Before You Leave 2014
Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.
-Margaret J. Wheatly
This article is probably more of a manifesto to myself than anyone else. At year's end I so often find myself mentally stacking all the "happenings" of the current year into a corner and clearing my mind for all I want to accomplish in the coming year. It's much less painful than trying to sort through the ups and downs of the year and try to make sense of it all.
But as I started putting 2014 into my rear view mirror, I kept having this quote from George Santayana come to mind: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The successes were easier to remember, but the struggles were often not as easy to recall, especially the circumstances or factors leading to those struggles.
This year I used a different process to close out my year. I opened my calendar to January 2014, and began reviewing my year using the 3 areas or "rings" based on my Juggling Elephants book. You can see (and download if you like) the primitive chart I created to capture my reflections by clicking here.
Here's what I found as I completed the exercise that was helpful:
It's amazing how looking at the calendar refines your reflection. I found moments of success and failures I would never have remembered without looking at a specific date or event.
I asked deeper questions of myself. When I would identify something that went well I would then ask, "Why?," or "What made it successful?" For failures I pondered on questions like, "How did I contribute to the failure?" or "What was out of my control in that situation?"
Patterns of behavior became more obvious. Both on the plus and negative sides I could more clearly see how my action or inaction impacted the events or situations. These "ahas" became part of my improvement plan for 2015.
The positive mental and emotional energy created was truly a gift. Like many of you, I am frequently beating myself up for what isn't getting done... even though I passionately teach and train that we can't get it all done. Completing this exercise reminded me that I am moving forward with my professional and personal goals, and many of the important things are getting done. Who doesn't need that affirmation more often in this crazy busy world?
After going through my calendar I looked at the year as a whole and identified successes/failures related to my professional and personal goals. Having done the calendar exercise first made this step more meaningful.
Armed with this new information, I am now ready to begin planning a more strategic and rewarding 2015, creating a year with an increase in intended consequences. Now the quote coming to mind is from Henry David Thoreau:
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.
You can download my reflections chart by clicking here.