Witness. See. Appreciate.

It is only nine days into the year and the thought that was going through my mind yesterday is why is it so hard for us to stick to things? We spend so much time talking about New Year’s resolutions and how we are going to keep and honor them throughout the year, and why is it such an ongoing conversation from year to year? Do we not have the self-control, resilience, and tenacity to follow through on what we say we are going to do? Do we just get bored? Or do we not set up realistic expectations that are obtainable?

I have not been able to decide. There is a part of me that is already hard on myself for letting a few things slide in the last nine days, where I think “wow, great track record so far this year.” Yet, why are we so hard on ourselves? What is the big rat race that we are running so fast in? Where is it taking us? I know I often carve out too many items on my to-do list for each day and it feels great when I am able to accomplish what I set out to do each day, but is that what really matters? If we look back from year to year, will we remember what we cross off on our to-do lists, or will we remember the hearts we touch, the conversations we have, and all the things we learn? I hope it is the latter.

While I do not want to add another thing to my list, I loved taking moments to capture the good that was happening in my life (and of course for Chris too) in 2013. I mentioned a few blog posts ago, that I want to continue doing that for 2014. It was fun to sit down on New Years and pull each item out of our jar and remember things that happened early on in the year. A few made us laugh and think, “wow, that made the jar” and I am sure there were many we missed that should have been documented. In any case, I think what I would like to track and appreciate is what I learn each day, week, month. Maybe there is nothing for weeks, and maybe there is a lot. Who knows, but I believe if we are consciously watching and we think about tracking it, we start to see those learnings show up everywhere. All because we watch for it. I think that will make for an even better 2014.

Rather than berate myself for not sticking to things completely, why not try, learn in the process, and celebrate the good that does happen? We have so little control over so many things in our little worlds, what we can control is what we witness, see, and appreciate. Are you with me?

2 thoughts on “Witness. See. Appreciate.

  1. very timely — i am coaching some folks at the office about this topic but in a different context.
    first, in setting the stage for my opinion, i HIGHLY recommend the following readings:
    1) John Kotter’s “Leading Change.” keep in mind that his book is on implementing change – why this is good is that you can look at the things required to understand why they are needed.
    2) “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman that shows that we are all cognitively split with (i) a reactionary brain that uses heuristics for speed and efficiency but is often wrong and (ii) a cognitive brain that picks things apart and figures things out but it is lazy and will always defer to (i) if it is not forced to work.
    3) Last book “You Are Not So Smart” by David McRaney points out how we are almost naturally delusional! One facet of our delusion is our ability to be optimistic no matter what.
    in talking about annual resolutions, i first think of people and their overall aspiration (personal or professional). Almost everyone i talk with on this topic has exactly what they want to be when they “grow up” (both title and compensation) but not what life success is (travel the world with my family yearly, etc.). even fewer have a map to get there to either or a milestone by milestone view from today, their point of departure, to “tomorrow,” their point of arrival.
    most of us make defining career decisions at the age of 17 with a guidance counselor and some input from our parents (i realize now that parents are very conservative with their kids – maybe too conservative – because all they want to know is that their kids are safe…i.e. have a “good job” and a roof over their head) coupled with what college will be fun! what the heck did we know? I remember only one person in my precollege teens held a job in the field that they wanted to study and almost all of us worked in the summer for minimum wage and few of us worked while in class. To me, college represented “access” to “real jobs” but now I realize that it represents the process of white collar specialization. Couple this with your first two years being focused on a core curriculum with few classes in our major. Couple that with knowing that college is expensive and changing your major your junior year, the year one really focuses on their major, does not really make sense so i graduate with a degree and get a entry marketing job to pay bills.
    **poof**
    5 years go by and i am not really excited about my job because the real world is not like what i saw on television so i go back to school to get a masters to either accelerate or change my career. why, because that’s what the twenty-somethings did at my job to move up or on or maybe Dad had and MBA and he has a good job.
    **poof**
    Another 5 years go by and we move up in the corporate world but we become even more specialized and while fighting to move your career forward realize that others are fighting as well and fighting you in the process. throw in responsibility beyond yourself (a spouse and maybe even kids) and we become very Darwinistic – very rat race-esque.
    compound this with the risk of soul-searching. What happens if in my search, I find that I cannot map a path from where I am to where I want to be? what do I do? how do I leave my current profession behind and waste my bachelor of xxxx (especially if I still have college loans)? More often than not, no.
    what is more extraordinary is that we live in a free market that allows us to change companies, jobs, careers whenever. To do so takes work and sometimes a change in lifestyle but we are free to be whatever we want to be. Even more awesome is that our credit laws allow us to “reboot” our credit in case we try and fail. This was prescriptive to encourage risk and entrepreneurship. We really have no excuse.
    most people i know would rather grin and bear a job that does not inspire them rather than take a risk pursue a career that inspires them every day! (The more ironic observation is that everyone i know that was “let go” found another job and always wondered what took them so long.) Given all this, why is it so hard for people to change their aspiration? In high school, I wanted to be a general. In college, I wanted to be an engineer. In my mid-20’s, I wanted to be a CEO. During my MBA, I wanted to be an investment banker. (insert point – met my now wife) After my MBA, I wanted to be a COO. Then I wanted to be in Mergers & Acquisitions. Now I want to be a crisis manager. Tomorrow? Don’t know. Personally, all I want to be a good dad and a good husband.
    now, resolutions. I believe that resolutions to us bi-peds are free annual lottery tickets. A perceived open road! Huzzah! Combining this with our eternal optimism (delusional dreams of what could be), a life that is a little left of expectation (not living the dream), and no accountability (how many of us list last year’s resolutions and rate our performance?), resolutions are easy and enjoyable to make but have no sense of urgency to drive the change given that we are typically change-adverse.

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  2. Such a great comment! I think at the core of what you said is that you want to be a good dad and a good husband. At the end of the day isn’t that what matters the most? Also, how did we get so change adverse? Change is good. Well I guess maybe we are open if it is something that we want to change. If we like it the way it is, then we do not want to see any changes.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts + book recommendations!

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