There was this wonderful episode of the sitcom Friends that ran during the height of that time the show’s writers had much of the country yearning for Rachel and Ross to get together; let’s see if you remember it.
Rachel was in a restaurant on a date with someone else, and her trials and tribulations with Ross were all she could think about —and talk about. She so wanted to be over it, but she just wasn’t. Her poor date was torn between being there for her and figuring out how to make a beeline for the nearest exit. He was perfectly cast. With very few lines to say, his facial expressions said everything we needed to know in reading his mind.
Finally, an increasingly tipsy Rachel borrows a cell phone from a neighboring table and leaves a voicemail for Ross telling him they “are over.” At the end of her dramatic speech, she ends with the line, “and that my friend, is closure.” I have never heard the word closure used in such a delectably satisfying way, and that episode sealed the deal with me on the fascination I have always had with the concept — delicious, savory, relief-filled Closure. I love checking things off as done. Especially BIG things.
So here we are in October, the month that begs for closure in whatever you had hoped to achieve in the year, for let’s face it: November and December are mostly about the holidays to come, that seemingly relentless line up of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day. School breaks, holiday parties, gift shopping and a rapid succession of other schedule changes annihilate the predictability of your routine. It’s supposed to be joyful, but somehow it becomes a cruel gauntlet that wreaks havoc on any sense of normality you tried to get to until this calendar parade started colliding with your psyche, stressing you out. No wonder most New Year’s resolutions are rooted in nothing more but emotional turmoil.
Here’s our goal for October: we are going for Closure with some key things we consider the unfinished business of 2005 so that we can totally and blissfully enjoy the holidays for a change. The holidays are goodness and light, and we should enjoy them, not dread them. We will allow October 31 and January 1 to be the bookends that they undeniably are to these holiday months, and we will be proactive about living them fully (i.e. gleefully) for a change.
Are you with me?
Now if like many others in our Ho‘ohana Community, you just got into some new learning initiative in September, hurray for you — keep going! This is not a contradictory concept, for I’m not saying you only have the month to wrap that up. What I’m suggesting is that you choose some other long-standing battle to win. In fact, in doing so, you’ll likely clear the deck and banish more clutter. (Remember ‘Opala ‘ole?) We are going to pick a major goal or two we’d set in this past year, and we are going to achieve it this month. We are going to check it off your list, and savor the delicious, delectable, soul-satisfying taste of closure with it.
Take a quiet half-hour today — no procrastination folks, we’re starting the day you read these words; print this if you don’t have time right now — and write a brain-to-written-page drain of the year’s goals that are still open-ended for you. In GTD jargon, write down your mission-critical open loops on the 10,000 foot Project level.
This first step is critical: believe me, writing them down and staring at them on the written page helps. But don’t go complete-collection crazy on me here; as sacrilegious as this may sound to you if you are a GTD devotee, don’t pull out that list you already have in @Projects. This is an exercise in which I want you to rely on the emotion-messages of your gut, your intuition, your psychic RAM (random access memory), and yes, those stress levels begging for some relief, for closure. Just open the steam vent of your internal pressure-cooker.
Now look at what you’ve written down and do these very important next steps:
- MAKE A DECISION. Choose one or two things that you realistically can bring to closure this month. Instinctively, you know what’s already on your October calendar and is not going away. You know which project will fit into the realm of possibility once you decide on it. When you choose something, my advice is to rely on your wanting, versus the rational should-do for someone else impulse, unless you really want it too because it will take a heavy weight off you. However understand this clearly: No decision, no action. Nothing will happen unless you decide what you’ll get real on this month.
- COMMIT TO IT. For me, W.H. Murray has always said this best: “”the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” (Full quote is here.) The best way to commit? Visualize what the outcome looks like in a way that’s so compelling you start salivating for it.
- WRITE down your very NEXT ACTION with achieving the goal. Write down the first step you’ll take with it, and WHEN. That when should be before the coming week is over: Enter it as an appointment with yourself on your calendar. The best day for this appointment? Later today, or tomorrow. No excuses: You did decide and commit didn’t you? Remember, by month’s end we’re done. Start now.
This will start your October Action Cycle. The last step in the doing of that appointment you’ve set with yourself, is to decide on the next action with the goal thereafter, commit to it, and calendar it. Do this over and over again this month until the goal has been achieved for you. Guess what will happen
if when you are successful in creating a new habit with this process. Come November, you’ll choose another goal for more closure. I guarantee it.
So have you written something down yet? It may be a project at work, it may be one at home, or it may be something that straddles both. You choose, then decide, commit, next action, calendar, and do it. The key here is that you don’t want to settle for renegotiating an agreement about this goal; you want Closure. Or as we say here in our English-Hawaiian verbiage, you want it to be “all pau.” (Pau —pronounced pow—is finished, completed.) Checked off. Gloriously done.
I’ll give you my own example, also serving as a preview to what I’m likely to talk story about quite a bit this month.
Back in June I launched my MWA3P project, an exploration into better productivity practices. I have decided on and committed to bringing MWA3P to the outcome of closure in October, and I admit to you I’m at least 6 weeks late with this as I make this public proclamation of my decision and commitment, so I want it bad! I have done quite a bit on the project already, and soon (Tuesday at the latest) I’ll put up a post on exactly where I am, however now that it is October, MWA3P will come to delicious, savory, relief-filled Closure. With my next post I’ll better explain what closure with this project will mean.
So here’s what I’ve done: I’ve visualized it. Affirmations work really well for me. This is what I printed up on a large sheet of butcher paper that I tacked up at eye level beyond this keyboard where I spend most of my time when working in my office. It’s covering up all the other stuff that’s normally on a 24”x36” bulletin board I have there. I have no choice but to look at it every day. There is absolutely no avoiding it without the get-real reminder that it all begins and ends with me.
MWA3P is All Pau.
I’m ready for January 9, 2006.
Just to explain the January 9 date: That’s the day my ‘work year’ will start in 2006. Since I started SLC in 2003, I close down my business the last two weeks of the year, and the first week of the next year—that is exclusively family time for me and my ‘Ohana in Business. My holiday hiatus even has a name: I call it Ho‘omaha.
So I ask you one more time: Are you with me?
Get to your own closure. I offer you an optional third step to those first two of Decision and Commitment: —Conspiracy. As added incentive, email me with the 2 or 3 line affirmation that goes up on your bulletin board or screen-saver this month. It’ll be just between us, but it’ll seal the deal in the promise you make to yourself, a promise which hangs in the air begging for you to make good on it. Then go to work on your October Action Cycle.
There’s more to my visualization of closure with MWA3P. On Sunday evening, October 30, 2005 I’m opening a good bottle of red wine, and popping the Friends DVD into my player so I can watch that episode again. When Rachel says, “and that my friend, is closure” I’ll be raising my glass to her and saying, yes, it certainly is.
Postscript: If you are new to Talking Story, Ho‘ohana „¢ is the monthly newsletter of Say Leadership Coaching, sent on the first of each month to our email subscribers. Talking Story is home to the Ho‘ohana „¢ online essay of each issue, and we explore more on the newsletter’s theme periodically through-out the rest of the month. The best way to sort out the Ho‘ohana „¢ posts from the others, is to click on the Talking Story category link named Monthly Ho‘ohana: they’ll appear from newest to oldest.