Look Back to Move Forward

Across the span of the next few weeks there will be an impressive array of articles about setting New Year’s resolutions. There will be experts offering up advice on how to set goals you can keep and reach. The publications you scroll or flip through will be loaded with tips to improve your diet. You’ll read about how to ditch your penchant for skipping workouts. You’ll find tips to tidy up, get organized, and decluttered. You’ll find plenty of detailed bits of advice about how to get your career on the right track and your professional life on the trajectory for success. 

Whether or not you take any of that advice, or even read those articles, is your call. We’re not going to delve into the value of setting and striving for attainable goals at the moment. (If you want our thoughts on that matter, you’ll find them here and here.) We want to talk to you about hitting pause on future-gazing and dreaming so that you can devote a little time to looking back at the days behind you. 

Look Back to Go Forward

A quick search will yield a long list of quotes from people with varying degrees of wisdom advising you to look and move forward. There is some value in the tip. It can be hard to progress if you’re focused on regret. There’s more to looking back, however, than lamenting what wasn’t or what went astray. Looking back is an important part of moving forward. Take the time to review last year’s goals before you set ones. 

Celebrate the Wins!

You set goals at some point in 2021. Whether they were labeled as New Year’s resolutions or they were some other target, you set them. Give yourself the opportunity to celebrate those wins! Acknowledge the accomplishment and the work it took to get there. 

Understand the Misses

Some goals didn’t land as well. Whether the mistake was yours or mere circumstance, take the time to evaluate why you didn’t meet the goals you fell short on. Is there something you could have done differently that would have impacted the outcome? Was the target simply not realistic? Is it a missed goal or a goal that just isn’t yet complete? Is it worth revisiting now that time has passed and circumstances have changed? What lessons can you draw from the experience and how can those lessons help you succeed in the future? 

Re-evaluate the Outstanding Goals

Remember, some of your missed goals are simply incomplete goals. Whether you intended for them to be reached in this calendar year or not, there’s room to move forward with them in 2022. Take the time to re-evaluate those targets before you roll them over. Are they still realistic? Are there skills you need to master before completing the goal? Should you change your measure of success? Now is the time to adapt the goals you’ll want to carry over. By the way, this process of re-evaluating and adapting isn’t just for late December. It should be a regular practice as you move forward (or not) on your goals. 

Take Note of the Milestones and the Baby Steps 

If you're in the habit of celebrating completed goals, good. Keep that up. Just don’t forget to celebrate the steps along the way. Working on an advanced degree? Take a moment to admire and celebrate your first graded paper. Relish the completion of your first semester. Go ahead and make a big deal about the halfway mark. Your goals are made up of smaller steps on a checklist moving you to completion. As you wrap up your year and move forward toward a new one, take a moment to savor the progress you’ve made.