I’m going to hazard an educated guess: you’re probably disappointed about how little you think you’ve accomplished this year. Ideally, you’d already be enormously successful, wealthy, influential, and famous by now. It’s taking way too long to make things work. Why can’t you seem to get your act together?
Nothing is wrong with you. An ideal isn’t an ideal unless you haven’t accomplished it yet. Our real achievements are rapidly consumed by the hedonic treadmill. Living in an oceanside villa or driving a brand new car is rapturous for a week or two. After a month, it’s old hat - you barely notice, in the same way your nose quickly acclimates to even the finest perfume after a few minutes.
Whenever you get closer to an ideal, your ideal moves to compensate. If you never take the time to be mindful of your achievements, your vision will forever be on the horizon - even the most successful people are quick to tell you how their lives could be better. If your happiness and life satisfaction are contingent on reaching your ideals, you’ll be miserable for a long time to come.
There is a way, however, you can take stock of your achievements in a way that will boost your confidence and resolve, and the end of the year is the perfect time for this particular exercise.
Your Year in Review
Think back to where you were this time last year. What were you doing? What did you want? What was your plan?
Grab a sheet of paper and start making a list. Thinking back, what did you accomplish this year? What did you learn? What new and exciting things happened that you didn’t expect?
In general, we tend to over-estimate what we can get done in a day, and underestimate what we can get done in a year. You spend 99.9% of your life handling your daily tasks. Take a moment to think about everything you’ve actually done for a change, and write it all down.
Personally, 2009 was a year of many changes, the vast majority of them great. This year, I:
- Published the 4th generation of the Personal MBA reading list , and prepared changes for the 2010 edition. (To be published very soon…)
- Doubled the audience of the Personal MBA from 7,000 to 14,000 readers.
- Developed my website infrastructure to the point my sites can handle large amounts of traffic and be used to sell products.
- Completed my first year of full-time self-employment, earning more than I earned at my previous full-time Fortune 50 position with far more flexibility.
- Helped my coaching clients achieve huge personal breakthroughs: land new jobs, start new businesses, and launch successful products.
- Negotiated and signed a six-figure contract to publish my upcoming book with a top business publisher next year.
- Wrote most of my book.
- Successfully pre-launched my first product, the Personal MBA Business Crash Course , which attracted over 200 participants and netted over $60,000 in revenue.
- Completed a three-year adventure living in New York City.
- Moved to a wonderful apartment in the mountains of Colorado.
- Learned how to shoot good photos with a DSLR, and photographed my first wedding.
- Traveled to Bahrain and St. John USVI.
It’s funny reading over this list - I’ve had a huge year. Even funnier, if you would have asked me on any particular day this year how I was doing vs. my goals, I would have told you I was failing miserably, and that I’m such a huge procrastinator.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself as you close the year is a few hours to think about and write down what you’ve accomplished. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ve achieved, which is a huge confidence builder.
Your Decade in Review
This is a particularly good time for this exercise, since you can review the entire decade as well as this year. Chances are, you’ve developed and accomplished a heck of a lot more in the past ten years than you think.
Here’s my quick decade in review:
- Graduated from high school.
- Landed a full-ride scholarship to my school of choice.
- Graduated from college with a year and a half of full-time work experience, a job offer for a fast-track management position at a Fortune 500, and zero student debt.
- Created my first personal website and completed by first web design project.
- Lead my college mock trial team to national competition 3 out of 4 years, and was honored as an “All-American" my last year.
- Launched two websites and three new products at Procter & Gamble, resulting in $15 million in incremental revenue for the company.
- Created a web analytics strategy for P&G brands globally that actually measures what the company is trying to achieve.
- Provided input to the Google Analytics team that was implemented in 2009.
- Decided what I wanted my life to look like vs. measuring success by everyone else’s standards.
- Defined a comprehensive life philosophy I find more useful and satisfying than the worldview I absorbed during childhood.
- Read thousands of non-fiction books across business, economics, psychology, systems theory, and personal development. (I really wish I started counting when I started.)
- Created the first Personal MBA reading list in 2005; top-10 manifesto at ChangeThis even after five years.
- My work was featured by BusinessWeek and many top blogs.
- Figured out what I really wanted in my personal relationships. Started dating Kelsey, dated for three years, married for three years now. I can’t imagine a more ideal relationship.
- Made many life-long friends, without whom my life would be infinitely less interesting.
- Visited France, the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia, Italy, Bahrain, and St. John USVI.
All in all, it was a fantastic decade, and I’m really looking forward to the next.
What did you accomplish this year? This decade?