Carl Mays: Combine understanding and action

Jan. 23, 2014 @ 11:07 PM

We are well into 2014, getting ready to enter the last week of January. Many of you have seen (and are probably “full-up” of) articles about goal-setting – articles covering such things as how to set goals, how not to set goals, should we even set goals, etc. But before we leave January behind and venture into February, let me suggest you might take one more look back at last year and another look ahead to this year. Just as I ask myself to do, I want to ask you to:

1. Identify your three greatest achievements of 2013. Take a few minutes to really think about these successes, and write them down. Now, as you focus on these accomplishments, consider what you did in order to make or to help make each of these attainments possible. Think in terms of mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial actions that helped bring these successes to fruition. After pondering all these things, what did you learn or re-learn? What can you do this year in order to emulate these rewarding and fulfilling activities? How can you build on them?

2. Identify your three biggest failures or disappointments of 2013. Often, individuals and groups resist analyzing the mistakes that brought negative results. But identifying, admitting and making no excuses for these errors are valuable in helping us not repeat the same things this year, and next year, and the next... Again, think in terms of mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial actions that led to these experiences. Some of the best lessons we ever learn come from analyzing failures. If we can truly uncover what led or helped lead to the lack of success, we can make plans and create actions that will help us not do the same erroneous things over and over.

3. Identify how you limited yourself in 2013. This will allow you to consider how you can cut the leash and help yourself go further this year. Identifying the mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial actions that held you back, and then comparing or contrasting them to the qualities that helped lead you to any large or small achievements, will assist you in taking steps to quit limiting yourself in 2014. Put the spotlight on self-defeating actions that kept you from doing what you know you are really capable of doing.

4. Don’t let your knowing exceed your doing. In other words, just knowing about yourself – your accomplishments and failures, your strengths and weaknesses, your positive points and negative points – won’t do a lot of good if you don’t act on this understanding. Sadly, it is a known fact that, generally speaking, people’s understanding of themselves is more developed  than our initiatives to act consistently on these understandings. Understanding oneself is only part of improving oneself. Acting on the understanding is the other part.

5. Consider the words of Albert Einstein. Many writers and speakers have written and spoken the phrase, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The origination of the phrase is attributed to Einstein. He expressed that your life changes to the degree that you change your thinking and your actions. He also said, “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.” He expressed that you can discuss a task, but discussion will only give you a philosophical understanding of it. You must experience the task firsthand to really “know it.” The lesson here is: Don’t spend your time hiding behind speculative information. Act on it. Go out there and do it. Combine understanding and action.

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. E-mail or visit