Reflecting On The Past, Looking To The Future


Last year around this time I did an epic recap of my 2009 here at Ridiculously Extraordinary. I’m not going to do that this year. Instead, let’s talk a little bit about why recapping the year is cool, why looking forward is cool, but ultimately there is nothing like right now.

As Chris so eloquently stated right here, there is a lot of New Year’s Resolution bashing around this time.

The reason for that is, well, most resolutions are set like most goals are set. They’re vague, unmeasurable, and unfeeling. I talk a lot about this in Mind Control Method. Listen, I want to get more fit, be a better person, and save more kitties this year just like anybody, but without something measurable or without feeling behind these goals they just won’t happen.

That’s not being negative, that’s being truthful; honest with myself. We could use a lot more honesty with ourselves and with others, don’t you think?

How do you hold yourself accountable to being a better person anyway?

Conscious Reflection

One great way to look forward and set a good goal (or whatever you’d like to call it) is to look back. Conscious reflection, as long as it’s not all-consuming (meaning you’re living in the past), is important.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can learn a lot by asking yourself just two questions:

  1. What were your goals in the past year?
  2. Which goals did you reach and why?

If you’d like to get a little more involved in your reflection you can break down the “why” more thoroughly.

I did mostly ungoal goal setting this year. What I mean is, there were some things I wanted to experience, and I experienced all of them. I also had one Most Important Goal (I discuss the MIG concept in MCM), which I did reach.

You already know or have seen me accomplish what I wanted to accomplish this year. I learned how to build a guitar, I learned how to speak Polish without constantly fumbling for words, I learned that staying everywhere I travel for 1+ months is my ideal form of travel, and business-wise, I focused solely on what’s going on here at Ridiculously Extraordinary. (I haven’t done taxes yet, but RE did very well this year, way better than I would have imagined had I set an income goal.)

That’s not to say I didn’t do anything wrong this year that I can learn from. But all in all, 2010 has been my favorite year. This is cool, because 2006 and 2007 were my least favorite years. Being on the upward curve, and more importantly, feeling in control of the curve, is a good place to be.

The things that went wrong this year were not catastrophic. Actually, what I learned is that absolutely nothing is catastrophic. Nothing.

And the things that went right were outstanding. What I learned is that we can’t make epicly memorable events happen. We can only guide them, point them in the right direction. What happens will happen and enjoying the process is part of the fun.

What do you do if this was your least favorite year? Well, since you’re still alive and reading this, that’s not a horrible position to be in. If it was your least favorite it probably won’t be difficult to make next year better, even if next year might not be your most favorite year.

An Important Question of Time

More than any goal or resolution, I like to focus on “what am I doing to make the coming year better?”

I didn’t try to make this year my favorite year, I just focused on making it better than the previous year. It’s a bit of a Kaizen approach. Small, consistent improvement equals massive improvement over time.

The beauty with this approach is that it forces you to look at right now. What’s happening now? What am I doing now to make my day great? If I have a great day, it’s only natural that I can have a great week, then a great month, and finally a great year.

If this year wasn’t so great, don’t reflect too much on the bad. Know that you will make the coming year better if you focus on that. And if this year was amazing for you, here’s to continuing on the upward curve …


  1. One of the best things that happened to me this year was finding this site. It has provided the right motivation at the right time and for that I am most grateful. I really like the idea of reflecting (not dwelling) on the past and looking to the future, but ultimately living in the moment. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. They always seemed like they were set ups for failure. I prefer not to tie my goals to New Years, but just make them part of the overall process towards improvement. If I have some at the beginning of the year (human nature) they’re no different than a new goal mid-year. Here’s to a good year past (there’s always something good to find and reflect on) and an awesome year to look forward to, but most importantly, thanks for being here now.

    • Thank you Sarah. It feels good to know that this site has had such a positive effect on you. :)

      I’m with you as far as not tying goals to a new year. I used to do it just like so many others, but nowadays I approach life differently and it’s hard to put into a “new year” box. :)

  2. Have a great New Years, and thank you for all of the work you’ve put into Ridiculously Extraordinary. You’ve helped me start my own business, enjoy writing again and stop listening to everyone else and focus on what I want to do. I can’t thank you enough.

    Here’s to a fantastic 2011!

