This January, do not ask me what my New Year’s resolutions are. Instead, ask me what I learned from my 2019 failures.
In the Western World to many, December is a month of chaos marketed as a celebration of community.
We spend the few days between the 1st and the 21st spreading ourselves thin trying to close off projects, finalise budgets and simultaneously spread Christmas joy, as we shop for and meet with, family and friends.
When all is said and done the year comes to a close and a herd of emotionally and physically exhausted humans sit down to reflect on the previous 365 days. This mix is not necessarily conducive to a kind retrospective. Many people can be left feeling disillusioned with what they have not achieved or bitter about things that did not go as they dreamed.
With January comes a fresh start and so many are quick to ignore their past failures and embark on a new set of goals. However, maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty to wipe the slate clean. Instead of bounding towards the unknown in the year ahead, we should instead stop, and take the time to learn from what did not go our way in 2019.
Be it a delayed project, a missed role, a failed exam or an ended relationship, there is something to be learned from each. If you only look at your success, you are denying yourself the opportunity for growth and this will often result in you reliving past mistakes.
In my office, at the end of each project I’ve worked on we have held a “Lessons Learned”. Here we look at what worked and what didn’t. Asking ourselves, what are the good and bad points that we can take with us into future projects. If you treat each experience as a learning opportunity, then they no longer represent mistakes or successes. Regardless of the end result, they become the building blocks for new experiences.
Have you worked with difficult colleagues? Look at the interactions you had. Think of how these could have gone differently. Maybe you could have been calmer or taken the time to understand their drivers? If not, at the very least you can learn from them what behaviours you don’t want to replicate.
Maybe a project got delayed. If so, can you identify the stress points that contributed to it? Are these things that you could mitigate against in future projects? Have you learned new reporting tools or governance tactics that you would like to implement on future engagements?
A wise man once told me “Experience is knowing how not to do something” and a wise culture taught me Wabi Sabi is allowing yourself to accept the transience and imperfections of life.
So, before you set your 2020 work KPI’s or personal goals, take a moment to look kindly on your ups and downs of 2019. Break them into manageable components and use them to build the foundations of your 2020.