by Laura Stack
“Life is divided into three terms—that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future.” — William Wordsworth, British poet.
If you’re anything like me, you recently looked up and wondered (or said aloud to a friend), “Hey, what the heck happened to 2012?”
As we all know from experience, time really does fly when you’re having fun. When it also flies at work, that’s a good thing, because you know work fascinates you nearly as much as play. Wonderful news, right? Be careful here: just because you’ve kept busy and enjoy what you do doesn’t mean you’ve actually accomplished anything lately. To get ahead, we have to leverage our past experiences to gain an advantage in the future.
So as you close out 2012, take a little time to study what you’ve learned. Ask yourself two fundamental questions when planning for the New Year:
1. How have I changed emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, financially, and socially in 2012 (how can I usher out the old)?
2. What do I want to do more or less of in 2013 (how can I ring in the new)?
Ushering Out the Old
On the work front, look back and consider all the projects you and your team have completed, as well as the status of those in progress. How effective and productive were you? Questions you might ask include:
• Have I left anything undone I needed to complete this year?
• What project(s) do I feel happiest about completing?
• What was my greatest triumph?
• What was my smartest decision this year?
• How about my dumbest?
• What good habits did I pick up in 2012?
• What bad habits did I break?
• Did I pick up any new bad habits?
• What surprised me most?
• What was my biggest lesson learned?
• What was my biggest risk, and how did it turn out?
• Who impacted me most this year?
• What action would cap off 2012 perfectly?
• How could I sum up 2012 in 10 words or less?
Think carefully about each question. Take your time and write down your answers as you go.
Ringing in the New
The future represents the original “undiscovered country,” and one should be well prepared before blazing new trails. So after you’ve weighed the lessons of 2012, consider what you’ve learned and use that knowledge as you move forward. Not only will this help you avoid the stumbles of previous forays, it’ll prove useful in defining new strategies and goals. So pose another set of questions to yourself, facing forward this time:
• What accomplishment would make me happiest next year?
• What do I look forward to the most?
• What things (or people) should I avoid?
• What should I improve about myself?
• What can I do to enhance my professional value?
• How can I better my financial position?
• What external changes are likely to affect me?
• Does my current professional path take me where I really want to go? If not, how can I start changing that?
• Should I make more of an effort to indulge myself in any particular areas…or did I overdo it last year?
• What do I most want to learn this year?
• What do I expect to be my biggest risk?
• What’s my one-word theme for 2013?
Viewed objectively, these questions have no right or wrong answers; the only answers that matter are those that feel right to you. My list of answers may not resemble yours. The point of this exercise is to learn from the recent past, so you have the proper ammunition and attitude as you charge forward into the future. Happy New Year!