Another year has ended, and many of us have taken the time to reflect on how 2022 went and how we did with our goals.
For the last couple of years now, I’ve also made sure to reflect upon lessons I’ve learned from my experiences.
Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with age, despite what the popular Oscar Wilde quote says. Rather, it is the act of sitting down, reflecting on, and learning from our experiences that generate wisdom. My 2 cents.
I’ve decided to memorialize these learnings and share them here, starting this year!
I’ve also recorded this as a bonus episode on Second Breaks, where I also talked a bit about my process.
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1. Stating an intention in the morning sets your day on the right course.
One powerful habit I cultivated last year was to set an intention before the day starts.
It is as if I’m sending an instruction for my internal systems to work together toward the mission for the day. It may not proceed perfectly, but by setting the intention ahead of time, I’m being intentional and giving myself the advantage.
The thing about this daily intention is that I set based on what’s going on that day — whatever events, interactions, tasks, and errands that I have planned for that day. This way, my intention is specific, practical, and relevant to my day.
Setting an intention in the morning has made such a difference in the quality of my day. I find I’ve become more deliberate about how I proceed and engage in my activities. And TBH, I like myself better at the end of the day because I feel like I’ve done my best and showed up with the best intentions.
If you’ve never set an intention before, the easiest way to do it is to think of how the person you want to be would act or behave. That’s how I do mine.
2. What feels impossibly difficult in the beginning will get easier over time.
About three months ago, I started doing these leg exercises that may be easy and simple for others but felt completely impossible for me to do. Basically, you lay on your back and lift your legs up in the air, and do a combination of wide and pulsing scissors motions.
Let me tell you, the first time I did the exercise, I could barely do 5! This morning, I did 60 of them! Hah!
This seemingly impossible action became doable and has gotten easier and easier over time. But it’s because I kept at them and did them daily. I may have skipped a day or two – but for the most part, I did them every morning.
This is a good reminder for me that almost everything in life gets easier over time and with practice and repetition. It’s all about the reps.
And now, this is the picture I’ll think about every single time I attempt something that’s so hard or seemingly impossible to do.
3. You may not know the end result, but you can definitely help put things in motion.
I’m not going to go into details on this one as it’s a bit personal in nature.
Let’s just say that back in June of 2022, I got brave and put in motion something for which the end result was unclear to me. I didn’t know what would come out of it, how it might pan out — or if anything will come out of it, even. But I decided, hey, there was no harm in putting things out there.
As it turned out, it was a massive success, as those things go. My “putting it out there” started a chain reaction. What came out of it was more than I could have ever imagined and wished for. And I’m so grateful for the turn of events.
But none of those things would have happened if I didn’t get brave enough to put things in motion and let the fear of uncertainty stop me from even trying.
Sometimes, we get stymied from taking action because we can’t see a clear path forward. We’re not sure if it will pan out or if we’ll be happy with the final results. This is especially true when we need something else to happen that is beyond our control.
So, we stall or delay action until we can be a little bit more certain and until we can get as close to guaranteeing a successful outcome.
My experience last year reminded me that there are times when it’s going to be impossible to tell what might happen unless we start putting things in motion. We can guess what the likely outcome might be but that’s really all we can do — guess.
We have to cause the effect by taking steps forward even if things are unclear, and it takes courage to do that sometimes. But at least that is within our control.
So let’s help ourselves by putting things in motion. Put it out there. See what happens.
4. Always start with what you want.
This was such a silly incident that happened to me in a bar in NYC. I was having a drink with an old friend in the lobby bar of the hotel where he was staying at.
After we received our drinks, he remembered he had a couple of drink coupons we could use. I said to him I wasn’t sure we could use it anymore because we didn’t tell the server when we gave our order that we intended to use coupons.
He looked at me incredulously. Then he said, “Lou, always start with what you want.”
I know it’s a silly incident, and you’re probably thinking, what was the big deal with asking about using a coupon!
The funny thing is that I do this in other areas of my life too. I don’t ask for what I want because of anticipated – or presumed – objections. But by doing that, I’m ensuring that I don’t get what I want! Which sounds really ridiculous if I think about it.
So, the lesson is always to start with what you want. Even if you think the other party will object or reject it.
Ask for it anyway. See what’s possible. Then adjust accordingly.
5. You can’t just hope. You have to have a strategy and an approach.
No matter how much you want things to happen, no matter how important your goal is to you if you don’t know how you’re going to get there, it’s going to be a directionless uphill climb. You must know the route you’re going to take. You can adjust along the way, but you have to have at least the basics of a plan as you head out the door.
At the beginning of 2022, I set a business goal that I really, really wanted to achieve. But the thing was, I didn’t identify a strategy that I would focus on, let alone a process to follow. As a result, it was impossible to figure out what was working or what to adjust. It felt like I was throwing spaghetti at the wall.
Toward the end of the summer, I stumbled upon a strategy completely by accident. And this made all the difference in the world. As soon as I started following a process, I saw results. But most importantly, now that I was following a process, I could figure out what to fix or adjust. I was no longer stumbling in the dark.
As they say, hope is not a strategy. We can’t just set a goal and not identify at least an initial strategy, an initial approach, for how we’re going to achieve the goal.
If you haven’t done this exercise, I encourage you to take a pause right now – before you get too busy with 2023 and you forget all that happened last year.
Ask yourself, “What lessons have I learned last year?” A slight variation to this question can be, “What have I learned about myself last year?”
I guarantee you will do yourself a massive favor by articulating the lessons you’ve gained from your own experiences.