Take a Good Look Back Before Looking Forward

New Year’s Resolutions sound like great ideas, until about a week later when the you that was riding high on temporary motivation meets the you who already has too much on her plate. Consider another alternative. You can close out the year strong and welcome in the new one with an empowering sense of satisfaction — and possibly even more motivation to keep growing — by focusing on what you have already accomplished in 2022.
From pursuing your own professional development to supporting colleagues out with COVID, launching an innovative project despite an uncertain environment, or getting dinner on the table one more time, you showed up in ways big and small that you can build on moving forward.
Build on success
It turns out that a good way to start a new year can be by looking backward instead of forward. The process can reveal interesting insights about your strengths, how you reached goals you did meet, where you invested large chunks of time, who else may have been involved in your success, what achievements meant the most to you and how the year changed you.
You are already doing a lot
In his best-selling book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, author Oliver Burkeman reminds us that there will always be too much to do, too many opportunities you cannot take advantage of and unrealistic expectations you cannot meet. That understanding, he says, is incredibly liberating. Because it frees you, “to consider that possibility that many of the things you’re already doing are more meaningful than you’d supposed — and that until now, you’d subconsciously been devaluing them, on the grounds that they weren’t ‘significant’ enough.”
A “Did It” list can help you see more of those things you’re already doing and provides an opportunity to imbue them with the deeper meaning they deserve. For example, chances are throughout the year you had lunch with colleagues and learned more about their personal and professional goals and challenges. Research from Glassdoor and others shows that positive workplace relationships have a much bigger influence on employee well-being than salary and benefits. In that simple act, you helped another human being feel seen, heard, valued and better able to contribute.
Maybe you managed to get to the gym a handful of times. Every time you did, you gave your body a chance to release stress and feel-good endorphins. You may have also squeezed in time for professional development. That’s awesome because a study of 2,600 working women by Shawn Achor, author of Big Potential (and former WFF conference speaker), and Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness, shows that the effort really pays off. They found women who attended Conferences for Women were more likely to receive a promotion and larger pay raises than colleagues registered for the same professional development but who had not yet attended.
You may have also provided caregiving throughout the year for children, parents or other loved ones. Made meals. Watched soccer games. Helped friends through breakups. Fed the birds. Walked your dog. And led initiatives that strengthened business outcomes and provided new opportunities for you and your team.
A new perspective
The idea that “success breeds success” is more than a catchy phrase. A study into the validity of the bromide published this year in Quantitative Economics concludes that there is real truth to it. A key reason, the researchers report, is the effect of success on confidence. Studying performance related to sports, they found that winning increased beliefs in an individual’s own strengths and abilities. Accomplishing one thing creates a sense of momentum that is carried into the next thing.
“Even with an initially even playing field, subjective self-confidence can play a critical role in future performance and, therefore, contribute to putting identical people on different paths in terms of long-term success,” the authors write.
Past successes help us “update” our beliefs about what we believe we can do in the future. That’s where a “Did It” list gets much of its power. When you take a moment to see just how much you’ve already accomplished, it shows you the impact you’re already having, your ability to rise above challenges and what approaches work best for you.
If this time of year prompts an urge to make resolutions and set goals for the future, that’s great. Just start by first thinking of everything you already accomplished in 2022; big, small and day-in-day-out. Then you can decide what you want to see on your “Did It” list this time next year.

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