Integrity & Achieving Your 2019 Goals

The most common thing my high-performing clients value is integrity. Personal integrity. More than anyone else’s, maintaining their own is paramount. It’s the ultimate source of pride and peace when kept; the ultimate source of suffering when broken.

And, it’s not just high-performers. Things that actually take any one down in life (failure, shame, bad mistakes, loss) are – when investigated closely enough – most always rooted in a loss of personal integrity.

Yet failure, even if publicly viewed as monstrous, does not hit that hard, if at all, if – along the way – a person maintained integrity. In fact, when integrity is maintained, a failure may not ravage you at all. And, it may even result in better long-term growth and gains.

Small things, though, if committed in a moment of greed, small-mindedness, or selfishness can occupy a person’s headspace for days on end, setting them into a larger downward spiral. And if small-mindedness resulted in a massive failure … the pain and suffering can be insurmountable. So, for 2019, focus on integrity first. Whatever happens from there is respectable.

Five Tips for Achievable 2019 Goals

1. SMARTI Goals

SMART is a “well-established tool … to plan and achieve goals.” SMART goals work. If you haven’t yet heard of SMART goals, look it up. The quick & dirty: SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Make your goals SMART, and you’ll achieve them.

But my work is about more than just achieving goals. Anyone can achieve goals. Long term success – meaning a solid sense of success and peace in life – takes more than completing to-do lists. And, surprising to most, achieving goals isn’t shown to add much long-term value, at least not as much as folks assume, or hope. It’s like winning the lottery: you get momentary bliss, followed by just another day (and, with lottery, sadly often followed by bankruptcy and depression). We don’t want such outcomes.

A life of integrity does add value. And, integrity is value that accumulates over time. And, even better, acting with integrity makes it easier to achieve goals, because you’re then working towards something bigger than just your small, ego-driven self.

So, I’m adding an “I” to the end of SMART for Integrity: SMARTI. Make your goals SMARTI goals, and you’ll not only achieve them, but you’ll be preparing yourself for long-term, sustainable success. And peace.

Peace? Inspiring others?
More peace - which means less anxiety, and better sleep - because when we act with integrity, we act from our larger sense of self, a larger sense of real connection. Which is the only way to peace, to freedom. When you do the right thing, you feel good. Doing the right thing is not about anyone else: it’s the way to sleep better at night.

And you always know the right thing to do. If you don’t, stop, get quiet, breathe a few breaths, and then listen. The right thing to do will become clear.

Doing the right thing brings us peace. And, if there is something our world needs right now it is peace. But it can only start with yourself, no one else. When we meet someone with integrity, with true peace, it inspires us to live with more integrity. Integrity is viral in the best sense. So, I encourage you to work for a 2019 based in integrity. Set SMARTI goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, and tied deeply to your sense of integrity.

2. Only Five
aka how to make better lists and sleep better at night)

Possibly the most useful things I learned at Harvard was how to make an effective to-do list. I learned this from Professor Gordon Bloom, who learned this when he was a college student at Harvard from–if I remember the story correctly–one of the learned and prescient homeless men found around Harvard Square. The take away was make a list, but it should never include more than 5 items. Five things a day is achievable, doable and honorable.

More than five, and you’re likely to do few to none of the things on your list. I have found this to be true in my life. I can always get five things done. If it works in a day, it can work in a year.

Of course there are always more than five things to do each day. To handle this, I take a sheet of paper and divide it in two length-wise. On the far right side I list EVERYTHING I can possibly think of that needs to get done. Everything. I give myself some time for this. I intersperse meditation, working out, showering, etc, so that anything else that needs to arise has the chance.

Once I know my list is complete, I rank it.

Only the top five things, the five that are achievable that particular day, make the small list on the top left hand side of the page. Once, and only once, those 5 things are crossed off, can I even look back at the right side for new direction. If I do more than 5 things, gold star. Yay. If I don’t, no matter. I got my top 5 done.

At the end of the day, I revisit the right hand list and add to it anything new that came up. I can now rest well, knowing everything I need to take care of is written down and won’t be forgotten. And because I know I have a system that ensures I get done everything that needs to be done. (note: I can not remember if the right-to-left ranking of to-do’s is from Prof Gordon or not. No idea where that came from… ).

3. Five SMARTI Goals for 2019, plus a vision for 2020.

It’s like the extra candle mom put on your cake each year: the one for the future, for the beyond.

When creating my goals for each year, I also have a vision of things I’d like to create the following year in the back of my mind - something that I can’t do yet, but is an overarching vision of where I’d like to go. So, I have five goals, plus some future ideal that puts it all in perspective.

I use Professor Gordon’s daily list-making skills to create my year long-goals, and then set my mind towards five things I really want to do this year, with an extra on top. I print a few of the final product out, and put them where I can see them as gentle reminders of my ideals and goals for this year, and for life in general. Here’s a visual of what it looks like (note the dates - they must be time-bound to be SMARTI):

northscale_goals visual aid.jpg

4. Have a Goal, but have no achievement in sight.

Let the action be the achievement.

This admonition, along with seven others, are from the work-practice guidelines we chant prior to mopping floors, watering plants, or cleaning toilets at our little lay zen monastery in Flatiron. They were written by my teacher, Sensei Gregory Hosho Abels, of Still Mind Zendo.

Things change. Priorities shift. Someone gets sick. Failure can be a great gift. The real achievement is living your life - right here, right now. Have a goal, but don’t be held by it. You don’t know what the future holds, or where any of this may go. If you’re held too tightly to an idea, you may miss out on something bigger, better, or just happier and more peaceful.

Plus, you don’t know if – as Rumi said – the challenges, set backs, or failures are “clearing you out for some new delight” … so: have a goal, but have no achievement in sight. Let the action (right here, right now), be the achievement.

5. Develop your focus

Focus is a muscle. It can wax or wane depending on how well you train it. And, it can only be effectively trained one way that I know of: through mindfulness meditation. Other meditations are lovely, but if they’re taking you out of right here, right now, they may be helping you relax, but they’re not improving your focus. If you have to go somewhere else to be calm, how can you ever be calm in the midst of reality (which is rarely calm or perfect)?

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to meditate. Once you know how to do focused-based meditate properly, you must practice. And you must practice everyday. Once in a while is not enough. It’s like doing 5 push-ups today, and then again 10 days from now. That does little for you now, and nothing for you long-term. So start today, and commit to practicing at least 3 minutes every day. You have three minutes. You can do this. I know you can.


But, If you need help developing a daily practice, contact me. I can train anyone to develop and maintain a regular meditation practice, without the use of crutches or props (eg, apps).

If you want your whole team to have more focus in 2019, and reap the collective rewards of improved focus and productivity, we have an incredible in-house program for teams and groups that not only develops a self-sustaining meditation practice for your team, but also improves speaking and listening skills, and is an incredible team builder.

What more could you, or your team, do in 2019 if better focused and more at peace?

Wishing you a calm, focused and present 2019 - one that’s steeped in integrity,