The Year Ahead…and why it’s important to look at the year behind

American television has begun its annual emphasis on nostalgia. They’ve begun producing and broadcasting programs that take a look back at the year about to end. While most zero in on news events and famous people, some look at the year’s best cars, the year’s best tech products, or those people who are no longer with us.

And things seem to slow down, at least here in the US. Next week, they will slow down even more. With Christmas coming in the middle of the week, little of significance will happen until January 5th. People will gather in close units. Families will congregate as will communities of faith. There will be last minute sales to entice gift-givers to part with more money, but by and large most people are ready for the holidays.

Even I will slow down a bit. Next week and the week after I will make only one post per week on Monday the 22nd and the 29th. You have different things to do than read my wonderings and I do too.

But while we’re in the mood it is a good time to celebrate the past year and anticipate the coming one. In my time management courses I often recommend that at the end of each day we write down three things you have accomplished.  Almost always there will be one or more items that are nowhere to be found on your plans, your daily schedule, or your task list. But they will be accomplishments nonetheless and therefore noteworthy.  The lesson is twofold – your get more done than you think and you get more done than you plan for.

So, if you write down three things every day that you did, at the end of the year you will have a record of 1095 things or more that you accomplished. See, you are a capable person and you are making progress.

But, there are lessons also in looking backward.

  1. Make new mistakes – don’t repeat the old ones. If you’re like me, plenty of things went wrong or didn’t work out. The best advice I ever heard in a leadership conference was not by one of the scheduled speakers but within the invocation offered by a local clergyman who said, “Help us make new mistakes. We are tired of making the same mistakes over and over again. The coming 365 days hold opportunities to try new things, consider new possibilities, and launch new endeavors.
  2. In reality, January 1st is no different from February 3rd. It’s nothing more than a date to which we have fixed significance. But it points to the human need to erect landmarks, to set up checkpoints, to measure and grade progress or the lack of it. We just feel better at marking the passage of time and recording the events time allowed us to experience. January first is usually a day to make resolutions and start anew. But any day works the same as any other day. Each day is the beginning of a new year and therefore a new life.
  3. There is no future in the past. What was, is now gone. What is to come, is where we can excel. Lists of accomplishments give record of what we got done. Let a new year also mark what you can let go of. Carrying a grudge with you into the New Year only weighs us down. It’s time to leave the past behind. If you can…and if you will…the future is brighter and better than ever.

Let me close today’s post with a quote from one of the great innovators and inventors of theTwentieth Century, Walt Disney: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”


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