Sometimes To Make Progress, You Have To Go Back (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 359)
“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
— John Dewey
When each year begins to wind down, most of us make special efforts to make plans for the future. We create resolutions. Put up new calendars in our office or home. Begin a new journal or planner. Write out our long term goals and chart a path to get there. Answer the question, “Where do you see yourself at the end of the year?” is a tool that allows us to gain clarification.
But sometimes, in order to move ahead, we have to look back. The past is not a place of residence but a point of reference. It is helpful to take a day or even two or three days to take stock of our lives, to ask questions, to seek answers, and to reflect on what was. The mistakes and the losses are all part of what has brought us to this part of our lives. We make progress not only by simply looking ahead and going in that direction. We make effective and long-lasting progress by going back in order to assess what has been done, what needs to be done, and how we will get it done.
Too many people find themselves in fits of starts and stops because they do not take the time to go over past mistakes and losses, analyze them, and learn from them. We don’t learn in a vacuum. Everything is connected. If you make a mistake and learn from it, most likely you won’t make it again. But if you make a mistake and don’t learn from it, you will keep making that mistake and compound the mistake made simply because you haven’t learned the lesson. It is the lessons we have not yet learned that impede us most on our journey.
[Tweet “We don’t learn in a vacuum. Everything is connected.”]
If you are coming to the end of a year and you want to make progress as you travel into the future, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions and really seek out the answers. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
Every success is an achievement. No matter how small the success was, make a list of all of your accomplishments. Doing so will help you to realize and appreciate the effort and the courage it took to get to where you are. Both big and small achievements add up when you take the time to write them out.
Some of us start projects but do not finish them. That is not only a bad habit, but it leaves a hole in our minds when things are not finished. Make a list of all the things you started — half finished books, almost there presentations — and set a timeline and commit to finishing these projects. Nothing is more satisfying that bringing a project from beginning to end.
We all have them and many of us don’t like to think about them. But we will only be able to do succeed if we realize that we did fail. Make a list of things that didn’t work, mistakes you made, and losses you chalked up. Be thankful for these events in your life because failure is really a lesson in disguise and often the first step to making progress.
Some things may not be categorized as failures or successes, instead, these are things that you just want to do better on. It might be sticking with an exercise regime or waking up earlier/going to bed earlier. Whatever it is, make a list of things you want to improve on. Self-improvement is not a finite process. But little by little, with a tweak here and maybe an intermediate overhaul here, you are on your way to experiencing better results.
Just as there are some things you want to improve on, there are also some things you may want to stop. Maybe you need to cut a bad habit. Maybe you need to stop being concerned about what other people think. Maybe you need to stop allowing fear and the doubts of other people keep you back from reaching your goals. Look back through the past year and make a note of things you need to stop. Then take action and put in the effort to eliminate it.
You will never be completely satisfied until you do the things you were born to do. This means letting go of doubt, pushing back fear, embracing risk and uncertainty, ignoring the negativity of others, and having faith that you can accomplish what you were put here to do. Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Then create an action plan to actually get those things done.
This list would not be complete without thinking about all the things you are grateful for. All the successes and the failures, all the stops and the starts, all the opportunities and the ones that slipped through your fingers, all the lessons and the blessings deserve your thanks. Make a list of all these things and remember that looking back helps to keep us grateful.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
— Richard Branson