Many small business owners may realize the importance of setting business goals and of having an overall plan for their professional development.
But in the race to develop, adapt, and succeed, don't forget to look back on where you have been.
One sweltering day in the middle of the summer, I was walking along with a friend of mine. At some point in the course of our journey we came to the foot of a very steep hill. As we slowly made our way up, dripping in sweat and struggling to breathe amid the exhaust fumes that passing cars left in their wake, our conversation became conspicuously stilted, until it stopped altogether. When we had neared the top of the hill, I suddenly picked up my head, turned to look back from where we had come, and was greeted with an impressive vista of stark buildings and distant mountains. My exclamation spontaneously shattered the silence: "Wow, look how high up we are!"
These days, many of us are engrossed in the uphill journey of professional development to both build our businesses and adapt them to the rapidly changing realities of consumer attitude, technology, and economy. As John Jantsch opined in a recent post:
...[A]s I step back and take in the entire journey that's been the last few years I can see that the aggregate amount of change in the way I go to work has altered the very existence of what I've called my business.
Today I don't go to work in a business so much as I cultivate an ecosystem.
For the most part, as we go along as business owners and professionals, our sights are trained ahead. After all, we have sales projections, budgets, and schedules to meet; and then there are the marketing objectives, performance measures, and professional development goals... If we look back on our accomplishments it is usually with a narrowly defined objective in mind, such as when we consider our financial reports or determine an initiative's ROI.
How often do we just spontaneously stop to appreciate what we have accomplished over the past few months or years? I ask this not from a point of mushy sentimentalism. There are three reasons why looking back is a vital tool for success in business (and life for that matter):
1. To recognize the value you are bringing to your business. (...and once you've recognized it to give yourself a pat on the back.) We all need to feel like our actions are getting us somewhere that we're making an impact. In the world of business, the most important variables are constantly changing, so if you have been able to keep up, then you should appreciate that- especially if you've made mistakes or suffered setbacks along the way.
2. To be as a motivation. We all go through ups and downs- both personally and professionally. Sometimes in the thick of a slump, you will need inspiration. While it certainly helps to consider what others have done in similar situations, the biggest motivator is remembering what you, yourself were able to accomplish, even more so if you were able to overcome adversity.
3. To learn from past mistakes. By looking back on previous activities and achievements, you can attain a vantage point that makes it easier to recognize a repeated pattern of mistakes. Once these patterns are recognized, then you are in a better position to correct them. One fundamental truth that gets easily forgotten in our busy lives is that as much as there seems to be constant change and flux, in reality we're just looking at the same old things, albeit in a different format.
Bottom line: In order to be successful as business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs (and people), we need to be on a constant path of development, but the quality of our journey will only be as good as our ability to pause and consider from where we have come.