Look Backwards To Move Forwards

Something weird happened to me this week.

I had a coffee mug arrive in the mail.

That in and of itself is not that weird if I’d ordered a coffee mug, or if there were a note inside telling me it was a gift, but neither were the case.

I had absolutely no idea at the time who sent it me or why, although the message on it was rather cool and it read:

“Official cup of those who learn from mistakes”

In my past there was definitely a long period of time where I seldom learned from my mistakes and thought that I had all the answers.

Starting a Life Coaching business changed all that.

I did replicate some mistakes in my early days, but over the last few years I have learned that I have to be flexible and listen to all kinds of feedback and make adjustments if I am to succeed.

New Years Resolutions Almost Always Fail

This is that time of when we coaches like me tell our clients or people who read self development articles that X% (pick a number between 90% and 95% because I have never seen any solid research, but this seems the common consensus) of people’s New Years resolutions have collapsed before the end of January.

I’m not sure why we blather on about this because many people don’t think stats like that apply to them.

Also, being told you will probably fail by your Life Coach isn’t really that useful because it sets up a certain level of expectancy of failure and can possibly create a self fulfilling prophesy.

As Daniel Gilbert explains in the brilliant Stumbling On Happiness, (al) Human Beings are absolutely terrible at predicting how they will feel about future events.

It’s easy to sit with a nice glass of wine on Christmas Eve and say over a fine meal with heart felt sincerity that next year will be different and we really will implement the changes we know will be beneficial.

Of course when the New Year arrives nothing has changed other than the date.

Your brain is wired up in exactly the same way and will fight with all it’s might to resist the change that you know at an intellectual level you want to make.

Look Backward To Help You Move Forward

And in it’s purest form, that is why so many New Years Resolutions fail, because people focus too much on the future and don’t prepare for set backs.

But what if instead we looked backwards, a bit like Vishnu did in this excellent recent guest post, ‘Life Coaches: Don’t Make These 21 Common Mistakes‘?

If we have tried to eat more healthily, quit smoking or drinking or avoid procrastinating in the past, what were the triggers or barriers to your success? – Or your clients for that matter.

There will almost certainly be commonalities that we can then prepare for if we know what they are.

Let’s say you have a family birthday party in January that usually leads to much drinking and merriment and you want to quit alcohol, then you can prepare accordingly.

You can enlist the help of the people attending to remind you that you’re not drinking.

Remove Temptation

You can avoid attending at all so no temptation is placed in your way. Or if neither of those approaches are feasible, you can give yourself a night off and have a few beers.

Too many people presume the first time they fail in their attempt to change that it’s a sign that they have failed and they may as well just accept they cannot get it done. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Note: I am not including destructive addictions in this advice. If you have an addiction please seek medical assistance and if you are a Life Coach do not try to help with addictions unless you are trained to do so.

If you give yourself permission it’s not failing, it’s being sensible.

It’s realizing that maybe the new neural pathways that you are trying to form with new habits aren’t quite strong enough yet to get you through impulses that may have built up over years or even decades.

I have had to do a lot of thinking about the future over the holiday period as I split Coach The Life Coach into a separate business from A Daring Adventure and welcomed Karl Staib on board as my new partner.

But, and it’s a big but, I have also been thinking a lot about the last year.

What did I do right and just as importantly, what did I do wrong?

There was plenty of both I can assure you as there will almost certainly be for you too.

To make changes we have to act differently, so knowing how we acted when we didn’t get the results we’d have liked is crucial knowledge and exponentially more likely to keep you out of that 90-95% group of people who give up for good by the end of January.

Whether you have set New Years resolutions or not I wish you the very best for 2016. I’m super excited about the changes we are implementing here at Coach the Life Coach and I hope you are too.

So what happened to you last year that you can learn or grown from? I’d love to hear in the comments.


  1. Michael Wecke

    I have been in the Human Resources game for 30 years plus. Sounds awful, but it’s OK. Somewhere along the line everybody will start writing big numbers of experience behind their name. I have been coach, consultant, employment “lawyer”, confidant, etc. This means I have worked intensely with people all the time. I always believe in the good of people. And yet – last year – I had to learn (again, as it wasn’t the first time) that people who, on the surface, seem solid, mature and good-natured, can turn nasty without warning. This happened to a colleague of mine, who resorts under my department. He’s a nice guy, fair, tolerant and a good listener. And yet one of his staff members, who we all trusted, stabbed him in the back with a truly unfair grievance. As senior executive I can resolve that easily, but the point is that it was so unexpected and unfair.

    The learning part? We never know what drives people at any given point and disappointments should not deter from the fact that people may “derail” from time to time and it may not even be personal. One has to take a step back, refrain from emotional engagement and assess the situation in a neutral frame of mind – a frame of mind that includes an attitude of forgiveness.

    My 2016 New Year’s resolution is to continue to have a positive, non-judgemental disposition towards people. And I have to lose weight again!
    So, Tim – “go forth and prosper” in this year! Keep up the good writing, the good coaching and don’t run after your dogs, when you can’t see the grass covered holes in the ground.

    • Tim Brownson

      Us Humans are a weird bunch aren’t we?

      I shall do my best to prosper, drag as many coaches with me to success and avoid planting a foot in holes when I’m running.

      Thanks mate!