Say Goodbye to Yesterday
And Hello to Something Awesome – An exercise to help process and progress through our current events in 2020.
Times, they are a’changin… and no more quickly than right now (within my lifetime at least). More drastically? Potentially. More dramatically? At times. More permanently? Absolutely!
If you are uncomfortable with the pace of change or even unsure of what your future may look like, this exercise “Say Goodbye to Yesterday and Hello to Something Awesome” (aka Hello Something Awesome) can help ease the transition of how you wake up tomorrow.
[If you want to skip the background section and jump directly to the exercise skim down to the “Let’s begin” section below]
The background of Hello Something Awesome
A bit about me and then I’ll get into the why. I personally get a kick out of change; I dig it. This disposition has some benefits as well as some drawbacks. Some of the benefits include: I’m not wedded to ideas, I am frequently able to see the positives of change and progress almost immediately, I use every opportunity to learn, iterate and improve a situation and I don’t care too much about what people think about me (although I do care a heck of a lot about how other people feel… so rationalize that with my therapist if you can). The drawbacks include: I change things at the last minute, I don’t think many things are ever finished and I’m not everyone’s favorite person.
So why should you care? Mainly, because my approach to change can help you learn from my many mistakes as well as give you the insights I have gathered from the times I have tested Hello Something Awesome.
Here are a some reasons why and when this exercise is helpful:
- When you are transitioning to something new (and who isn’t right now), it’s helpful to have a ritual to keep you in a healthy headspace
- If you are anxious about the future (and who isn’t right now), it helps to write out these fears to put them in perspective
- Organizing your thoughts is like organizing your closet — hello Marie Kondo — helping to make it easier to access healthy reactions and proactions (yes, this is a word now) when they are needed quickly
- Having a plan in place to help guide you though a transition can be like having an operation manual for life with an appendix for “troubleshooting”
- In times of change, it helps to acknowledge both our strengths and weaknesses because we’re all human (thankfully!) and sometimes being reminded of that is enough to help push us through
If any of these reasons resonate with you, take this exercise for a spin. With that…
How to prepare for Hello Something Awesome
For this exercise you will need to gather a few things before beginning. You will need something to write with and something to write on. I prefer sharpies and 3X3 stickie notes but any drawing material and surface to write on (even if it is digital) will do. If you are going to complete this exercise digitally — either by yourself or virtually with others — use a whiteboarding tool like Mural, Miro or Jamboard.
The only other requirement is time. You will need the time to work through all the steps and each step is allotted a certain amount of time. The questions build onto each other so ideally you will want to block off at minimum 50 minutes to work through the entire exercise (see Lessons I have learned below for more on timing). If you are not able to find the time to do them all together, the next best thing is to break them up into Past (for 30 minutes) and Present / Future (for 20 minutes). You will also need something to time with. This can be done on your phone (unless that is a big distraction for you) or on a kitchen timer or even with a Time Timer if you happen to have one. Since every step is allotted a certain amount of time, you will be setting and resetting the timer at each step. This will both create a sense of urgency as well as help keep you at a good pace to not overthink or overwork any particular step.
Everything else is optional. I enjoy drawing and coloring so I like to have some different colored markers and colored pencils handy. You only need a pen or pencil (or computer mouse) at minimum. Also, most of the steps will be completed individually but there are a couple of places where having a shared space can help but it is not required. I will note these places below in the step-by-step execution. (See Lessons I have learned below for more on this.)
If you are doing this exercise digitally, you can set up your space like the example below (also a larger version found here):
At this point, you should now be ready to jump into the exercise.
Step-by-step how to execute this exercise
START WITH THE FOCUS
Hello Something Awesome is done in three phases: Past, Present and Future and it works well if you narrow your focus before you start. The focus of your exercise can be from any of these four quadrants: personal, professional, spiritual or relational. This can be done before the meeting is scheduled either with yourself or with a group. If you are doing this with a group, agree up front what focus you all want because it is helpful for everyone to start from the same place before you begin to wander in individual directions. (Some examples: I have done this with work colleagues and the focus we agreed on was in the professional quadrant and was “Working differently after the pandemic” and when I did this with friends our focus was from the personal quadrant and was “Building better habits”).
