Human Interest

Salvaging Last Year’s Success

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I was having a brief discussion with my 31-year-old daughter, Jessica, about New Year’s resolutions. She said something that stuck with me. “People need to know they don’t have to discard everything from the previous year.” Of course, the preacher in me went straight to scripture to gather more insight. As I looked at various scriptures that one could use to support a New Year’s resolution, I was captivated by this one: “Clear lots of ground for your tents! Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big! Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep.” ( Isaiah 54:2 Message Bible). I was able to connect this passage to her concern. The writer was speaking to women who were barren and encouraging them to begin rejoicing as if they had already given birth to many children. In fact, he was advising them to begin preparing their environment for reception of the children they had been longing for. As I looked at this verse, it became apparent to me that the only way they could enlarge their tents is if they already had one. Now I see it. This is an excellent way to make plans for a better future. The more we can connect our past accomplishments to our future hopes of success the more realistic our resolutions will become. New Year’s resolutions can be constructed like S.M.A.R.T. Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound. Thinking big is not something reserved for just a few brave souls. Thinking big should be our norm. When you include your current successes in your plans for expansion and improvement you will increase your own confidence that it can happen, even for you.

These days, many people shy away from New Year’s resolutions, because they have experienced so much failure over the years, until the process just becomes too painful. A dear friend was sharing that in his family they write down their goals on index card and put them away with the Christmas decoration. The next year before they decorate the tree they review their stated goals to see how well they faired for the year. This is an excellent exercise, provided you can see your accomplishments despite your failures. Far too many people lock in on what went wrong and have no energy or hope to see what went right. This kind of thinking puts a menacing face on what could be a fun and encouraging exercise in faith. If we know that faith is the substance of things hoped for and literally proves the things we cannot yet see, failures should fuel our faith. However, 42% of Americans never even make a resolution at all (statisticbrain.com). Many people don’t want to set themselves up for failure, so they just don’t do it. I see a hidden desire for success in that approach. Let’s face it, if you are not sure you can fulfill your commitment for the year, you probably don’t look forward to confirming the inevitable. Back to our passage, it probably sounds ridiculous to women, who have never had children, to begin celebrating their own motherhood. That kind of positive thinking can be challenging for sure, especially if you don’t have the ability to see evidence that it can happen, or is happening for you. Yes, even you. Remember, as you look forward to setting new resolutions, there are always valuable accomplishments you can bring forward with you. You don’t have to discard the baby with the bathwater. It is smart to see what you can salvage, even from a year that was not very successful.

To bring last year’s success forward? It is all about perspective. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the by-product from one food can be perfect for making another.” –Yotam Ottolenghi. This popular Israeli chef is correct. There are things about last year that didn’t fit into last year’s situations, but will work perfectly for this year’s reality. As you make choices and decrees about your life in 2018, you don’t have to completely disregard everything from 2017. The key is to take a quick inventory using a simple debriefing process. Apply each question to the following key aspects of your life. A. Spiritual, B. Physical, C. Intellectual, D. Relational, E. Vocational, F. Financial

1. What’s gone well?

With fresh eyes make a list of everything that turned out good in your life. Be as generous as you can. Look at each of the six key aspects of your life and celebrate what you got right no matter how small the victory may have been.

2. What could’ve gone better?

Be critical of even your best accomplishments with a view for perfection. Don’t settle for pretty good. Set your bar as high as you can imagine and push it up another notch.

3. What do I need to learn?

Your experiences, good or bad, should give you indications of what you need to learn to experience continued improvement. Perhaps your retirement fund lost more money than you expected or were willing to accept. It could be that you need to learn more about your investment options or risk exposure. Look at your shortcomings as opportunities to grow.

4. What do I need expel?

By the time you get to this level of the exercise, you should be able to honestly identify some things you should discard in your life. It could be practices, products or people. This is sometimes easier said than done. An example of something you may need to expel could be: You were late submitting reports to your supervisor on numerous occasions last year and it put a strain on your credibility when it came time for promotion opportunities. This is a practice that you don’t want to carry over to the next year, because it doesn’t support you reaching your career goals.

5. What do I need to propel?

There are always some golden nuggets that you may determine to be valuable and expandable. Look for things that are producing the kinds of results that match your ultimate intention. An example might be: You discovered a hidden talent to knit and people are constantly asking you to make something for them. That newfound talent could open doors for you next year to help you earn a little extra money for your vacation fund. The possibilities are endless.

In my book TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE: 10 Concepts to Consider, I talked about uncorrected mistakes. When you learn from your mistakes they become experiences. If you don’t learn from shortcomings they remain mistakes forever. It is important to look for opportunities to improve on at least an annual basis. I recommend taking personal assessments on a regular basis. Using the debriefing process above, you will find strength, encouragement and opportunities for improvement as you go forward from one year to the next. To simply walk away from all that was experienced in a prior year is wasteful. There will always be valuable gems to be salvaged from even the most tragic situations. Remember, you will usually find what you are looking for when you focus. Make sure your focus includes looking for what is working in your life. There is no special honor in beating yourself down. However, there are endless possibilities to honest, proactive self-assessment, especially when it informs your plans. May 2018 be the best year of your life as you harvest every treasure from 2017 to inform your New Year’s resolution.

I am a speaker, trainer and consultant. *KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Inspiring the Audience to embrace their charge. *WORKSHOP TRAINING: Effectively enhancing the skills of your staff. *CONSULTING SERVICES: Coaching and facilitating your planning and management efforts.

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