My 2018 After Action Review

Life Before Google Maps

Long before GPS and specifically Google Maps, MapQuest was how we got around. But these static printouts never accounted for the unknowns like accidents, construction, and other impromptu things that may have taken place after beginning your journey.

Now, with Google Maps, and consistent updates to traffic patterns and recommended places of interest along the way, the user experience with maps has come a long way by closing gaps and stitching together an elaborate and intuitive direction system.

Most, if not all of us were excited when we set off at the beginning of the year with our maps; our New Year’s Resolutions. But, along the way, we were met with the unknowns of life that put a gap in reaching our goals (or destinations). More often than not this gap evoked frustration and disappointment much like being stuck in traffic with a MapQuest print out that provided no prior warning or suggestions for alternative routes. Seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, we ditched our resolutions and succumbed to the “same ol, same ol’” pattern of living that we promised we would never return to at the onset of the year.

Throughout 2018, I had to continuously review, reframe, retrain, and reaffirm my mental framework to stay the course.

The following three ingredients were crucial to this process.

  1. Ask questions

Consider these benefits to asking questions:

  1. Questions immerse you into an oasis of what could be possible. By asking questions you in essence expand your thinking horizon and bring into view what was not previously accessible.
  2. Questions provide space to make adjustments and overcome underlying assumptions that form due to bias. In this way questions help improve our perspective or the lens through which we see life. Your capacity to grow increases based on your ability to continuously ask questions.  
  3. Questions keep you from stagnant thinking which eventually becomes stinking thinking. Curiosity is a mind vitality exercise that will keep you vibrant, adaptable, and mentally fit.

Here is a snapshot of some questions I asked myself during my journey through 2018:

  1. Why am I doing this? This is a question of purpose or cause. Asking why was especially helpful when thoughts of quitting invaded my mind because things were not going as planned. A strong why will help you stay on the right path even when it gets bumpy.
  2. What matters to me at this stage in my life? This is a question of awareness. It helped me to understand my priorities and stay grounded in my core values. Best selling author Craig Groeschel said, “It is better to have less of what matters than more of what doesn’t.”
  3. How will this choice affect my life a year from now? This is a question of quality decisions. By operating from the vantage point of asking this question I became more intentional and mindful rather than reckless with my decisions. Former United States First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

The connection between the present and the future is found in the choices we make today. Before you choose take a pause to determine if what you decide today is what you want to see tomorrow. Choices are free to make but the consequences of bad choices are costly to live with.

  1. How will this impact those closest to me? This is a question of care and consideration. Asking this question time and time again has saved me the pain of seeing the effect of selfish actions on those I love. Love expressed in care and consideration of others tempers selfishness.

What questions did you ask this year?

2. Treat another person’s interests and experiences as valuable

In Dr. Stephen Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits that requires attention today is, “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” Dr. Covey  makes the observation that we pay attention with the intent to reply rather than the intent to understand. He called it prescribing before diagnosing.

How can we show people that they are valuable when they interact with us?

  1. Listening: You have probably been listening to someone talk but in your mind you are formulating a response. Are you truly listening? Interruptive listening is when you finish the speakers phrases and every now and then stop them to say what you think. Or, maybe you are listening but you are only paying attention to specific words. This is called selective listening. Pretend listening happens when someone is talking but your attention is focused elsewhere. I have been guilty of all. But there is a better way called active listening. It involves listening intently to the words and feelings of the speaker.
  2. Responding: Resist the temptation to respond with words by practicing courageous silence. After the speaker is finished don’t immediately jump in, stay silent for about three to five seconds. Trust me it will be painfully awkward but keep your lips pressed together. Those five seconds will seem like forever but it shows that you are taking the person seriously and are genuinely interested to what they have said. You are digesting their words and feelings. After that, respond with words that reflect you understood what they said. If you didn’t, be honest and let them know.

In doing this, you will foster an atmosphere of trust, transparency, and safety that will show respect to people you interact with, whether they have earned it or not.

3. Don’t put new wine in old bottles

This life lesson which is derived from the Bible, reminded me of the detriment we fall into when we try to build a new system on old, faulty standards. A standard is a character that serves as a foundation. A system can be described as the conduct or the collection of habits that find footing and the strength from the standard.

Here are three standards that I have pressed to live by and model through the year:

  1. Integrity: Especially under pressure, this standard has kept me honest, dependable, and take responsibility regardless of fault.
  2. Excellence: Living by this standard has taught me how to exceed expectations by bringing my best and nothing less. I call excellence going the second mile.
  3. Generosity: By watching my wife, Caroline, live out this standard and following her example, I have found tranquility in life and the joy in serving others.

Any system or habit created is only as strong as the standard or character it is built on. Set the standard, then create the system that the standard will sustain.

Suggested Share: What lessons have you learned in 2018? Please share a few in the comments section. I would love to hear them!

Keep on Keeping on!

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