To begin, take a moment and repeat “I am empowered today” silently to yourself. Even when you are doing this exercise with a group, this is a great way to start to have an internal and personal agreement with what you will complete today. This also signifies that you are going to be thinking and working differently for the next hour.
DESIRED FUTURE STATE
Next, we will set a desired future state which is up to you individually. Since you have a focus (from one of the 4 quadrants above), you can create any future state that you desire. Here are some more examples: Do you desire a future where you work differently? Then your future state would be: “I am empowered to work differently”. Do you want to be more resilient during uncertain times? Then your future state would be: “I am a resilient individual”. The future state should be broad enough to allow for exploration while setting boundaries in which to explore.
Set your timer for 2 minutes and write your desired future state. When the timer is done, move on. As a best practice for time boxing, which is what we are doing, you don’t have to fill the entire time, but you can’t go over the allotted time. If you finish before 2 minutes, move ahead to the next step. (See Lessons I have learned below more more insights on this).
PAST: WORKING WELL AND NOT WORKING WELL
Now we will begin to answer the prompts for each of the phases, starting with the past. You should complete each prompt in sequence and pause to reflect in between each step. For each prompt, you will write down as many things as you can think of without editing. If you are using stickie notes, write one answer per stickie. This isn’t required; it simply helps with reviewing and organizing as you progress through the prompts.
Now set your timer for 3 minutes and begin to answer this question “What has been working well in the past?” (to get you to your desired future state). Write as many answers as you can think of within the 3 minutes. If you finish early, try to think of more.
Reset your timer for another 3 minutes and begin to answer this question “What hasn’t been working well in the past?” (to get you to your desired future state). Again write as many answers to the question as you can think of within the 3 minutes. If you finish early, push yourself for more.
PAST: HOLD ON TO AND LET GO OF
Reset your timer for another 3 minutes and begin to answer this question “What do I want to hold on to from the past?” Write as many answers as you truly want to hold on to in the 3 minutes. You may have less answers here. If you finish early, you can move onto the next question.
Again reset your timer for another 3 minutes and begin to answer this question “What do I want to let go of from the past?” Write as many answers as you truly want to let go of in the 3 minutes. You may have less answers here as well and if you finish early, you can move onto the next question.
Guess what? That’s right… put 3 more minutes on the timer and begin to answer this question “What is in it for me if I hold on to some things and let go of others?” Again write as many answers to this question as you can think of within the 3 minutes. If you finish early, push yourself for more. The answers to this question are specific benefits if you were to let go of the things that you have identified and hold on to the things that matter. Some examples could be: more time to myself, more money for savings, space to grow, any benefit that is related to your desired future state.
Now we are going to say goodbye to the past by creating a Youlogy to your past self. A Youlogy, like a eulogy, acknowledges a life that was lived and says goodbye to the loss. The process helps us to grieve the past and creates space for what is to come in the future.
Your Youlogy can take any form of verse you desire — a limerick, a haiku, or take a cue from a eulogy you have read in the past. The only suggestion here is to use words, acknowledge the positive and say goodbye. It can be as long or short as you feel it needs to be and you will be given 8 minutes to write it. Review and include anything you find useful that you wrote in the previous prompts. If there is anything positive that you want to keep, bless those things and welcome them. If there are things that you want to let go of, say goodbye to them and thank them for serving you. Set your timer for the 8 minutes and begin.
If you are doing the exercise as a group, this is a good opportunity to play some background music while people write because 8 minutes is a long time for silence. You can play music for each of the prompts, but I find the longer steps are less awkward if there is music.
Once the 8 minutes is complete if you are doing this exercise alone, I recommend reading it aloud. If you are doing this exercise as a group, this is an optional time to share what you have created. If you decide to share as a group, only allow each person to read their Youlogy with no other explanation (see Lessons I have learned below for more on this point).
Congratulations, you are more than halfway there. Let’s move on to the next phase, the present.
PRESENT: NOT IN CONTROL OF AND IN CONTROL OF
Set your timer once again for 3 minutes and begin to answer this question “What about my current situation am I not in control of”? Write as many answers as you can think of within the 3 minutes. If you finish early, try to think of more.
