It’s that time of year when New Years resolutions are made or pushed at us from all sides. As a business owner you are likely to be picking the reins back up and preparing for the inevitable rollercoaster ride that is exhilarating, yet at times overwhelming. Depending on your preferences you may have created a full blown business plan for the coming year, sketched some mighty goals on a white board or penciled into a spreadsheet a financial dream of a year. Whatever you have created, chances are it won’t turn out like that. Plans are great and have their place but are instantaneously out of date as soon as we create them. With so much disruption and uncertainty in our world how can you navigate, motivate and manage in this coming year?

Goals and aspirations are well defined by their very nature. They are about something and your relationship with that something. Yet there are so many variables that we cannot account for, things that are simply outwith our control. An example might be a goal to run 3 miles 4 times a week. It’s an admirable and worthy goal for body and mind wellbeing. There may be a charitable motivation connected to this or a future event, a 10k race for example. Week one you complete your plan and feel great. Week two a thick layer of ice descends upon the earth and whilst walking down the road looking like a penguin you realise that this week your plan is already lost. Urgh! That doesn’t feel good and at least makes motivation for the following week, or whenever the ice melts, a real challenge. We have basically placed ourselves within an impossible task sapping our own enthusiasm as we go.

But, what if we didn’t set these goals, aspirations and figures (yes I realise we might write some stuff down for professional reasons) but instead, what if we just got curious?

“I wonder how many miles I could clock up in 2023?” Ohh, look at the mind space you just created when thinking about things with curiosity! “I wonder how happy I could come across to others today?”, “I wonder just how disruptive I could be in my own pond?”, “I wonder if I could get a few more people like me thinking about business along side environmental issues?”

Wonder and curiosity don’t tie you down to one goal and a specific point on a graph, they blow the thing wide open and they don’t beat you up for failing to hit a target. There is no target, just a healthy curiosity about what could be possible. The scope is enormous and endless but a small achievement is equally as worthy and recognisable as progress.

Even on our darkest days we can use curiosity to turn things around. “I wonder how high I could raise the spirits of the people in the office from where they are right now?” Nothing in the business plan or the financial forecast made any mention of this and yet, and forgive me for preaching to the converted here, the vibe in your place of business means everything. It’s the heartbeat of what you are trying to do. If it is off colour or at a low ebb then you can wave as many targets around as you like chances are you have already failed.

Going back to our previous topic of ‘Reaction or the root of the world’s problems’, curiosity really helps. If we become curious about someone else’s behaviour rather than react to it then we are open to possibilities and, more importantly not reacting back to them thus preventing that rather disruptive cycle of reaction.

“I wonder why Simon is showing up like that today?” as opposed to “for goodness sake what’s wrong with him today? I only asked for the forecast and got my head chewed off. He better watch what he says to me for the rest of the day!” I’m sure as seasoned people managers I don’t need to explain the difference as to how each day would pan out simply by thinking a little differently about Simon’s surliness!

Remember, thinking drives emotions. If we are not thinking about it then we are not getting emotional about it. When I say ‘thinking’ I really mean that internal narrative that goes on in our heads, often fuelled by what we imagine might be the case rather than reality and it might go something like this: “She probably thinks that I haven’t done the forecast because I don’t know what Im doing and that’s why she is asking for it, just to catch me out. Well she can just wait. I was up at 3 am this morning with a sickly child and frankly the forecast can go and…” ( If you are interested in the phenomenon that is internal narrative try reading “Knots’ by R.D Laing, it will blow your mind!)

Finally, in a world that, at times seems to be in a not-so-good place, curiosity and wonder can not only make it bearable but can ignite a sizeable spark of hope. Whatever element of world events seems to be getting you down, get curious about it, permit yourself to wonder what tiny little thing you could do about it within your sphere of influence. Dedicate a single energy bean to it mindfully but within your own limits. Recognise when you have taken an action and know that others must be doing similar things. For example, if you find the war in Ukraine hard to stomach as many of us do, be a little curious. “How can I let a stranger in the Ukraine know that I am thinking about them?” Do it collectively over coffee with your people but setting limits and boundaries, knowing that unless you give up your business and work to become elected as an MP and all that that entails, you won’t be able to influence UN Russian sanctions to a great level! You may however decide amongst you to book a room through Air B and B in The Ukraine that you have no intention of using, sending a message to the proprietor of love and solidarity. I am sure your own curiosity will come up with better and more imaginative ways to deal with the world, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Curiosity won’t kill the cat, in fact it will keep him healthy, hopeful and happy. If you are enjoying our little thought ramblings please sign up and invite interested others to do the same. It really helps me to know that there are real people out there not just the daunting blank page!