Don’t look now but the 21st century is 20% done.
By this time last century, we’d fought a world war, built the Panama Canal, begun the Federal Reserve, started the income tax, given woman the right to vote and witnessed the birth of the first communist state. It was a busy 20 years.
Now the calendar is about the turn again and we’re two decades into this century.
If you’re not sure you’ve got a lot to show for the last 20 years, let me suggest you get focused on living one year at a time. This time of year, many of us will compile ambitious lists of resolutions and goals, only to find them in the process of spring cleaning, stuffed away and forgotten in a desk drawer or computer file.
Learn from the past. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. As you take stock of the last year (or even the last decade, if you dare), you’ll notice there were seemingly random events, good and bad. These apparently random events happened “to you,” and you had little control of their occurrence.
What you did have control of was your reaction to these events. Do the random events of life control you, or do you exercise a growing level of control of your response to life’s events? Do you notice any way in which you may have contributed to the event taking place?
You were passed over for a promotion. You got sick. An investment you made went sour. Your teenaged child grew more distant.
It’s hard to look at hard things. Harder still to honestly ask if any of it was self-inflicted. Many hard things are not. Some are. What can I learn from honestly looking at the past?
Look to the future. You can’t control the future, but you can influence it. If we’ve learned from studying our past, we know that we exercise a degree of influence over our future, but not total control.
Author Stephen Covey said we all have a “circle of concern.” That’s the stuff we’re worried and bothered about. Inside that circle of concern was a “circle of influence.” That’s the things that we’re worried and bothered about … that we can do something about.
So if I’m worried about passing a test, I can study. If I’m worried about improving my sales results, I can call customers and ask about their needs. If I’m worried about my health, I eat right, sleep right and get appropriate exercise.
Covey pointed out that the more we focus on the things we can influence, the fewer things seemed outside of our control.
Live in the present. This is the art of learning to win today.
If your goals don’t translate into “today,” they’ll simply be a source of distraction and disappointment.
Have you even noticed that you never actually arrive in the future? It just stays out there, out of reach, like the horizon.
Since you never arrive in the future, we never fully enjoy the fruit of our ambition.
That’s why its important to keep score today. If victory only comes in the far-off future, it’s difficult to get through today with much motivation.
The key to keeping score today is gratitude. What are you grateful for?
Someone once recommended to me their practice of writing down three “wins” at the end of each day. He said it only took a few minutes each day, but it was one of the most powerful things he ever did.
Let’s put all this together in an example.
Suppose you look to the past, seeking to learn, and you have to admit you’ve allowed your relationship with your spouse to take a back seat to other priorities. And you can tell the relationship just isn’t what it once was.
Looking to the future, you know you can’t control your spouse, but have influence by making her a priority, scheduling dates and being intentional about asking about her day, her difficulties and even her dreams.
Living in the present, you come to the end of a day that you had a date with your wife. It was simple and maybe the conversation wasn’t earth shaking, but it happened. Because you planned it. So you open your journal and your write as one of your three things that day for which you are choosing to be thankful “Date with wife.” That was a win.
And daily wins are the stuff that influence the future.
What’s your 2020 vision?
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