Reset your timer for another 3 minutes and begin to answer this question “What about my current situation am I in control of”? Again write as many answers to the questions as you can think of within the 3 minutes. If you finish early, push yourself for more.
Now review what you have written that you are in control of and pick 3 to 5 of these items that you are interested in digging deeper into. If you are using stickies, move the ones that you choose to another part of your space. If you are using a notebook or paper to list your answers, circle the ones that you want to proceed with and rewrite them in columns below your last list. Give yourself up to 1 minute to move or rewrite the items you are digging deeper into.
PRESENT: DIG DEEPER
Next, reset your timer for another 3 minutes and begin to answer this question for each of the items you are digging deeper into: “What will help me fulfill these things I am in control of”? Try to write 2 or 3 answers for each column. Examples of answers can be as simple as “set a calendar reminder”, to “count to 3 when inhaling”, or even “journal”. The purpose of this step is to break down the things that you have control over into manageable actions that can easily be completed.
Here is an example of what this step will look like when completed:
Now we are ready to move on to the last phase, the future!
FUTURE: REBIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT
We are going to say hello to the future by creating a Rebirth Announcement for your future self. Similarly to any baby’s birth announcement that you have seen, the Rebirth Announcement is telling yourself and the world that something new is coming. This step is done to symbolize the changes that you want to make and adds a level of accountability by sharing it.
This announcement can be any form you want. The only suggestion is to draw some part of the announcement to accompany your words. Again, it can be as long or short as you feel it needs to be and you will be given 8 minutes to create it. Review and include anything you wrote in the previous prompts that you want to bring into your future. Set your timer for the 8 minutes and begin.
If you are doing the exercise as a group, this is another good opportunity to play some background music while people create.
Once the 8 minutes is complete, if you are doing this exercise as a group, this is an optional time to share what you have created. If you decide to share as a group, only allow each person to read and show their Rebirth Announcement with no other explanation. If you are doing this exercise alone, I recommend posting this announcement somewhere where you can see it!
Lessons I have learned
Here are a few helpful insights that I have learned through testing Hello Something Awesome:
- If you are doing this exercise as a group, set the expectation at the beginning that this exercise will be mostly done individually but that there will be some steps that people will be asked to share if they like. Let them know that you will tell them when those times are for sharing so people can relax and work individually and honestly on answering the prompts and then they can be more edited on the steps that they share if they want. It is better to state this up front so people know what they are in for.
- Timeboxing is a wonderful tool and a word of caution if you remove the time constraints. It may seem counterintuitive, but keeping the timeboxing in place actually encourages more idea generation than if left open-ended.
- Speaking of time… if you are planning this with a group, I would recommend scheduling and hour and thirty minutes total. Without any explanation or transitions, the steps add up to 44 minutes without the time built in to share. When you have more people to wrangle and especially if you want to have people share their Youlogy and Rebirth Announcement, it is better to buffer in extra time so no one feels short changed by not getting to share.
- I do not recommend opening the floor for questions at any point unless you finish the entire exercise early. The format is constructed specifically to get the most input and output and questions derail and rarely add value until the end. If you are conducting this virtually, you can utilize chat for any questions or clarification. And if you do finish early, you can address questions or debrief.
- I have done this exercise both in person and virtually with similar results. The only challenges I have seen with conducting this virtually have been technical, and the only challenges I have encountered doing this in person, are, well… the pandemic.
You’re done; what’s next?
Share it! Spread it! Do it regularly! I have done Hello Something Awesome alone, with 200 of my closest friends, and groups and teams of numbers in between. One thing I have learned is that every time I go through it, I learn something new about myself. When I do it with small teams, I learn a lot about others as well. It helps me gain empathy and be more mindful of how unique and awesome we really are.
If you want to share your Youlogy or your Rebirth Announcement, or see what others have created, search or share on social channels with the hashtag #hellotosomethingawesome
This exercise “Say Goodbye to Yesterday and Hello to Something Awesome” aka Hello Something Awesome was created by me but wouldn’t exist without these influences (UX For the Win, Sprint, Essentialism, The War of Art and more!). If you would like any additional background information, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you found anything that worked for you differently than I laid out above, also reach out. I’d love to hear how it changes… I dig it! And I hope you get a lot out of it and dig it too.