Great Expectations
December 31, 2013

When Charles Dickens wrote his epic novel, “Great Expectations,” he included the line: “…and to-morrow looked in my face more steadily than I could look at it.”

There is one day a year when that line resonates most: December 31.

The unsteady gaze cast toward “to-morrow” (January 1) is often mistaken as having had one too many glasses of celebratory champagne.  Frequently though, the bubbly has little to do with it.  We throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our New Year’s resolutions – all in an effort to be “better” than we were last year – but we rarely take the time to think about why we need to make a resolution at all.

The idea of an annual clean slate is nice, but I find that setting “great expectations” on January 1 often leads to great frustration by February 1.  That’s not because people can’t change or aren’t trying hard enough.  It’s because we can’t start with a clean slate.  We can’t pretend that yesterday, last year or the last decade hasn’t happened.  It’s that history that precipitates our desire for change.

Inherently, I think we all know that resolutions are just a distraction from having to think about what has happened in the recent – or even distant – past.  This isn’t just personally.  It’s professionally too.   There’s never a year that passes without my thinking about a decision I’ve made as CEO and whether it was the right one.  Sometimes, those decisions happened last week.  Other times, they happened in 2004.

But I know that by making myself look back, rather than rushing into a resolution, I am a better person and ultimately, a better leader.  It’s hard to do, but you can’t truly set “great expectations” for yourself or your company without the self-awareness and knowledge of what has happened in the past to drive these new expectations.

How do you take lessons from the past and integrate them into your expectation setting for the New Year?  Is it easier/better to do this personally or professionally?

Thanks for stopping by – and Happy New Year.

4 Responses to Great Expectations

  1. John Park says:

    Bob, Thanks for the thoughtful post. This is an interesting discussion on how we need to learn from the past and use that to be a better person; yet not live in the past and be focused on what happened, not what will happen. Have a great 2014.

  2. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    John, thanks for the comment. Agree. The past is behind us now so let’s focus on incorporating lessons learned and move forward for a positive and successful 2014. Best wishes for a successful and prosperous year.

  3. Vicky Micheletti says:

    I agree there is no clean slate and why would you want one? Your past experiences mold you into who you are today; “The Culture of Oneself”; not to be confused with organizational culture. Things that may appear as undesirable are clearly a blessing in disguise; an opportunity to build on that culture of “oneself” which compliments life’s experiences therefore, making your “culture of oneself” more resilient. Whether it’s easier or better to apply these past experiences personally or professionally is not the question. No matter where you start, you need to have the ability to realize how both personal and professional goals and experiences are connected. Once that realization kicks in you will experience the self-awareness necessary to be successful in moving forward in both setting and meeting your goals.

  4. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    Vicky, thank you for sharing your thoughts. “Culture of Oneself” – nice way to put it in perspective. We are all different and carry different lifetime stories. Our different experiences and personality styles keep the excitement. It’s best to keep these different experiences in mind when setting new goals. We should be fair to ourselves when setting new goals. Establishing realistic goals is more powerful than impossible ones that can’t be reached in short periods of time. My best wishes for you in setting and achieving your professional and personal goals this year.

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