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Josh Kaufman is the bestselling author of books on business, entrepreneurship, skill acquisition, productivity, creativity, applied psychology, and practical wisdom. About Josh »
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.
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:
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.
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:
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?