Looking backwards and forwards
As we approach the end of the year, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and all that we’ve accomplished. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, but it’s crucial to take time to look back on our achievements and lessons learned.
This past year has been filled with ups and downs, especially with the added uncertainty and challenges brought on by the recession and disruptive trends like AI.
The fact that everything I just said up until this sentence was actually written by ChatGPT…. is really freaky.
With tensions rising domestically and on the global stage, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling apprehensive about what lies ahead. And if you are an optimist and a go-getter and ready and rarin’ to take on 2023 – excellent!
But regardless of your outlook on the new year, let’s pause for a bit and take some time to look backwards. Take inventory, celebrate some wins, decide how we’re going to move forward in light of mistakes we might have made and wisdom we gained from it.
And we don’t need to reserve this for New Year’s Eve countdowns. Although that’s the trend I’m capitalizing on right now. We should check in with ourselves regularly throughout the year to mark or progress and reassess our goals.
This isn’t a new idea. It’s standard practice for many businesses to run quarterly reviews and annual performance appraisals. But they’re not always done well. And for us self-employed folks, I’d wager you don’t have structures in place to regularly and methodically measure your business and personal growth. I’m not talking about just tracking KPIs like sales figures and conversion rates. We can easily chart those numbers. But then what?
The hustle culture that is still tightly woven into entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, freelancing, side-gigging – even for those of us who try to guard ourselves from over-grinding – puts the focus on the future. “What’s next? We checked that box? Great – let’s go check off 5 more! We grew? Great – let’s go grow some more!” For the most part, I have no problem with that. I’m all about setting smart goals, working to achieve them, and then pushing on to greater heights.
But first, let’s block out time to celebrate how far we’ve come in a given period.
What am I even doing?
At my old job, we were constantly grinding to keep up with projects. When things did slow down a bit and we had a short reprieve from outside requests, that’s when we jumped into high gear to work on some internal projects that we’ve been tabling until we had more bandwidth. Every now and then, when we’d launch a big project, we’d gather around, eat some pizza together, watch the video we made or flip through the magazine we printed, tell each other well done. And then someone would walk in the door with a new problem or project.
I’m not complaining necessarily. That was the nature of the job. But every year when we had to complete a self-appraisal and take inventory or what went well and what didn’t go well…. I had no freaking clue. I couldn’t remember half the things we did last month let alone the past 12, which ones were important enough to mention, and how successful we truly were at accomplishing our ultimate goal, because we just produced the marketing materials – other departments had the numbers, and there was no clear way to tell how big an impact our work actually had. We could celebrate that we checked a lot of things off a list – although we didn’t do that that much because we were so busy checking things off lists – but it was hard to celebrate any meaningful growth.
We were just too busy.
But every now and then – different things would trigger it – maybe someone would stumble across an old print piece, or an old photo of one of the facilities before we installed a new display, or someone would name drop someone who use to work in the department years ago and we’d stop and reflect and remember: man, we’ve done a lot and we came a long way in a relatively short period of time. All the people who are waiting outside the door to hammer us with new project requests because they’re not happy with where things are at now and are only thinking about how to make things better in the future. I get it. They’re not wrong for wanting improvement. But they don’t have the perspective to appreciate that they already have improvement. And because they aren’t looking back, their default state is going to be marked by discontentment.
Discontentment can be leveraged and turned into motivation. But it can also fester and spoil into bitterness, and discouragement.
Now, because I work for myself, I don’t have to deal with any of that. I have a much clearer view on how my upstream efforts impact downstream results. I have a unified perspective on where I’ve been and where I’m going, and I can make requests of myself with a full appreciation for what I’ve already accomplished.
But I still need to work at it. I need to choose to stop and look back, and celebrate my progress. Otherwise I risk becoming adversarial to myself. Talking down to myself because I’m not where I want to be, despite the fact that I’ve been making solid progress this year.
364 days ago, I made 3 resolutions:
To write things down. Which I’ve been inconsistent with. BUT I have been writing more. I’ve been creating more. I developed a whole coaching curriculum. Maybe I didn’t keep up with the daily planner idea I had in mind when I originally made that resolution, but just last week I launched my own daily planner template that fits my lifestyle and workflow even better…. Yeah, let’s say that one was actually a success.
I resolved to have lunch with a friend at least once a week. Again, very inconsistent. But then again, I have been having a lot of great connections, I plugged into a couple membership communities that have been really beneficial. My original intent was to make sure I was connecting with people, to be an encouragement to and be encouraged by others. I can confidently say, I have done that. And as far as lunch goes, just about every day of the week, I get to go downstairs and share a meal with my wife and kids. And I love that. Success.
And my final resolution was to give myself permission to be successful.
I closed down some long term projects to free up bandwidth to focus more on new business growth, I’ve helped my clients achieve their business goals, I more than 4x’d my YouTube channel and have actually started generating a little income from some strategic partnerships, and I’m building new connections and having opportunities every week to coach and encourage small business owners and entrepreneurs. Success!
Success isn’t always a simple yes or no – did I accomplish a narrowly defined goal I wrote down 12 months ago, without considering if that was the right goal. With no way of knowing how different factors and new opportunities and new information might require me to change my trajectory.
Success isn’t constant revenue growth. If chasing after a few more dollars is going to keep me from getting the rest I need, spending the time I need with family, or investing in other aspects of personal growth, that can lead to failure.
So as we flip another page on the calendar and we consider what new goals we want to set for ourselves, let’s mark our calendars now with a few personal performance appraisals throughout the year where we can be intentional about celebrating progress and recalibrating our goals. And maybe [shameless plug] download the Sidekick Sheet and start tracking your wins every week, so you have a paper trail of your progress.
Whatever lies ahead, let’s practice moving forward while keeping track of the ground we covered.
And remember, self-employment doesn’t have to be by-yourself-employment. Get connected with other people. If there’s anything I can do to help, feel free to reach out at selfemploymentsidekick.com.
I’m wishing you a truly, holistically successful and purposeful 2023. You got this! Happy New Year.