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  • Writer's pictureAlan Shoebridge

Looking for the best way to ensure success in 2021? Celebrate what you accomplished during 2020!

A few years ago, my team had just pulled off an absolutely wonderful event that stretched out over several days at an off-site location, included hundreds of guests, required the coordination of outside speakers and involved innumerable major and minor details. The event went off without a hitch and we received wonderful comments from so many people who attended. Yet, we didn’t hear anything from our department’s leadership.

After a day or two went by with no input I directly asked for some feedback. “It was good,” was the somewhat tepid response and then the conversation quickly moved on to the next subject. The event in question took months for the team to plan and our leaders made quite a few demands about what they wanted to be included. It was a huge undertaking. And believe me when I say that the event was more than just good, it was fantastic. The success of the event certainly warranted a department-wide message or at least a direct note to the team from our leaders. Sadly, none of that happened.

So why am I writing about this now? Because celebrating your accomplishments in a year like 2020 is incredibly important. It was a year where so much went wrong, but also a lot went right in how we responded to challenges. I’m sure you – like so many others – found new ways to work that you weren’t even thinking about before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. Perhaps you came up with a successful new strategy to serve an existing audience or reach a new one. At the very least you put in a tremendous amount of effort to get to where you are now.

The power of pausing to reflect

Celebrating wins is a crucial step in life, but we so rarely remember to do it and spend some actual time reflecting on how we were able to realize our success. We tend to focus on the small things that went wrong or jump ahead to how we will change our approach the next time around. Now, taking stock of what you’ve done and improving upon it is always important, but don’t overlook celebrating what you accomplished. That’s a key step.

As we move into 2021, I’m already seeing a lot of emails and articles imploring you to do better, go faster and achieve more in the upcoming year. That’s all great, but don’t lose sight of what you actually accomplished during 2020. Take the next few weeks to reflect on it. Most importantly, remember to thank others who were involved in your personal and professional successes.

I don’t know everything that will happen next year, but I do know it’s going to start off with a lot of challenges. As the year unfolds, it will be important to recognize and celebrate your progress in order to maintain a healthy, balanced outlook on life.

Bonus (related) topic: Stop comparing yourself to others

So much content these days asks you to measure yourself against any number of people. I’m sure you’ve seen articles advising you to “adopt the habits” of some genius like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or any number of other famous people. My (least) favorite was the slew of articles about how productive Apple CEO Tim Cook is able to be by waking up at 3:45 a.m. every day.

It’s great to strive for excellence, but waking up at 3:45 a.m. is just not going to work out all that well for the majority of us. And you know what? That’s fine.

If you want to drive yourself to higher productivity or results, that’s great. Set realistic short-term goals mixed in with some longer-term goals and maybe include a few stretch goals for 2021-22 as well. Regularly check your progress and push yourself as needed. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing - focus on your journey.

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