Over the past several years I’ve taken numerous business owners, senior leaders and teams within large organisations through a strategic planning framework.
No matter the team, the industry, or if we’re writing a 1-year or 3-year plan, the first step is always the same. Look back on the last 12 months. What will this year be remembered for? What were the highs? What were the lows?
Without fail several things get rattled off pretty easily and then at some point, a period of silence follows. Slowly things start popping back into people’s memories and they say things like “oh what about X”, “remember Y?” “I forgot about that”, “wow we did a lot this year”.
More often than not, it’s the highs that are forgotten. It’s the wins, small ones and big ones that somehow have been pushed to the back of our memories. And it isn’t until such time we ask this question and sit in silence that we remember them all, verses just the big things or the most recent events.
Every time the leaders and teams I’ve worked with have thanked me for this exercise and every time, I’m reminded about how important it is to look back before we begin to look forward.
So, while some people might be tempted to wipe 2020 from their memories, I would like to encourage anyone reading this to stop. Look back on the last 12 months. What will you remember 2020 for? Write. Everything. Down. What were your highs? What were your lows? When you think you’ve exhausted the list, sit with it and wait for the other memories to pop up. If you can do this exercise with your team, your family and your friends, awesome, as everyone will remember different things and just add to richness of the exercise.
And yes, there’s likely to be a lot of lows this year but there will be highs in there and it’s important to remember and commemorate both in order to imagine and create the next 12 months.
I did this exercise with my family just recently and it was such a gift to hear the kids share their highs and lows; some of which were not on my radar at all! We even used the photos in our camera roll to help prompt us of all the fun stuff things and all the good times we had in 2020. There was laugher and there was sadness and there was a mountain load of gratitude.
And the gratitude was not just for the highs we experienced but it was for all the unexpected opportunities that came our way and all the things we learnt as we stepped through the uncharted territory of 2020.
I don’t think we would have that perspective on some of those things we experienced in 2020 had we not done this exercise as a family. I also don’t think we’d consciously be taking the lessons we learned into 2021 without this collective refection.
So if you’re ready to look forward, my tip is to look back first.