Posted by: communicationcoach | December 20, 2007

Looking back before looking forward

As the last page of the calendar streaks by with alarming speed, let’s grab a few minutes to check the rear view mirror and invest some precious time to assess where we (and our organizations) have been. Noticing what we’ve achieved in the past 12 months is an excellent way to launch the plans we make for the new year.

With our eyes firmly fixed on where we’re headed, we often forget to celebrate or even notice what we’ve already accomplished. As a coach, I often ask clients to catch themselves doing something well and stop to savour the moment. As a busy person, I can forget to take my own advice.

Last week, I made time to do that, as I joined with a friend and fellow solopreneur to refine our business plans and set action priorities for 2008. Our first activity was to make a note of what we’d each achieved. At her suggestion, we also listed the names of people who had helped us get there.

It was an interesting and useful exercise and a bit of an eye opener.

One of my observations – as you may have guessed – was how much more I had accomplished than I knew. Like most people, I underestimated the variety and value of the things I had done. On my list were things I never imagined I’d do – speaking at conferences, writing a book that’s almost ready to publish and (perhaps the most amazing) perfecting the art of making scones.

A less obvious discovery was that the achievements I was most excited about were things that had never been on my list of “Goals for 2007.” These were opportunities that just showed up, often because colleagues invited me onto their projects. Not only were they not on the priority list, they were often outside my comfort zone.

As a planning-oriented creature who has lists of her lists and mindmaps of her mindmaps, it’s not easy to admit that some of my greatest achievements of 2007 weren’t even on my mind, let alone on my list, as I began the year. It reminds me of a quote from author Joseph Campbell – “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

I’m still in favour of planning and goal setting. If we don’t know where we’re going, the only way we’ll get there is by accident. Let’s plan to leave some space for the unexpected. It may bring our greatest rewards.

Cheers – Sue

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