2012: How Not To Repeat The Mistakes Of The Past (Or Nothing Ever Got Done With An Excuse)

(This is a repost of something I wrote for the end of 2010.  The dates and information have been updated, and I suspect this will be one of the few yearly repost traditions I indulge in.)

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I had hoped to get a few more things done before the end of the year, but decided instead to take the last week to wind down and center.  I find that this not only helps me take stock of what worked and didn’t work for me in 2011 but also helps me make sure I’m on track for what I want to get done in the new year.  As George Santayana said,

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“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

As 2011 draws to a close, I think back to many conversations I had with people at the end of 2009.  At that time, it seemed like everyone I talked to said the same thing, “2009 was such a bad year.  2010 has to be better.  It just has to.”

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Now it seems I’m listening to the same sentiment with the same people about 2011 and the coming 2012.  And in some ways they have a valid point.  Listening to their circumstances, 2011 certainly offered some of these people a tough blow – but regardless of their circumstances, I believe that, unless they experience a windfall of good fortune, I will hear the same sentiments echoed at the end of 2012.  There’s a reason for this:

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“If you always do what you’ve always done – you’ll always get what you always got” – anon

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While I fully appreciate the merits of planning and goal setting – life will throw you any number of curveballs that may make a meticulously laid out plan get derailed.

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A good plan has to be countered with an ability to improvise (as need be) to make sure that even if your mode of transportation is disabled, that you are still on the path to achieve your goals.

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“Improvisation as a practice is the focus of an idea through an imposed restriction.  This restriction could either be self-imposed or be imposed upon the improviser through other means. Improvisation as it relates to common experience can be seen in the example of the car that stops running in the middle of a trip.  A person experienced in auto repair may attempt to pop the hood of the car to see if they can ascertain how to repair the vehicle.  Or they may try to flag down help.  Or they may try to use a cell phone to contact a garage.  The point being that within the context of a vehicle malfunction, different actions are improvised based on the improviser’s facility with both the situation at hand and the tools at their disposal….life is essentially an improvisation.  As individuals we come into each day not exactly knowing what will happen.  We know that there is an eventual end, but we don’t know when or how it will end.  But we continue to improvise, because it is in both the active improvisation (the present), the skill set and knowledge of that improvisation (the past) and in the philosophical/worldview/goals guiding our improvisational choices (the future) that we create meaning.”

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If you approach life’s problems with the same mindset you’ve always had 

-and your new year’s resolution runs contrary to that mindset –

your resolutions are doomed.

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I say this as a seasoned graduate of the school of hard knocks and as a person who found that while success felt a lot better – failure was a much more thorough teacher.

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2011 had some great ups and downs for me and now there are a number of life and playing upgrades I’m going to put into practice in 2012 to address the things that didn’t work for me.  For those of you who are interested in making a real change the new year – here’s what worked for me going into 2011 that I plan on using this year as well:

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Know the big picture.

If you have a goal – know why you have the goal.  As Victor Frankl once said, “He who has a why can endure almost any how.

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Take stock of what you have done and identify what needs to change.

Have you done things that work towards that goal?  If so, what have you really done? What worked?  What didn’t work?  And what parameters can you put in place to make it work better?

What decisions did you make that set you back and how could you alter those decisions in the future?

Sometimes honesty is brutal but this isn’t about beating yourself up.  It’s about taking a realistic stock of what worked and what didn’t work for you in the year, reinforcing that things that work for you and discarding what didn’t work for you.

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Revolution not resolution

People typically make resolutions because they recognize a need for change in their life.  For me – it really isn’t about making a momentary decision as a knee jerk reaction to something (which usually lasts as long as the time it took to make that decision).  The long-lasting changes in my life have come from making lifestyle changes, setting priorities and working within those changes.  It’s a revolt against what was done before instead of a compromise for a current mode of operation.

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Positive habits

Making something a daily positive habit (like brushing your teeth) makes it easier to maintain over the long haul.

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“Don’t make excuses – make it right” –  Al Little

People make excuses for things all the time.  No one cares about excuses because nothing ever got done with an excuse.  People (typically) only care about results.

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There will undoubtably be moments that you relapse into older habits.  Instead of making excuses for why it happened – just acknowledge it and move past it. When you fall off the bike, it’s not about sitting down and nursing your scrapes.  It’s about getting back up on the bike again.  As it says in The Hagakure, “Seven times down – eight times up”

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There is strength in numbers

Try to surround yourself with supportive people.

  • Not enabling people who will make changes more difficult for you.
  • Not negative or judgmental people who will scoff at your desire for change

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Talk to the friends and family who will give honest and supportive feedback.  Here’s another important tip – don’t burn those people out with your goals.  The people around you have their own lives, so if every conversation becomes about you and your goals, you’re going to see less and less of those people!

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In addition to (or in some cases in lieu of) that support, you may want to look into some free online accountability sites like Idonethis.com (post on this here) or Wunderlist.com which maintains a private calendar to help observe progress.

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Be motivated to do more but be grateful for what you have

In a final 2011 observation, I’d like to thank everyone who took a moment to come here and read what I was doing.  GuitArchitecture had a 800 % increase in web traffic this year!  It’s going to get even bigger next year and it would all be impossible without the people reading.  So thank you all again and I hope that 2012 is your best year yet.

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