What do you see when you look back?
As we enter the last month of the year thoughts naturally turn towards the coming festive period. We begin to think about winding work down a bit and look forward to the public holidays when we can lay our work hats to one side and get some much-needed R&R (dependant on how you view family time at Christmas).
I’ve written before about reassessing and reviewing your position but the following is subtly different.
This is the perfect time to look back over the past year and work out what has happened to your business. Take some time out to review where you have got to. Not delving into the minutiae but sitting back and taking a more global overview. Were your targets hit? Did the plans you had at the beginning of the year come off? Has there been any substantial shifts you had to undertake?
I tend to start off this process by grinding my teeth at what I didn’t manage to achieve (a human trait). Being something of an impatient person when it comes to business I do tend to set high goals and then get a little frustrated if they haven’t come to fruition by the end of the year. This is the potential quagmire of reflection. When you consider what has not been achieved you need to do so from a dispassionate viewpoint.
Looking back and learning
Every experience is a learning opportunity. I set myself high goals which on reflection I can see were sometimes unachievable goals within the time frame. Remember, goal setting needs to be SMART and the “a” of smart is supposed to be achievable/attainable. If your goals were a little too ambitious, you need to acknowledge that on reflection. Dreams are good when they motivate you but not when they become dashed hopes. So, when you look back don’t beat yourself up if you over–stretched; learn from it. Having high goals means if you achieve two thirds of them that is a win.
Are you hanging onto an impossible dream? Reflecting is about being honest with yourself. It doesn’t mean giving up on your dreams, just realising if they are totally impossible. Becoming a prima ballerina at the age of 50 is likely to be impossible. Learning to dance is not.
Was your business ready for the goals you set? You may have been ready and motivated but did you have the systems in place for your business to handle a change of direction or a big project? Reflecting on our misses helps us to refine the next set of goals to create a more favourable winning environment.
What did you learn from your wins?
After reflecting on my errors or losses, I very quickly refocus my attention on to what I have achieved.
I remind myself of all the good things that have come to be. I remind myself of the new experiences and skills I’ve picked up during the year. I compare where I was at the end of the previous year to where I am now. I reflect on the new connections I have made and how those relationships are beginning to flourish.
From these reflections, I then realise how much has changed and how much I have truly achieved. This has the tendency to boost my morale. I am not over self-congratulatory, I would call it more appreciative of the improved circumstances I am in compared to the beginning of the year. If you are a solopreneur or the owner of a small company it can be a lonely job. There are few people out there who will congratulate you. You must be your own cheerleader. It is important to give yourself those pats on the back. You can be honest about your achievements, however small. Do not minimise them; there is a human tendency to undervalue our own achievements. We are generally better at praising others.
If being self-congratulatory makes you feel uncomfortable, think of it as practising gratitude. There is plenty of good scientific research into the benefits of gratitude. It makes us feel better and improves health and performance.
Gratitude is strongly related to well-being, however defined, and this link may be unique and causal.
Wood, A. M., et al., Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration, Clinical Psychology Review (2010), doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005
When you look back and celebrate your achievements it helps you to then look forward with optimism. It’s good for the soul, it re-energises you when you look forward and start to plan what you want to aim for in the coming year. Congratulate yourself even if it is only the fact you have survived a turbulent year and are still going!