All businesses make an annual practice of evaluating what they've accomplished throughout the year and what they need to do to get better. For instance, have they met their financial goals? What were their biggest successes? What were their regrets and failures? Taking all that into account, what were their lessons learned? Doing this type of "year in review" is not only a best practice for companies, but also for you and me.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I began to reflect on what's happened in my life over the past year. There was a lot to be thankful for - my sister-in-law and her husband are adopting another child from Ethiopia, my father-in-law is beating cancer, my parents just celebrated their 45th anniversary, my wife and I are happily married, my kids are doing well in school, and I have a new book coming out. For all of these things I am genuinely grateful and happy.
But while the year has had its ups, it's also had its downs. As much as getting published for the third time was exciting, it was also no easier than the first. If you ever want to go through a truly humbling experience that will teach you the real meaning of the word rejection, try pitching a manuscript to agents and publishers! On the home front, my 13-year old daughter has provided me with no shortage of "parenting moments" this year. So many times I've had to ask myself, Am I really this bad of a father? In addition, I said goodbye to a client that I didn't want to travel for anymore. While I felt good about staying true to my personal values of putting family first and not being an absentee father, I really miss the challenge and excitement of the work I was doing there as well as the deep friendship I had cultivated with my client.
What I've come to realize as I continue to do this end-of-year personal reflection is that even the disappointments and struggles have taught me a lot about myself and have helped me gain a stronger sense of authenticity. I've made some mistakes and I've also had to make some tough choices that could have backfired, but I don't regret these experiences because I've stayed true to who I am and can live with the decisions I've made. For example, taking away all of my daughter's electronics for a week (yes, a 7-day moratorium on texting, Facebooking, Skyping, e-mailing, etc.) was not met with a warm reception though in the end it brought us closer when she finally understood the reason why. Lately we are talking a lot more and she is starting to let me back into her life.
Looking back is an important step for moving forward. If you want to be happier and avoid regrets in the future, then you have to take inventory of the past. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you do your own "year in review":
• What's working and what still needs work?
• Can I live with the decisions I've made?
• What have I learned from both my successes and my failures?
• Now that I know where I'm at, how will I get to where I want to go?
I would love to hear your initial thoughts and comments!