Let me say that I’m not a past-dweller. I’m not high on context, history, or what has been “done in the past.” Frankly and in most cases, I don’t care. I’m too busy worrying about the present, while keeping one eye on the future so I can keep up and stay ahead of the game. Besides, there’s the adage that, “you’re only as interesting as your next project.” Note this says “next project,” not “last project.”
With this viewpoint, I was struggling with what to write about regarding this month’s theme at SheTaxi, when one of my friends ironically and recently posted on her Facebook wall the following quote by Steve Jobs, from his Stanford Commencement Address in 2005 (which, by the way, if you’ve never watched, you should – just Google it):
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well- worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
This particular year has been a mixed bag of high-highs for me (finishing law school) and low-lows (not passing the bar exam, losing a colleague at work). But that’s life; no one ever has all happy days or all miserable days, it’s a mixture of good and bad. While again I’m no historian, I do have appreciation for an occasional and brief period of reflection. Without looking back and giving consideration to see how far we’ve come, it is difficult to appreciate moving forward in the future.
The rare points in time that I do reflect, this is where I spend my reflective energy:
1. Identifying values – If I don’t get a handle on what it is that I truly value, all other decisions, choices, actions and outcomes can be arbitrary and random at best, or setting yourself up for failure at worst. By clearly identifying your values, that makes a lot of other decisions easy. For example, I love working on the cutting edge of new information. So, when I’m trying to decide on the subject of my next book, or where I want to go on vacation, I look for places and projects that have I’ve never experienced before, AND I look for new trends and ideas.
2. Goal monitoring – I’m a huge fan of capturing one’s goals on paper, on some type of regular basis. If you have no goals written down, however, you can’t hold yourself responsible for whether or not you actually met them. This is good if you don’t like to monitor your progress, but bad if you do (like me). I reflect on my goals often during the year.
3. Performance management – This is similar to #1, but different in that when I’m planning my goals for the future, I need to look backward to see what I’ve already accomplished, so I can try new things and push my own envelope moving forward. My boss likes to know what I’ve been up to as well. It’s OK to reflect when you’re trying to move forward in new and different ways and challenge yourself as a human being—otherwise? We’re just moving in a circle.
Even for non-past-dwellers like me—I really do see value in reflection in a few instances. So did others far more brilliant, like Steve. Make the dots connect, even if they only make sense backwards!