As we come to the end of another year, it is a good leadership practice to set meaningful SMART goals for the year ahead. However, I find that many leaders forget one crucial step before embarking on this exercise. And that is, doing business with the past first. You see, to give yourself the best chances of success in your future goals, you have to start well. And to start well, you need to finish well.
What do I mean by finish well? Every year that goes by will no doubt have its highs and lows. Hopefully more highs than lows but it will have its lows nonetheless. Whether these be disappointments, failures, setbacks, frustrations or even an unexpected ending. And if you don’t deal with these lows, you cannot start well. Yes, the highs have value too, but more often than not, it’s the lows that we fail to deal with. It is counter-productive to leave them hanging in the air or pushing them behind you like they didn’t matter. Doing so will only prevent you from moving forward from a position of strength. So how do you deal with them?
- Recognise what you expected. What were your hopes, dreams and goals?
- Acknowledge what actually happened. The good, the bad and the ugly.
- Identify the lessons learned. No matter what happened, there is always a lesson in there somewhere that can prove valuable going forward. Was there something you could have done, not done or done differently? As journalist Carina Chocano says, “The point of regret is not to try to change the past, but to shed light on the present.”
- Change your behaviour. Let go of negative feelings, forgive if forgiveness is needed and take on board the lessons learned to make you better and stronger.
I can personally testify how powerful this exercise can be. A number of years ago, I was exploring a potential business partnership with someone I knew, liked and trusted. After almost a year of ‘courting’ one another, the partnership fell down at the last hurdle. I was disappointed, hurt and frustrated at the seemingly wasted 12 months of my life. But at the same time, I was determined to set myself up for a better year going forward. Instead of languishing in regret, I worked hard to process what had happened, identify the lessons learned and change my behaviour going forward. I also made the choice to forgive, both myself and the other person. Doing all this gave me the motivation and impetus that I otherwise could never have mustered up for going further and achieving more than I could ever have imagined.
Whether your lows were big or small, I encourage you to give this exercise a go. Finish your 2019 well and give yourself the best start to 2020.