(From the blog archives. This article, now slightly revised, was originally published in December 2019.) As we reach the end of the year, it is appropriate to review and reflect on our lives. A serious review and reflection is especially suitable this year since we are also approaching the end of the 2010s decade and entering the 2020s. What will the new decade bring for you? What will you carry forward into the 2020s decade and which behaviors, habitual ways of thinking, and values will you decide to replace with new and better, consciously chosen ones?
Looking ahead and looking back…
December is a suitable time for some reflection on the successes and failures – and lessons learned – of the year. It is the time to start thinking about goals for the coming year of 2019. I hope you will take a little time to examine your experiences of this year – both the successes and the failures.
ANALYZING OUR EFFORTS:
Often, we can learn more from our failures than from our successes. Let me offer a rather simple example as an illustration. When we go fishing, our goal is to catch fish. Yet, quite often, we fail to catch anything – or, our success (the number of fish caught), is not very satisfying.
Later, when we analyze the process we used, we can use two different approaches. The first is to consider exactly what we were doing when we successfully caught the fish – then repeat that procedure exactly. This method is fine… unless we caught the fish entirely by accident or if we cannot identify the specific action which brought success. If so, repeating our procedures is unlikely to produce significantly more fish. Another option is to do some research and learn how other people successfully catch fish, then duplicate their methods precisely. Still, very often, since it is difficult to identify exactly what a successful fisherman did that caught the fish, it is impossible to duplicate their methods and achieve their success.
Continuing the example…
But, the second method of analysis, reviewing why we failed to catch fish, may be more useful. By considering the times we were unsuccessful – and identifying the reason why we were unsuccessful – we are more likely to discover and avoid repeating mistakes that caused us to fail. Eliminating the problems may be a more effective way to achieve success. You may find yourself saying, “So, if I stop doing that action, I am likely to catch more fish.”
Unless you are a fisherman, the above example is unlikely to be of much interest to you. But the same analysis procedures can be applied to any of your goals. Let’s explore how this method might be used to review one of your projects which has not been a great success. You may find, for example, lack of preparation, inadequate funding, poor social skills, lack of mentoring, or bad timing were to blame for your failure. Identifying and eliminating these errors is likely to bring you more success in the future than simply repeating your method that was minimally successful but for unknown reasons.
In other words, if you have a 1% success rate in catching fish (number of fish caught compared to the number of opportunities for fish to bite), you can explore what led to the 1% success… or you can look carefully at what happened the other 99% of the time when you were not successful in catching a fish. Often it is more effective to explore the 99% failure side of the equation. By identifying and eliminating the negative factors which were causing you to fail, you increase the chances of succeeding in the future. A small increase in effectiveness may raise your success rate from 1% to 2% – and that’s a 100% improvement!
I hope you catch more fish and have more success in all your undertakings in 2020.
When you begin thinking about your goals for the coming year, I suggest you divide them into two groups: The first group is “give up” goals. These are things that you wish to stop doing in order to improve your life. For example, you might say I am going to “give up” snacks between meals and fast foods because I wish to lose weight. Someone else might say, “I will give up smoking.” Another might decide to “give up” video games because they take up too much time.
For these “give up” goals, you can tell everyone about your plan. Broadcast it. Brag about it. Tell people how great your life will be after you “give up” something. It may even help you to discipline yourself if you know that other people will see you if you indulge in fast foods or keep smoking or continue playing video games. The fear of embarrassment and public failure will motivate you to achieve your “give up” goals.
The second type, the “move up” goals, is different. These are objectives that will help you to substantially improve your life by developing new skills or behaviors. Maybe these goals will be to rise to a new level of your present skills or complete a major new accomplishment.
For example, I’m going to run in and complete a marathon; I will finish writing my book; I’m going to learn to speak French; I will start my own company, etc.) These goals should be kept private. Perhaps you can share them with a few of your closest companions and family members… but only if you are confident they will support and encourage you. Definitely do not talk to anyone who will ridicule your ideas or tell you why you can’t achieve these lofty goals. To avoid making your efforts even more difficult because of negative people holding you back, don’t tell everyone about your “move up” goals. These should be kept private.
I wish you the best of luck in achieving your meaningful and worthy goals in the coming year.
What about you? Have you thought of any changes you want to make in 2019? You are welcome to share any of your “give up” goals in the comments section of this article.
(December 2019: For me, this has been both a good year and a bad year. Especially, it has been a year of self-examination and enlightenment. Although I continue to set lofty goals for the future, I have recognized what is truly important (to me, anyway) is good health, a happy, peaceful, and harmonious home, a simple lifestyle, and reducing my expectations and desires so I won’t be frustrated or disappointed by people, things, or events I cannot control. I am grateful for the life and friends I have now. I know that many, many people around the world would eagerly trade places with me but I am wise enough to decline any such offers. I have also realized that all the terrible, stupid, and embarrassing mistakes I have made in the past were necessary. Without them, I would not be the person I am today, enjoying the life I have currently. The 2020s decade holds great promise but I have to say that, in December 2019, as I write these words, life looks pretty good for the moment.)