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.