started my distribution stage sooner. The joy and satisfaction that comes from giving our time, talent, and treasure so outweighs the fun of accumulating that I regret not starting this process earlier.

As I write this, it’s the Christmas season. Opportunities for giving and sharing abound. But hopefully directing our lives toward others will not be a once-a-year event. By starting earlier and making it last the whole year long, we receive far more in return than we give.

Do you want your life to have more balance, your spirit to soar, to make new friends, and maximize the impact of your life—and make the world a better place in the meantime? Embrace the gift of giving of yourself this holiday season… then make it the gift that keeps on giving, into January, the New Year, and beyond.                                   

Take a few-second self-check: Where are you centering your life? How are you modeling this principle to the young people in your life? Share your insights and ideas with us; we’d love to hear from you!


Introducing the What I Wish I Knew at 18 Leader’s Guide for Middle Schoolers!

One of the most common questions we receive from educators is whether the What I Wish I Knew at 18 Leadership/Life Skills program can be used in middle and junior high schools. The answer is a resounding “YES,” especially with our new Middle School Leader’s Guide!

We reviewed our current program for ways to best reach a somewhat younger audience. The result is a leader’s guide with specific suggestions and ideas for adapting the What I Wish I Knew at 18 Student Guide to middle school grades. Many of the lessons in What I Wish Knew at 18 regarding the transition from high school to college can easily be applied to the transition from middle school to high school.

Middle school is a great time to introduce What I Wish I Knew at 18. Students at that age are often more open to life skills training as their habits and attitudes are less ingrained. Principles referencing character, relationships, communication, adversity, personal productivity, and other aspects of a Personal Leadership Foundation can be instilled while they are still forming many of their values, behaviors, and relational networks.

Ninth grade is arguably one of the most critical in a student’s educational career—setting the stage for decisions and attitudes in the pivotal high school years. A leadership foundation will prove an invaluable asset to their academic and relational performance in these years and throughout life.

The best news is that the What I Wish I Knew at 18 Middle School Leader’s Guide is a free download from our website! Simply click on the link above and save it to your own computer.  The guide includes supplemental suggestions for the lessons in the student guide for middle school adaptation, as well as charts and forms to assist you in your lesson planning.

We want to remind you that bulk pricing of What I Wish I knew at 18 for classroom use is always available. Call us directly at 920-319-3169 or email us at to discuss your particular needs. We wish you all the best on the adventure of reaching a new generation of leaders and grooming them for every success!

Be Proactively Nice

Looking for a great gift idea this holiday season? I’ve got a terrific one. No, it’s not a sweater—and it won’t cost you a dime. It’s the gift of being proactively nice.

Sadly, our world is becoming more impersonal each day. We’re consumed with busy-ness.  Phones and computers seem to command our undivided attention. We text and email instead of talk to each other. People enjoying meals at local restaurants pay more attention to their phones than to each other. Busy-ness has infiltrated our manners and our demeanor—especially in places like our freeways, restaurants, and airports where patience seems a rare commodity these days.  Compliments are rare—great service is expected, so why bother rewarding service providers when they deliver it? Anything less, and out pours the wrath.  

This holiday season, I suggest we start a little “rebellion” of sorts against the impersonal status quo. Here are some things I’ve adopted, to give a glimpse of what I’m talking about:

  • I say “hi” when I pass people on my running route, regardless of whether I know them or not
  • I let a driver who has waited longer go ahead of me
  • When asked by a restaurant server how my day is, I return the question (I always get great responses to this simple gesture)
  • I go out of my way to express appreciation and gratitude
  • I smile more
  • I call rather than text (okay, not always but I try!)
  • I don’t allow the rudeness of others get to me

Clearly, none of this is profound or particularly creative. I’m sure you can come up with better ideas than I did! Nevertheless, I’m struck by the reactions of others when I do it (especially at restaurants where they’re often startled). It’s amazing how these small acts of random kindness make someone’s day a little better. You can tell it in their faces.

What a wonderful gift to offer during this busy, and hectic holiday season!

What are ways you’ve been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness? How did make you feel?  Do you have any interesting ideas to share with our online community about how we can do this for others?