As the end of the year approaches, we tend to reflect on every achievement, failure, change, and event as one culmination of the past twelve months. As humans, we tend to see progression in a linear, forward fashion. We begin our informal education with kindergarten and end by graduating the twelfth grade. We get hired for a position and “rise to the top”…In other words we don’t expect to take a position and consistently make less money and get demoted over the years. We expect our relationships to progress over time—First comes love, then comes marriage. We expect our business to grow, not lose money, with more time and investment.
In regards to time and business, our expectations of progression are particularly high. This is especially true at the end of the year. We evaluate our progress—or lack thereof—based on the past twelve months. There are times of the year—the lazy, hazy days of summer, for example—where we may not have been as focused on our goals as we should have been. Looking back, some goals may have been forgotten altogether. That little voice inside starts to gnaw at us and point out our failures or deficiencies over the year, motivating us to “make up for lost time” by packing as much achievement into the last few weeks of the year, as if December 31 marks some finish line and all previous efforts become obsolete once January 1 rolls around.
While everyone likely will and should listen to that inner voice sizing up our progress over the year, it is important to let the voice expand our knowledge and skills, and then move on. Obsessing over the inner voice can lead to sheer exhaustion. It also can drive us to distraction or seek immediate comfort instead of truly evaluating what happened, learning from it, and moving on. Seeing what is missing or not working is important for growth and improvement, but there is an important factor here to consider:
Rather than dwell on failures or shortcomings, especially at a time of year that is filled with celebration, why not celebrate what you have achieved so far? Positive reinforcement creates lasting results and boosts the morale of the entire organization. Few things are more valuable to a group who achieves a common goal than when leaders show their appreciation.
How will your team celebrate successes? Whether going on an incentive trip, having a company party, or maybe a “play day” at an amusement park, it is important to celebrate the group’s success as a group. Celebrate what you have achieved so far, and listen to the little nagging voice, but don’t let it be your guiding voice. Simply let your inner voice motivate you to go beyond your limits and celebrate. Celebration is positive reinforcement, and positive reinforcement yields better results.