How to begin with the end in mind.

Three things, before we jump in:

One, I accept the dire and gruesome reality of the present world situation, and I choose to keep going in my tiny, ordinary life anyway, with a promise to look for, and honor, proof of beauty, kindness, hope, and companionship.

Two, my teaser post on Monday prompted a few excited responses that require public clarification. I am still very much working at Kindred Place, where our team of coaches and therapists are available to help every family that needs a little help getting along — and that’s pretty much everybody. As part of that work, I am pursuing a credential from the International Coaching Federation to put some skill and discipline around work that I have done informally for a long time. I’ll give more detail on this thread over the coming weeks, but the convergence of my personal work and my work-work is a reconciliation, not a departure.

Three, I paraphrased a Chinese proverb in that post on Monday, and I want to elaborate briefly. The proverb, as I learned it, goes like this: “The best time to plant a tree was a hundred years ago. The second best time is today.” What I love about this saying is its acknowledgment of missed opportunities. Contrary to the wave of popular “The time is now” memes that spark anxiety and fear of missing out (YOU’RE LATE, YOU’RE LATE, FOR A VERY IMPORTANT DATE!), the ancient wisdom honors the grace of second beginnings. Today is the second-best day to do whatever any of us didn’t do the first time we thought of doing it, whether that was yesterday or 20 years ago. You’re going to hear this idea repeated frequently in the coming weeks, so today is also a good day to get used to that idea.

To recap, I accept that the world is a mess, I’m bringing my full self into my professional work, and I’m forging ahead with abandon.

Actually, there’s a fourth thing: I’m going to explain more about this creative work, the template, etc., after we go through the first round, which will be more than a week from now, even if I hold to posting daily. Just trust the process, OK?

Let’s do it.

Yesterday I offered a short introduction to the creative brief, one of my favorite, time-tested tools that I’ve adapted to use in many different situations outside of actual creative marketing work.

I gave you the full outline, and now we’re going to work through it item by item over a number of days. And then, guess what? We’ll do the whole thing, step by step, a second time and in a different way. In that second round, I’ll use stories and examples that may connect dots that seem very far apart in the first round.

If you’re going to do this work along with me, then you’ll need to pick a focus area, a problem you’d like to work on. My advice is to pick something low stakes, like preparing dinner or rearranging a room in your home. Seriously, low stakes, no risk. This is a try-on round, for practice and skill-building.

For the sake of simplicity, and because it’s in keeping with everything about my 10 years’ worth of writing here, I’m going to use the dinner rut problem as an example. I’ll use that one; you may use whatever you like. But do pick something, so you can practice. And make that choice a commitment. You might even practice saying to yourself, in the mirror, “I’d like to [do something new and creative with dinner], and I’m going to spend time trying a new approach.” That seems silly to you, eh? OK. No pressure. But I wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t believe, from my own personal experience and observation, that embodying a commitment by saying the words aloud can make a surprising difference.

Moving on,

That loosey-goosey initial statement you just made, even if only in your head? It’s not part of the written creative brief template because it’s pre-work. It’s the problem you want to solve by doing the “creative” work. Once you’ve got a clear, basic idea, then you’re ready for the first step in the process, which is writing your objective.

What, exactly, do you want to accomplish? Phrased another way: What will be true at the end of your work, if you’re successful, that isn’t true now? To borrow from my favorite Steven Covey habit: Begin with the end in mind because otherwise, you won’t know where you’re going.

Like the time-tested, if trite, SMART goal, your objective statement ought to be specific, measurable, and concrete.

“I want to get out of boring dinner rut” won’t cut it.

How about, instead: “I want to create a special dinner, one night every week, that will be enjoyable for me [and my partner, and my children, and my roommate…] and that will feed us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.”

Or, maybe: “I want to establish a stress-free, fun, creative Sunday night dinner routine that involves my whole family in the cooking, serving, and eating, so we can spend enjoyable time together.” Written another way: “If this project is successful, then my family and I will have a fun, creative, Sunday night dinner routine that is enjoyable from start to finish.”

If this example is already making you feel anxious, then I’ll offer another that’s even simpler: “I want to rearrange my desk in a way that helps me feel calm and confident when I sit down to work.” Or: “I want to re-do my kitchen junk drawer to help me feel settled in the middle of an unsettled world.”

Starting to get the idea? Terrific.

OK, now you try. That’s your assignment, to choose your own LOW STAKES project and then write a specific objective for this little practice series, which we’re going to do in the midst of terrible, horrible world events.

See you tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s the template, again, so you won’t have to go back and find it in an earlier post.

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