The Lessons I'm Taking From 2015

This time of year usually brings on a lot of excitement and renewed energy with anticipation of the new year. I also think it is a great time for reflection on what lessons I learned in the past year.

Personally, 2015 was as a really positive year. Probably the best I’ve ever had actually. Not that everything went smoothly or positively, but there were great things both personally and professionally. Maybe that contributes to my desire to build on it, to learn from my experiences and to keep the momentum going.

Everything is a choice
I realized last year that my reaction to situations, my attitude about life and my priorities were all a choice. The circumstances and factors at play might change…which could change the choice…but either way, I own it and have to consciously make up my mind where my energy is going.

I’m not “busy”
It is incredibly frustrating, but I find myself answering “busy” anytime I visit with someone and they ask about work or how things are going. I hate that answer. Everyone is busy. Busy doesn’t mean productive. It doesn’t mean challenging. It doesn’t mean impactful. It means nothing, yet so many of us use it as the default answer. As Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. What are we busy about?” I pledge to stop saying this in 2016.

Social media as a comparison is a waste of time
What we post on social media often isn’t our reality…it is a version of reality we want people to see. I find I can be genuinely excited for people’s success, but still find myself making the comparison to how things are going for me. We all want what we don’t have or what it appears other people are achieving. I have found nothing personally productive or positive happens when I make that comparison.

Quality over quantity
I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of people over the last couple of years, both personally and professionally. It struck me recently that I haven’t done a great job of deepening those relationships. I know people through professional groups and we may grab lunch or catch up every few months, but the relationship doesn’t go deeper. It has always been a challenge for me, to get to know people on a deeper level. I think it leaves a hole in life, to not dig deeper with people. Making sure the friendships and connections I make are high quality instead of a larger network of people needs to be a priority the older I get.

Stop assigning intent to people’s behavior
Small slights happen throughout our lives. Your friend doesn’t text you back, a coworker doesn’t invite you to join the lunch outing, you get bad customer service at a restaurant. Often these things offend and frustrate us. These relatively minor slights generally have no intent behind them, but we take it as a personal attack. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but have realized over the last year that this reactoin sucks all the positive out of the day. It isn’t worth it to make assumptions about intent, it is far better to move on without a second thought.

The world is full of amazing people
Recently I’ve done a lot of reflecting on people in my life and just how many people there are doing amazing things. The passions and career choices aren’t always things I understand or even get excited about…but seeing people live out their passion or walk their talk is endlessly motivating to me. On the surface these are “everyday people” with inspiring stories, from feeding the homeless every week, to giving up the corporate life to start their own business or welcoming a young man they mentored into their home as family to make sure he graduates high school. If you look close enough I’m sure your friends are the same.

You don’t have to be perfect
I probably beat myself up the most over parenting. Or maybe its not being in as good a shape as I’d like to be. No, it’s probably the mistakes I make at work…on and on…you get the point. I’m guilty of not accepting myself when things aren’t perfect. But they never will be. Maybe a few things go well, but other things fall apart. This year I learned to focus on the positive outcomes. While one part of life may not be working out how I hoped, several others may be thriving…I can’t keep the focus on that one part when many others areas are positive.

This time of year is always great for reflection and realizing even if you didn’t recognize a lesson at the time, there is something valuable to be learned from almost everything we do and everyone we interact with.

Originally posted on The Good Men Project