The end of the year is fast approaching. Do you sometimes look back and wonder what you have achieved in a year? I like John Lennon’s ‘Christmas Song’ which begins “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun.”
So what have you done this year? What are you proud of and what are you ashamed of? Wealth, job title, and happiness are some ways to measure what you have achieved in a year, but I’m not sure if they are the right way to measure achievement.
I think it’s okay to become introspective at the end of the year and wonder what you have done over 12 months. Peter Drucker, a management theorist, once said “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
To measure what you have achieved, you must first ask yourself what is really important to you, because that is the area you want to achieve in. If you told me family is more important to you than anything, then in a good year you would have had lots of quality time with those you love, and modest gains at work. A bad year would mean becoming estranged from your spouse and children and a stellar rise at work. It’s important to measure success is terms of your personal values. If you don’t measure success in terms of what’s truly important to you, you can’t work towards getting there.
Again success is so hard to define. Pre-programmed biases and external pressures from advertisers and the media get in the way of people seeing what is actually important in life. Here are some ways of gauging what you have done in a year.
1. Revisit your values
Overly driven people often focus too much on achieving and getting the job done without first thinking about why they are doing it, and what the true value is in the job.
Revisit your values and ask what matters most to you. Perhaps you are free of family responsibilities and want to focus on your career. That is okay. But don’t say you are looking for personal fulfilment, and then spend your time working night and day and buying possessions which you hope will make you happy but ending up unhappy. Ask yourself some hard questions. Have you spent too much time and energy this year working towards a goal that isn’t in line with your values?
Are you over stretched? This year did you try to have it all – love, success, money, artistic fulfilment – but instead you have just ended up doing it all and now all you feel is tired? What is most important to you and what is achievable?
2. Compare yourself only to yourself
We have a tendency to measure our success by comparing ourselves to others. If your friends made more money than you and live in a bigger house, you might feel like a failure.
Benchmarking ourselves against others makes it easier to judge ourselves, but it will not deliver an accurate judgment. Everyone’s life is different. People have different strengths and weaknesses. Some people are born with advantages – stable, loving parents and money. Many of us didn’t have those things as kids. We have had to fight hard to make our way in this world and we are still ‘recovering’ from our childhood, battling depression and anxieties. Maybe our recovery will take a lifetime and that is okay, just keep fighting and respect how much YOU have achieved.
John Wooden, a very successful US basketball coach, said, “Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities.” He also said, “True success is attained only through the satisfaction of knowing you did everything within the limits of your ability to become the very best that you are capable of being.”
The race of life is long … but never forget, you are only ever racing against yourself. No one else has lived your life. No one else has walked in your shoes, so comparison to other people is totally useless.
3. Measure spiritual and emotional growth, and learning life lessons
It’s easy to measure financial success. You can see a number in your bank or look at your new car. And you know I think it great to aspire to be financially successful, as long as it doesn’t come at a cost to your mental and physical health. It is hard to measure all that important life stuff like mental and physical health, relationships, freedom, and spiritual fulfilment. But if you really want to see what you have achieved in a year, you do need to do some qualitative analysis of these aspects of your life. How is your mental, physical and spiritual life? How are your relationships? Have you looked after those you love this year?
4. Measure results over the long-term
I know I’m focussing on what you have achieved in a year, but you can still look at the bigger picture. How has this year contributed to your long term plans? Are you on track in your life? Consider what you’ve learned this year and how it will help you achieve success in the future. Do not just crave immediate results. Don’t define yourself solely by your current circumstances – you might not have got the job promotion or saved as much as you wanted. Just keep chipping away at it, but also consider who you are becoming.
5. Measure the substantial not inconsequential
To measure success you need to go beyond the surface. Don’t just count how many people follow you or your business on Twitter. How are sales? How many clients do you have? The number of books you read is inconsequential. The real question is what have you learned and how have you changed? Do what is needed to achieve success. Measure your success in terms of the outcomes not distractions or inconsequentials.
When I was very young, job titles, nice clothes, a fancy car and a pretty girlfriend were my measures of success. Now, I go beyond the superficial. I consider my health, relationships, personal fulfilment and how I have served the people around me.
Remember as you change as a person, how you measure success also needs to change.
Happy New Year!
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