When I started college, I thought journalism would be my calling. I could see myself inspiring audiences with insightful stories and driving home important messages to help people stay informed. While it turned out that my passion for business meant that I would change majors, I love that I still get to inspire and inform people as a leader. One technique that’s remained a part of my toolbox since my early days as a journalism student is the headline.
Headlines are powerful because they convey an entire story in a single phrase. I put headlines to work for me in ways that have nothing to do with journalism. Instead, I go through the process of developing a headline every December so that it helps me influence my story—in other words, how I meet my goals in the new year. When I focus on a headline that honors my why and reinforces my goal-centered behavior, the story that unfolds is more likely to reflect that phrase I have repeated and strategically posted in conspicuous places I frequent at home and in my office.
If you’d like to develop a personal headline that informs your life in 2023, here are the steps I follow:
1. ANSWER these important questions honestly and completely.
- How will my headline support or service my why? A headline that’s not related to your why will distract you and lead you away from your purpose. An enduring headline always starts with knowing your why.
- What’s the real prize here? Why is this headline important to me? The real prize is often related to helping others or working collaboratively on a higher purpose. When you answer how your why is important, does what you say feel human-centered or self-centered?
- In an effort to deliver on my headline, what learning gap do I need to close? What conversations should you have or training might you research to upskill and meet your goals? If you don’t have a mentor or sponsor yet, make a list of people you admire and the skills they possess. Could they be “observational” mentors or people you connect with on a regular basis?
- What am I willing to invest to accomplish my headline? If informational meetings, personal resources, or trainings might help you, consider your bandwidth. What are you willing to invest? What do you have time for? Another way of looking at it: what do you have to give up in order to honor this headline?
- What triggers will I utilize to help me maintain a positive attitude toward my headline? A headline is powerful way to reinforce good habits. Just like a habit needs positive triggers associated with it, so do your headlines. What triggers can you put in place (besides posting it strategically) to support your headline? I like to share mine with my “inner circle” of friends and family to keep me accountable.
- How will I address my insecurities and uncertainty throughout the year? Insecurities have a way of diminishing our positive efforts because we tend to ignore them when, really, they are at the tip of your arrow, waiting to be addressed. What’s preventing you from stepping out and hitting your target? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you try?
2. DECIDE what your headline will be for the new year.
- Write it down. The act of writing your headline down makes it real. Make copies and place it where you can see it.Post it strategically in your office and home so you constantly see it. Research shows that you’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down, yet fewer than 3 percent of Americans perform this simple task. What’s more, fewer than 1 percent work on their goals every day by reviewing them!
- Schedule and build. Schedule time on your calendar every month to review the incremental steps required to honor your headline and evaluate your progress. Schedule more time in the first month to build out a plan. I like to start with the end of my timeline and work backward so that I’m developing a frequency of activity that works for the window I have left to reach my goals.
- Choose an accountability partner. This is the person who will ask you about your headline and the progress you’re making. This can be your friend, your partner, your life coach—someone willing to give you tough love when you need it.
3. SHARE your headline with others beyond your accountability partner.
- Who are the three to five people you’re most depending on to achieve your headline for the year? Make a short list and schedule time with these people to explain your vision and their role in your headline. When you make time to explain your why, the “what” has greater meaning. Just like employees, if they understand why you’re reaching a particular goal, they’ll be more invested in helping you reach the outcome.
4. REWARD yourself!
- How will you reward yourself at the end of 2023? Write this down too. It’s just as important. It might be one of the triggers you use to reinforce your own behavior.
The return is so high on writing your goals down, it’s hard to believe that so few of us actually perform this simple task. Make time before the end of the year and give yourself the gift of certainty. Change is inevitable. Navigate that constant change by manufacturing your own sense of stability: know yourself, know your why, and own a headline that represents your plan for the best year ever.
Live your why,
P.S. Navigating uncertainty has become a standing call to action—especially these days. If you want to explore this pathway further with me, check out my new book and refer to chapter 8! Need some quick inspiration? Read my interview with Adam Mendler about dreaming big.