  3. I love this post.

    This year was my favorite year too. I went to Europe for the first time this year, living out of a carry-on backpack for a month, I lost 25 pounds this year (25 pounds that seriously needed to be lost,) I transferred to a new college that I much prefer over the old one, and I read 40 books this year (compared to less than ten in 2009.)

    I have every intention of continuing my upward curve. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

    • Boom! Thank you Caleb. 40 books is killer. I haven’t kept a tally of what I’ve read, but I’m generally at a pace of about 3/month. Although sometimes I’ll read a book in a day or two (Born To Run, American Psycho, and a handful of others). :)

      Congrats on an awesome 2010!

  4. Hey Karol…this was my favorite year, too. And like Sarah above, part of the awesomeness was finding RidEx :) Thanks for being so genuine and inspiring.

    Last night I did a total 11th hour rewrite of my MCM Letter, and now I feel 150% about it. Ready for the New Year’s bonfire…

    Hope your time in Chicago is amazing. Here’s to lots of good stuff packed into 2011!

  5. Love the idea of a MIG Karol, I’m going to pick a MIG for myself and let the rest be more experiential as well cos goals with #’s and deadlines just don’t work for me. My 2010 goals that happened were the ones where I was more general in terms of what, but specific in terms of feeling. And actually, what 2010 brought me wasn’t even on the list – but it’s the best thing that could have happened :) Happy New Year!

      • I reckon numbers work when you have a reason why – ie, why those numbers, what that’s going to bring you in terms of lifestyle or other goals. As an example, setting arbitrary ones like 6 figure income or even $10,000 a month just don’t have the juice in them and people often fall short of those goals. Cos that’s not what reallyyyyyy motivates us :)

  6. The best thing about the past year was that I dropped a website I wasn’t enjoying working on and split one I liked writing into two based on the content. The best thing about next year will be starting a different kind of site I’ve been planning for a while.

  7. So far this has been my best year ever. At home people would completely disagree since I have been so down because of my fiancée dumping me but it turns out this kind of hard moments have changed me for the better. It is true that there are days I feel like crap but nine from ten times when you ask me «how do you do?» my answer is «AWESOME!». I really love what I am doing, everyday is a funny ride and I always look forward being a better person. This is just great.

    I have been using kaizen for a couple of years to improve my work but I had never connected the dots to apply it as a life-improving attitude. So let’s make 2011 gorgeous just one bit at a time!

    Karol, lots of thank you for the great work you have made on the site. It has been really meaningful to me. Have an awesome new year!

  8. What an incredible year you’ve had, Karol! Such an inspiring forward-thinker. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got up your sleeve for ’11! Thanks for the constant ideas and motivation!

  9. Great post Karol and spot on!

    “Small, consistent improvement equals massive improvement over time.”

    What you said here is so true, in 2009 I started using the concept of a New Year’s Evolution – making small meaningful changes over time to reach my goals and I have reached every single one of them so far. Although I didn’t always do everything right :)

    All the best for 2011, thanks for the inspiration you alwas provide!
    Happy New Year!

  10. I agree Karol. Reflection is a valuable tool and I find that I feel much more fulfilled and engaged in the moment when I am in the groove of actively reflecting on my life on a regular basis. And the reverse is true too… when my life gets out of whack and am not doing so much reflection then I feel our of balance and unfocused. Wonder if others have that same “feeling”?

    • I don’t reflect regularly. There’s a fine line between regular reflection and living in the past and it’s not one I want to cross. I reflect when a project or launch or something is over so I can learn from what happened. I’m a fan of using what I’ve learned to keep pushing forward.

      • Yeah, I didn’t mean to sound like this is something that I do everyday. Just meant that I do it weekly or monthly or as you say at the close of some big activity. I’m not keen on living in the past either but, like you, don’t want to repeat the same mistakes the next time.

  11. I found this site by reading a post at Warrior Forum. I like the idea of reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new. Unlike some of the readers here this past year was not so great for me. A lot of personal issues. I plan on making this year a better one, instead of waiting for something or someone to help me make it better. Its all about ME now.

  12. I have convinced myself this is going to be an awesome year and i will have a big breakthrough in internet marketing. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Hi Karol. Love your name by the way. I really don’t like resolutions either, but I absolutely love looking back over the past year and letting this reflection inspire me for the coming year.

    For some reason I’ve had a feeling since December 2010 that 2011 was going to be my best year yet. Maybe it’s because I just started my new blog.

    So looking forward to what lies ahead!

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