As part of a standard team meeting at work, I was asked to write down new goals for this year and the next five years. This is not an unusual request. In the past, such an activity was enjoyable and even exciting. Dreaming about the possibilities for the future was stimulating, but not this year. Just the thought of such an exercise created anxiety and even a touch of depression.
Why? The last few years have been rough. Even the best laid out plans carefully reviewed by experts, failed to achieve the lower levels of expectations. Life just happened instead. It was as if several years got put on hold and then the “hold” button got stuck. Then discouragement and frustration replaced inspiration and achievement. What is the point in setting new goals only to feel more disappointment?
However, it is all about perspective. Viewing the past in the worst possible light by highlighting all of the failures over any successes will create paralysis in anyone. Instead, consider these seven points.
- Remember the journey, not the destination. Take time to review the past five years before looking forward to the next five. What areas produced growth? How did the difficult journey strengthen character and determination? Sometimes one challenging time is needed in order to better prepare for the next one. It is not always about where a person arrives; often it is about how they got there.
- It is never too late to turn around. Strenuous years frequently highlight a pivotal moment when a decision was made that turned things around. Take some time to evaluate the thought process behind the decision and learn something from the error. Can the decision be undone or is it permanent? Just changing an attitude can turn things around.
- Expect life to throw a curve ball. Perhaps there was an illness, death, or divorce that altered life completely. Or it could have been a financial, parental, marital or professional decision that shook things up. It could have been complete outside of any control such as economical, vocational, accidental, or environmental. Whatever the curve, it happened and caused things to stop for a while. This is not a failure, it is life.
- Look at the long-term, not the short-term. Short-term goals are necessary by products of long-term aims. One of the reasons for looking ahead five years is so that when the unexpected happens there is still time to achieve the overall ambition. Put some wiggle room into the long-term targets by not over doing the short-term objectives.
- Be flexible, giving grace to self. Look at any successful person and they bring with them a trail of defeats. Frequently only the victories are highlighted but most willingly admit to a vast number of setbacks. The same is true for everyone. As John Madden said, “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” Be kind to self even when stumbling.
- Take time to smell the roses. Some years are rose smelling years. Every season in life has its’ moments when there are periods of rest. There is rest daily in the form of sleep, weekly in the form of days off, monthly in the form of holidays and annually in the form of vacation. Every once in a while, there will be a year or two of stagnation, enjoy it.
- It’s not what a person does that matters, it is who they become. At the end of life, it is the lives that a person impacts along the way the leaves the lasting impression. A person who accomplishes a lot at the expense of good relationships misses out on the richness life has to offer. Who a person becomes is far more valuable than what they do.