It’s easy to look back at a previous year and focus on what could have gone better, how different decisions may have affected outcomes to the good, or even how we may feel stuck in one way or another. As with many, I share the view that a new year is an excellent time to make or update goals, modify plans or start a strategic course of action for the upcoming year. This could be as simple as a reading list, a habit change, or a significant life changing decision. Either way, I think outlook and perspective can be a key driver in making this a positive exercise, whether reflecting or planning.
One of the benefits of experience is long-term perspective. I used to have promotional poster from a brokerage firm that read, “confidence through perspective.” Within the poster there was a montage of pictures, dates, graphic measurements and major event annotations. The idea being, when you look at current events with too much granularity, you may lose focus on an overall perspective on how things may turn out, given a certain trajectory, determination, diligence, planning, hard work, and a little more time. But at the same time, if we fail to look carefully, and with the proper focus, we may miss some of the obvious details right in front of us. For reflection purposes, consider the words from Henry David Thoreau’s Journal, June 10, 1853, titled, Looking through a Spy-Glass:
I amused myself yesterday afternoon with looking from my window, through a spy-glass, at the tops of the woods in the horizon. It was pleasant to bring them so near and individualize the trees, to examine in detail the tree-tops which before you had beheld only in the mass as the woods in the horizon. It was an exceedingly rich border, seen thus against, and the imperfections in a particular tree-top more than two miles off were quite apparent. I could easily have seen a hawk sailing over the top of the wood, and possibly his nest in some higher tree. Thus to contemplate, from my attic in the village, the hawks circling about their nests above some dense forest or swamp miles away, almost as if they were ﬂies on my own premises! I actually distinguished a taller white pine with which I am well acquainted, with a double top rising high above the surrounding woods, between two and three miles distant, which, with the naked eye, I had confounded with the nearer woods.
All of that from the view from an attic window, because the author took the time to look, focus and reflect. When you consider the outlook for this year and take time to think and plan, hear the words of my great hero, C. S. Lewis, “Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.”
Image Source: http://www.concordmuseum.org/spyglass.php